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Crimea To Remain Russian Despite US Pressure

02/16/2017 08:58 EST | Updated 02/16/2017 08:58 EST
MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV via Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting of the Federal Security Service's board in Moscow on February 16, 2017. Putin on February 16 called for Russian intelligence agencies to bolster ties with their US counterparts in the fight against terrorism. / AFP / Sputnik / Michael Klimentyev (Photo credit should read MICHAEL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia will not discuss returning Crimea to Ukraine with its foreign partners. Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed its government will not discuss its territorial issues with foreign partners.

"As for Crimea's return, this issue will not be discussed as it cannot be discussed. Russia does not discuss its territorial issues with foreign partners," Peskov said.

The comment issued by Peskov follows a White House statement that US President Donald Trump expects Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine. In the same statement, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump "fully expects to and wants to get along with Russia."

Last month, President Trump and Putin held a phone conversation and there was no discussion on Crimea's status.

Last July, Sputnik News reported that Trump told ABC News he would consider recognizing Crimea as part of Russia if he was elected as the next US President.

"The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were [Ukraine]," Trump told ABC News in an interview.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakarova was clear on Crimea's status and that the issue was permanently close: "We do not return our territories. Crimea is Russian territory."

Crimea officially rejoined Russia after the 2014 referendum where more than 97% of the region's population were in favour of reunification.

In 2014, more than 65% of the Crimean population was Russian compared to 15% for Ukrainians. The reunification was based on protecting the Russian-speaking population, especially since the Ukrainian government has been pushing hard to eliminate the Russian language from being a second official language.

The fact that Russia is willing to protect Crimea is justified. Whether it is for the majority of the Russian population or its strategic interest in the emplacement of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, it was predictable.

Crimea was transferred to Ukraine in 1954 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the reunification of Ukraine and Russia according to the Treaty of Pereyaslav signed in 1654. Since 1954, the Russian ethnic population never decreased in numbers and most of the population always felt an attachment to Russia.

One of the main reasons why Crimea reunified with Russia is simple: to protect the Black Sea Fleet's installation in Sevastopol from a NATO-oriented Ukrainian government. That said, although the Ukrainian government passed a law back in 2010 barring Ukraine to join any military alliance, the former Soviet country was approached by NATO on many occasions.

Moving the Fleet to Sochi would be impossible due to the lack of installations and with the majority of the Crimean being Russian, President Vladimir Putin knew he would have the support of the population.

Russia was leasing the Port of Sevastopol from Ukraine for approximately $98 million a year and many Russian politicians were worried that Ukraine would cancel the lease and request the Black Sea Fleet to move from Sevastopol.

As I said, Sevastopol is the only port ready to host the Black Sea Fleet in the region thus making it a vital region for Russia. The decision to move Iskander missiles to the Crimean Peninsula is a clear sign of the strategic importance of the region. The Iskander missile has also been deployed to Kaliningrad, another major strategic region for Russia.

The fact that NATO has been expanding eastward since the fall of the Soviet Union is also a reason why Russia wanted reunification with Crimea. Since 1991, NATO welcomed the Baltic States countries to the Alliance and other former Soviet Union countries.

NATO's expansion is definitely a threat to Russia's sovereignty, especially since the Alliance was created to defend itself from the Soviet Union. Although the mentality of NATO has been evolving toward a partnership with Russia, the older generation of the Alliance sees Russia as a threat for no reason. With their influence, NATO kept moving eastward under the pretext of protecting themselves and offering the same to former Soviet countries.

Although President Trump stated Russia should return Crimea to Ukraine, I believe it is not their choice as the Crimean population voted for the reunification. Instead of keeping the conflict open through sanctions, the US and its allies should open dialogue with Russia and work together on a much more dangerous threat: international terrorism.