Establishing a so-called Crimean Platform – a negotiating site on Crimea – is surely a positive endeavor. In fact, it will be the only tool to bring the Crimea issue back into the international political discourse.
The Crimean platform provides for the three levels of discussion.
Russia and Russian media reacted rather predictably – they were pissed
The first is expert level: various issues of the occupied Crimea will be discussed at the expert-analytical level. These include rights violations, possible new sanctions, issues related to the security and militarization of the temporarily occupied peninsula.
The second is technical and political level: here, the discussion on the above issues will be held at the level of defense and foreign ministers, as well as heads of committees of the participating states.
The third is top political level: this is discussions involving prime ministers and presidents, that is, heads of state.
Russia and the Russian media reacted rather predictably – they were pissed. Moscow loathes any moves Ukraine makes on the Crimea issue, which is driving the Kremlin insane. With that in mind, we can further prove that the idea is a good one as it allows Ukraine to retain the Crimea issue on the international agenda and to articulate issues related to the occupied peninsula.
There's a risk that the efforts of the Crimean Platform will be reduced to expert-analytical work
A number of influential powers have already expressed interest in participating in the Crimea Platform, which certainly adds weight to it. We're talking about UK, the U.S., Canada, Turkey, Poland, as well as the European Union.
It should be noted that Russia was invited to partake in the Crimean Platform, but Moscow turned down the offer. We are not obliged to insist on Russia's participation in these talks. We offered – they refused. However, such a response came as no surprise, given that Moscow does not acknowledge that the fact that the move to try to annex Crimea was erroneous, reactive, and unfounded. Hence, Russia shares the political responsibility for the occupation of these territories.
Of course, there is a risk that the activities of the Crimean platform will be reduced to expert and analytical work and nothing beyond that. I suggest that's likely to happen. If the Crimean platform manages to work out political solutions, it will be awesome. It will be even better if the platform works out a decision on new sanctions, puts pressure on Moscow, and makes Crimea too costly for Moscow. This would be an important achievement, indeed.
If Zelensky and his team engage and show active progress and engage on the Crimea issues, Russians may re-escalate hostilities in Donbas
And although I think that the platform's efforts will be reduced to discussions, preparation of analytical reports and drafting of new sanctions, everything will depend on Ukraine's moves and stance: how strongly Kyiv will push the issue of new sanctions, access to Crimea by international observers and rights watchdogs, and so on.
The problem with the Crimean platform is that there is a "Donbas anchor" that will hamper Ukraine's broader involvement in the project. After all, if Zelensky and his team engage and show active progress and engage on the Crimea issues, Russians may re-escalate hostilities in Donbas. It's obvious that President Zelensky is wary of such developments.
Turkey was completely satisfied with the previous situation
Also, there are already fears that Turkey will be involved in the Crimean Platform – some claim that Crimea may get out of Russia as a result, while not returning to Ukraine but becoming Turkish. However, I believe that such a threat is non-existent. Turkey has no direct transport connection with Crimea, being separated by the Black Sea. Also, Turkey wouldn't want sanctions for such moves. I think that talking about such a threat is a Russian boogeyman story, a totally Russian narrative. The Turks have enough issues to deal with, so they will not get into the Crimea mess.
Turkey was completely satisfied with the previous situation. Ukraine cannot create serious competition for Turkey, while Russia can, so Turkey is interested in seeing a weaker Russia. And together with the Ukrainians, the Turks today want to produce warships, boats, and work on other projects.
The Crimean Platform is a tool for exerting pressure on Russia
Besides, given that pro-Russian forces are working to seize power in Ukraine, I believe that the issue of Crimea may eventually be resolved by dual sovereignty, that is, Crimea could become a common territory of both Russia and Ukraine, something similar to the status of Hong Kong.
So, the maximum we can expect from the Crimean Platform is decisions on new political sanctions against Russia, new economic restrictions, sanctions over rights violations, sanctions for militarization of the peninsula, severance of various contracts, bans on certain port activities, trade, etc. There is no talk that the Crimean Platform will ensure Crimea's return to Ukraine, but it will be among the tools applied to make this happen one day.
The Crimean Platform is a tool for exerting pressure on Russia. Russians must understand that Crimea is too costly for them and is dragging them to the bottom. In order for Moscow to understand this, sanctions pressure must be maintained. And in order to keep such pressure, Ukraine must speak up about Crimea at all possible platforms.
Anatoliy Oktysiuk is a political expert with the DemocracyHouse Think Tank