So Crimea has held its referendum. It’s unsurprising in the extreme that with Russian troops on all the streets, pro-Russian advertising everywhere and a referendum that doesn’t contain a ‘no’ box, that 93% of those who voted supported becoming part of Russia.
The Russian and Crimean governments will be the only ones pretending that the referendum has any legitimacy. Those who wished to remain a part of Ukraine will have simply stayed home or spoiled their ballots; after all, there was no box they could have ticked.
My predictions for what happens now?
The Crimean government passes some sort of legislation that declares itself emancipated from Ukraine, before formally asking Russia to become a part of Putin’s empire. Ukraine and the rest of the world declare they will not recognise the legality of both governments’ actions, and sanctions will be imposed. The sanctions will be piecemeal, as too many EU countries depend on Russian gas and the money of their oligarchs. Yes, there’ll be some short-term pain for Russia, but losing Crimea to Western influence is so unacceptable to Russia’s strategic interests that they will weather that pain. The sanctions will slowly fade out and the world will return to normal – except that Crimea will still be in Russia’s hands…