If Moscow Returned Crimea to Ukraine, What Else Might It Have to Give Back – and to Whom?

October 24, 2014
Kurile Islands

Staunton, October 23 – In the course of a discussion of why he argues Moscow will have to reverse the Anschluss of Crimea at the end of Russia’s war with Ukraine, Andrey Illarionov says that the Russian government could lose many other disputed territories to neighboring countries.

The Russian commentator lists the following territories
which Russia might lose in that event: a portion of Pskov Region to Latvia; a portion of Leningrad Region to Estonia; parts of Karelia and Leningrad Regions to Finland; Smolensk and Bryansk Regions to Belarus; Voronezh and Rostov Regions and Krasnodar Territory to Ukraine; a significant portion of Western Siberia to Kazakhstan; “not less than 1.5 million square kilometers of Siberia and the Far East to China; and the Kurile islands and Sakhalin to Japan.”

And that list only concerns transfers of territory from the existing Russian Federation to internationally recognized states around its borders and not the question of the ceding of what Moscow now claims as immemorially part of Russia to states from which it seized land in the past by destroying and absorbing them within its borders.

On the one hand, these lists underscore both how tendentious many of the borders established in Soviet times are given that they were drawn and imposed by Moscow and how many of these remain matters of dispute. In short, they show that it is not a question of whether there will be more “Crimeas” in the future but how many of them there have been already.

But on the other hand and far more fatefully, they highlight something else: the unlikelihood that Moscow will ever agree except under duress to reverse its violation of international law in the case of Crimea because of fears among Russians that doing so would open the floodgates to a process that would lead to the dismemberment of their country.