It’s anyone’s guess how events will turn out in Ukraine, following the relatively peaceful overthrow of the Yanukovych regime. But one thing is almost certain. Russia will not allow its access to the Crimea to be denied. Whether this takes the form of a diplomatic solution (Ukraine currently leases the bases at Sevastapol to Russi, since 1997, and renewed for 25 years in 2012), a Russian annexation of all or parts of Crimea, or some other solution remains to be seen.
Charles King, writing in the American Thinker discusses this:
One of the results of the fall of Viktor Yanukovych’s government has been the rising specter of the break-up of Ukraine and the secession of Crimea. The interim president, Olexander Turchynov, spoke recently about the dark prospect of “separatism” in his country, while early reports of the whereabouts of Yanukovych placed him in Crimea itself. Is Crimea likely to become the ex-president’s redoubt, and if so, would Russia intervene to support the secessionist region?
Both scenarios are unlikely. Yanukovych’s support is limited across the country as a whole, and if the new government is able to act calmly and deliberately, there will be little incentive to push toward a strategically risky—and potentially devastating—separation, either by Crimeans or by other Ukrainian citizens in areas of the country with sizable Russian-speaking communities.
Crimea is that little dangling peninsula on the southern edge that juts into the Black Sea, and thus gives the Russian Black Sea Fleet access (via the Dardanelles) to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. It is effectively Russia’s only warm water port in the West.
And it isn’t as if Russia doesn’t have a historical claim t the region. It wasn’t until the 1950s that Russia ceded the peninsula to Ukraine. Given that at the time both Russia and Ukraine were part of the USSR, it was seen more as a PR stunt for outside observers, rather than any real transfer of power from Moscow. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 made a reality out of what had been a sham, but Russia was still able to maintain access to the port, and still has an outsized influence in the immediate region.
With luck, in the short term, Ukraine will be able to achieve some modus vivendi with Russia. Russia will, of course, attempt to continue to exert influence in the region, and likely continue to attempt to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, particularly in the Crimea, but also throughout the nation. A worst case scenario will see Russia simply seize by force the Crimea, and possibly the entire country.