As Russia’s war against Ukraine drags on, the risk that fatigued Western policy makers will become desperate to end the fighting at any cost will grow. There are already some suggesting that Kyiv should accept a special status for Crimea that leaves Russian troops there. Such an outcome would amount to geopolitical negligence. Any settlement that doesn’t return Crimea to Kyiv’s control signals to other belligerent powers that military land grabs will be tolerated—setting a dangerous precedent for the 21st century.
Some argue that it’s unclear if Crimea really belongs to Ukraine or Russia. Yet topographically, the peninsula is merely an extension of the Ukrainian steppes, with no natural land connection with the Russian Federation. Crimea’s history is likewise relatively clear. The peninsula has unique political, economic and cultural ties to southern Ukraine—something that various Russian leaders and other political figures have acknowledged for hundreds of years.