Foremost author says full Ukrainian freedom is vital to world peace.
“By international law Crimea is Ukraine…the idea that it was always Russian is only there because it was never Russian.”
So says Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale Timothy Snyder, noted author and lecturer specializing in Eastern Europe. Not your average historian, he has raised more than $1.2m for an anti-Russian drone defence system. His online course on Ukrainian history, “The Making of Modern Ukraine,” has been watched and listened to by millions. He was interviewed recently by Liliane Bivings for the Kyiv Independent.
Snyder notes that the concept of Crimea being Russian is an artifact of the deportation of the Crimean Tatars: “if you go into the deep history, you know that the Crimean Tatars were there for half a millennium.”
“If you’re serious about this war, just in terms of the strategic logic, Ukraine has to get Crimea back. They need to win the war, but also if you’re in the West and you want there to be peace, you need the Ukrainians, not the Russians, to control Crimea.”
He explained that if the Russians keep Crimea in a new peace settlement they will militarize it and start more wars. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, will create national parks and demilitarize it and create cultural autonomy for the Crimean Tatars.
He acknowledges that this process might take a long time, but we have to get used to the rhythms of a war. “Wars are both unpredictable and they tend to be long. Hitler’s Blitzkrieg involved victories but it also involved a war that lasted for almost six years. World War I lasted years; the wars that America has lost recently and the one in Syria — into the decades. If you think about wars, this has actually been a very short war so far.”
Russia’s gains in this invasion were made almost entirely during its first few weeks. Those gains were largely possible thanks to the fact that Russia had seized the Crimean Peninsula in its earlier invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Over the course of 2022, Ukraine won the battles of Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson, and took back about half of the territory Russia gained.