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If Russia Isn’t Forced To Return Crimea To Ukraine, Major War Becomes Almost Inevitable – OpEd


If Moscow isn’t compelled to return Crimea to Ukraine, a major pillar of the international system that has been in place since 1945 will be destroyed, Aleksandr Skobov says; and a drift toward a major war is inevitable,” one that Russia may not begin but will have caused by it Crimean Anschluss.

Therefore, the Russian commentator argues, “there is no task more important than the return of Crimea to Ukraine.” If the international community lacks the will to achieve that, he continues, the pre-existing international system will collapse into a chaos that will not be resolved with a major conflict (

Skobov makes this argument by discussing one of the parallels Arkady Babchenko points to between Hitler’s actions in the 1930s and Putin’s moves now, parallels that the latter says are far too close for comfort and that give him a sense that a major war is coming (

“The foundation of the system of international relations established after World War II and which up to now has blocked humanity from descending into a major new war is a categorical prohibition on annexation, formal and informal,” Skobov argues.


Indeed, he says, it was the willingness of the fascist bloc to engage in direct annexations which “destroyed the Versailles-Washington system of international relations and thus destroyed everything which restrained the world from war. Now, few remember that it was an annexation – Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austro-Hungary in 1908 that led to World War I.”

“History teaches,” he says, “that if the creators of the existing system of international relations lose the will to defend it and to respond sharply to attempts to destroy its principles, then this system will be irreversibly destroyed – and not transformed into something new, but destroyed [because] chaos will reign in international relations.”

“The law of the jungle” will return “when each will focus only on himself and not count on legal norms or collective international institutions but only on his own strength or on stronger protectors. And the new system will be put in place only on the basis of results of a major war. The victors will dictate it.”

Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea “was a problem below the waterline;” but it had the effect of threatening to bring down the entire international order. His action must be reversed, Skobov says; or the world will drift toward a major war, one in which there will be many victims and very, very few victors.

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Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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