The United Nations General Assembly has rejected the recent Crimean vote which saw the Ukrainian territory vote to become a part of Russia. The move follows strong criticisms from the United States and European Union, but it remains unclear if anything beyond strong words will come out of it.

Crimea referendum

The vote was non-binding and carries no force or actions with it. 100 countries voted for the UN resolution condemning Russia, while 11 voted against it. Another 58 countries refused to vote at all, suggesting that views in the United Nations remain divided. Many countries seem more intent on staying out of the political fray than getting involved in what could become an intense political issue.

Crimea has strong historical ties to Russia

The Crimean situation is complicated on numerous levels. Obviously, Russia’s invasion and forced annexation of the state has drawn the ire of leaders from around the world. Still, the situation is complicated as the majority of Crimean citizens are of Russian descent and also speak Russian. Many of them would ostensibly prefer to be part of Russia rather than Ukraine.

Indeed, earlier this month Crimea voted to join Russia, though the actual accuracy of the vote is quite questionable. As many as 95 percent of Crimean citizens may support joining Russia. Add into the fact that Crimea enjoyed some autonomy within Ukraine and the local government largely favored Russia over Ukraine’s national government, and allegiances in the region appear to be in Russia’s favor.

Crimea was in fact a part of Russia following the Russian civil war circa 1920 and up until 1954 when the Soviet Union ceded the territory to Ukraine, then a satellite state of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Crimea stayed with Ukraine even though most of its citizens were Russian by descent.

Crimea is a vital military asset for Russia, however, and is the country’s only warm water military port. As such, Russian never evacuated the peninsula but instead stayed there under an agreement with the Ukrainian government.

Potential enemies economically hamstrung

Both the United States and European Union have been livid following the invasion and seizure of the Crimean peninsula. Problem is, neither power is in a position to confront Russia in any economically or politically forceful way. Yes, Russia has been kicked out of the G8 and some individual Russian leaders have been sanctioned, but few of them appear to be losing sleep over it.

The economies of both the United States and European Union are too weak to support strong sanctions against Russia, which is a major exporter of oil and natural gas. As such, little has happened outside a strong war of words and vague threats of future sanctions that appear to have little weight.