Russo-Ukrainian Relations: Sevastopol and the Black Sea Fleet

By Tatiana Buba
Vol. XIX, No. 1: Spring/Summer 2010

While the Russo-Ukrainian dispute over natural gas has dominated international political discourse in recent months, it is Crimea that has the long-term potential to become a flashpoint for future conflict in bilateral relations. The port city of Sevastopol and the Black Sea Fleet stand as the strategic crux of the cur-rent dispute between Ukraine and Russia. Founded by Empress Catherine the Great as a naval base in 1783, Sevastopol’s history is one of enduring conflict and violence. The Black Sea Fleet’s presence is woven into Russia’s historical fabric, with the epic battles of the Crimean War (1853-1856) and World War Two (1939-1945), standing as the epitome of Russia’s military glory. Crimea remained a part of Russia until 1954, when then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev incorporated the region into Ukrainian territory as a gift to commemorate friendly relations between the two countries. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 meant that Crimea’s majority Russian population and the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet were now legally a part of newly independent Ukraine, whereby each country was left with conflicting interests in Crimea. The dispute was resolved temporarily in May 1997 through the “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between Russia and Ukraine.” Nevertheless, the apex of the conflict was reached on June 24, 2008 when Ukraine explicitly stated that the lease would not be renewed and the Russian Fleet was to leave Sevastopol by May 29, 2017.

Tatiana Buba is a graduate student at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs in Austin, Texas. She attended the University of Western Ontario, where she obtained an Honors B.A. in Political Science. During her undergraduate degree, she spent her final year studying abroad at Royal Holloway College at the University of London in the United Kingdom. In September 2008, she began a Masters program at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, with a focus on Human Security and Development. During this time, she completed an internship at CARE Canada as well as a 4-month work placement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada as a Policy Analyst.

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