Should Crimea be leased to Russia?

Russian ship in bay of Sevastopol

Is there a commercial solution to the crisis in Ukraine?

Lord Owen, the former foreign secretary who has advised Russian businesses interests for some time, thinks there may be.

He told me that a settlement could, in his view, involve Russia negotiating with Ukraine a lease on Crimea - which he regarded as analogous to America's lease on Guantanamo in Cuba.

And the background, of course, is that Russia already has a lease till 2042 on its substantial naval base at the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Originally negotiated in 1991, it was extended by 25 years in fraught negotiations in 2010.

Back then, the final pact involved Ukraine receiving substantial subsidies on Russian natural gas.

If that lease was viewed by the world as ethically tolerable, how big a leap would it be to negotiate a lease on all Crimean territory?

There is an argument that via a lease and negotiation of rent, at least the rest of the Ukraine would receive some kind of economic benefit for Russian occupation of Crimea.

That said, it will stick in the craw of many that the exercise of military might by Russia would apparently have its reward.

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There is certainly something very 'modern Russia' about gas or cash being exchanged for territorial rights”

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Lord Owen also argues that the natural parties in such a negotiation would be the UK, US, Ukraine and Russia, since in 1994 they agreed the continuing use of Sevastopol as a base for Russia's Black Sea fleet, as part of a wider agreement on nuclear non-proliferation.

The important point is that whatever the credibility of Russia's claims to wish to protect Russians living in Ukraine, the strategic importance for President Putin of the Sevastopol and Crimean base is huge.

It is vital for President Putin in ensuring all-year-round access for the Russian fleet to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean.

Analysts say there is no possibility of Russia compromising or sacrificing this naval access via Crimea.

Anyway, there is certainly something very "modern Russia" about gas or cash being exchanged for territorial rights.

In some ways it would be redolent of the blunt tactics employed by the Russian government and a troika of oligarchs that eventually saw Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil giant, acquire control of the substantial TNK business from BP and those billionaire plutocrats.

None of which is to argue that the world should be carved up on the basis of who has the deepest pockets and the most bulging military muscles.

Nor is it to say that it would be easy to calculate a fair rent for the whole of Crimea.

But the alternative, a region tottering sine die on the brink of catastrophe, may be worse.

Robert Peston Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    If you want an object lesson on Imperialism look no further than the USA. Typical bullying late 18th century gunboat diplomacy with more modern, more destructive weapons. Ukraine and its supporters have been sat up so that the USA can install its missiles on Ukraine soil and threaten Russia, anything else is spin by our corrupt disingenuous corrupt self serving leaders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    Knut Knutsen

    None of the top ten rated comments address the topic "Should Crimea be leased to Russia?"

    Good point, perhaps we should ash Cameron should the UK be leased to the US? oh hold on a minute we already are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.
    Shows image of notices in Kiev.

    Sarah Rainsford, BBC News,
    tweets: Message on Kiev's Independence Square to "self defence" groups: no masks, no baseball bats.

    That's democracy at work folks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    WW3 is getting closer tonight... risk now 33%

    Fighting and rumours of fighting between Russians and Ukrainian forces.

    This is about real things not some idiotic leasing agreement.

    Warning This is about press & media stirring up hatred (just as was done when Yugoslavia collapsed.) Just as the BBC is doing in the UK by hosting the National Suicide Party (UKIP) and giving them any air time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    Suspect it all depends on who holds the Title Deeds to this property?

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    459. Henry Hazlitt
    "This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain"

    What ever it was?any one who has a comment zapped by the BBC can`t be all bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    You'd think after two days and 500 comments we'd have solved the problem of Crimean Bases.

    Not even close.

    We are still on page one when it is conclusively proven that Russia's Action is acceptable because the Cold War still has a bit of life left in it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    What happens if the forthcoming referendum results in:

    A vote for secession.

    A vote against secession.

    None of the above by a small margin.

    Loads of trouble whatever the result.
    Boots on the ground for many years.
    Foreign meddling from near and far.
    Twas ever thus.

    Some places are just plain unlucky to exist.

    They are all over the world.
    Best avoided.
    Unlucky if you were born there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    I think the west clearly underestimates how many trump cards Putin have. They can't even keep their heads above the water and claiming they can bailout Ukraine, with what? Counterfeiting money?

    Soon Russia will demand payment in roubles, yuans, food or gold or turn off the tap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    The U.S and EU only support self determination where it suits their geopolitical narrative. Where self determination doesn't fit their narrative - it's suddenly unconstitutional and illegal under international law.

    There's more double standards here than there are Russian soldiers in Crimea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    The Crimea... gosh I had been looking forward to yet another BBC story plugging Bitcoins. Come one we haven't had an article for at least two days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    May the Crimeans win their heroic battle against the American monster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    Khrushchev ceded Crimea to Ukraine, maybe it would have been better if he had allowed the Crimean's a referendum at that time.

    Scotland is to get a referendum on whether it want's to remain in the UK why shouldn't the Crimean's have a referendum on their future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    "WW3 in the making?"

    Whilst not wishing to be cynical, I do have to say that having commented on this blog for several years now, this is far from the first time I've read such a comment. I remember good old WOTW insisting that WW3 had already started 2 or 3 years ago when Syria kicked off...

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    I am Ukrainian what Mr Puting would call native Russian or Russian speaker.
    The agreement on Russian bases in Crimea till 2042 was signed by Putin's marionette Yanucovich and was judged controversial at the time. Considering the scale of Mr Puting lies about situation in Crimea this agreement ought to be cancelled. How anyone can believe Mr Puting ? I am changing my position on Obhazia and other

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    This whole Ukraine mess is worrying me! Therats! sanctions! US fighter planes deployment! Russian exercises! Missile test! A number of nuclear powers fighting over a small piece of land!

    WW3 in the making?

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    The news keep saying about Kiev but what does the rest of the Ukraine want? This seems to me like the usual vocal minority winning over the quieter majority. It is like saying London wants communism and then applying that to the whole of the UK. Let's find out what the whole of the Ukraine & Crimea wants, not just Kiev and then support what the majority want.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    The question just about sums up so called modern ideas , certainly in parts of the west - That everything has a price and that wants take priority over needs, because of course wants can be measured or rationed in terms of price. He should be ashamed to ask the question

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    I tend to support autonomy for Quebec, Palestine, Catalonia, Scotland etc - but by a properly-conducted referendum giving people the chance to hear both sides of the argument. So have the Crimean referendum, but not with a gun at people's backs. Besides, how wonderfully humiliating it would be for little Putler if the Crimeans said "no, we don't want to be part of your dictatorship".

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    In Crimea 51% of the population is Russians and Crimea has belonged to Russia for hundreds of years. NATO destroyed and carved up Yugoslavia for much less than that, remember Kosovo, Macedonia and so on.


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