Crimean Anschluss Changes Delimitation of Black Sea, Illarionov Says

March 27, 2014
Photo: NASA

Staunton, March 27 – Many commentators have pointed out that Moscow’s seizure of Crimea will give it much greater freedom of action at its Sevastopol naval base and allow the Russian government to project greater power southward against the littoral states, including Turkey, and into the Mediterranean.

But two maps accompanying a blog post by Moscow commentator Andrey Illarionov call attention to what may be an equally serious consequence of Vladimir Putin’s latest moves, a consequence that will be all the greater if Russian forces move deeper into Ukraine, especially along the Black Sea littoral.

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Exclusive economic zones in the Black Sea prior to the Crimean annexation. Russian claims extend only to the eastern edge of the Sea of Azov and the coast down to Sochi.

[Solid lines indicate official border demarcations, dashed unofficial]

Those maps show the national delimitation of the Black Sea and its sea bed before the Russian intervention and after it, one that suggests that Moscow will now be in a position to claim more than twice as much area as its national waters and sea bed for its preferential or even exclusive use.

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Projected claims of exclusive economic zones after Crimea’s annexation. Ukrainian waters limited only to small areas around Odessa and the north coast of Azov Sea.

Obviously, these maps are not definitive – the situation is far from completely resolved and the official delimitation of the sea and its bed will require negotiation – but Moscow by its actions has put itself in a position to demand recognition of these areas as its own. Given the increasing sophistication of extractive industries, such claims are likely to have serious economic consequences.

At the very least and even if Russia does not occupy more of Ukraine, Ukraine will be deprived of an important resource and Russia will gain one, yet another consequence of the Anschluss that needs to be factored in by those seeking to understand or reverse what Vladimir Putin has done.