Staunton, April 1 – When Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, he failed to focus on the dependence of that area on Ukraine for water, even though Soviet and experts had long recognized that reality and their understand in that regard had driven Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to transfer Crimea from the RSFSR to Ukraine in 1954, Vladimir Inozemtsev says.
Now, although Moscow has taken steps to deal with some of occupied Crimea’s infrastructure needs such as building a new airport in Simferopol and the Crimean Bridge, it has not addressed the water shortages that the occupation itself has caused. Instead, it has proposed “solutions” which are anything but, the Russian analyst says.
Those need to be recognized for what they are and Moscow needs to spend the money it will take to build a water pipeline from Russia’s Kuban to Crimea, money it can easily afford if it stops construction of Nordstream-2 or gas pipelines to China and Turkey which are unlikely to be profitable (vtimes.io/2021/04/01/kak-ne-dat-krimu-zasohnut-a4173).
Until the 2014 Anschluss, Crimea received 85 percent of the water it needed from Ukraine, an arrangement that the Soviet government anticipated in 1950 when it spoke about “the shared economy, territorial propinquity, and close economic ties between the Crimean Oblast and the Ukrainian SSR,” a finding that led to Khrushchev’s move in 1954.
Without that water, Crimea is in increasingly dire straits, Inozemtsev says. Irrigated land has fallen from 120,000 hectares in 2014 to less than 14,000 now, reservoirs and rivers are drying up as ever more of their water is used, putting at risk not only the wine industry and the survival of rare types of fish but also the lives of the population.
Moscow now recognizes it has to do something and has announced plans to invest 50 billion rubles (700 million US dollars) over the next four years. But even if that money is spent, Moscow’s current plans with regard to water for Crimea are only short-term and “palliative” and not solutions, the Russian economist points out.
On the one hand, the Russian occupation authorities are calling for using water more efficiently or seeking it under the Sea of Azov or using military power to seize water supplies in Ukraine; and on the other, some want to bring suit against Ukraine, a preposterous notion given that Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine and international law requires occupiers to provide occupied areas with water.
There is only one realistic solution, Inozemtsev concludes. It is to build a pipeline under the Kerch Straits to carry water from the Kuban to Crimea. Such a pipeline would not be more than 80 kilometers in length and would not cost anything like other pipeline projects that Moscow is now engaged in building.