by Johan Eddebo
Ukraine became formally independent about 30 years ago, in relation to the dissolution of the USSR. Strategically, Ukraine is indispensable for Russian security.
One aspect of this is the Black Sea region and Crimea, the importance of which was the key reason for Florence Nightingale’s Crimean War of the 1800s.
Sevastopol has been Russia’s predominant warm water port since 1783 (meaning it’s viable year-round) and is the only avenue for power projection through the Mediterranean, affording the only really viable access to the Middle East, as well as the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean.
Crimea also provides Russia with operational capacity in its close vicinity, e.g. for regional troop transportation and protection of its key trade routes passing through the Black Sea, and is vital for Russia’s strategic defence capabilities of the entire southern flank.
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While not entirely defenceless, Russia would be very vulnerable if it lost just Crimea.
Moreover, Ukraine as such is geostrategically vital for a number of other reasons as well. It was the second-most important Soviet Socialist Republic not only due to its resources, population and productive capacities, but also since it’s basically a stone’s throw from the very heart of Russia. Take and hold Ukraine and you can just march into Moscow. Or starve it.