Speaking to a crowd in Columbus, Ohio today, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump warned that any actual effort by the US to take Crimea away from Russia militarily and restore it to Ukrainian control would result in World War III, suggesting it wasn’t worth such a war to get the territory for Ukraine, adding that he doubts the Russian government intends to move into Ukraine itself.
Crimea’s historical status is a complicated one. A long-standing part of Russia, it was moved into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1954. When the Soviet Union split, Crimea remained under Ukrainian control, though it also hosted a major Russian naval base. Ukraine’s 2014 ouster of its Russian-allied government in favor of a western-backed government restarted questions.
With a large ethnic Russian population in Crimea, the peninsula held a vote to secede from Ukraine almost immediately thereafter, and gained accession into the Russian Federation. The US has ruled out ever recognizing that, however, insisting Crimea will forever be Ukrainian territory.
Trump suggested he might have a different position on the matter, however, saying that he was willing to “take a look at” recognizing Crimea as Russian, saying that he believes many Crimean would rather be in Russia than in Ukraine.
Trump’s comments sparked more condemnations from the Clinton campaign, which has been trying to portray him as Russia’s candidate of choice, and claimed his openness to recognizing Crimea as Russian was a “tacit invitation” for Russia to conquer all of Eastern Europe militarily.
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