The drought in the Crimea: Russia solve the problem by military means? (MDR, Germany)

In Ukraine, the growing concern about large-scale exercises of the Russian army “Caucasus — 2020”, which began in June and should go into the hot phase at the end of September.

The exercises are held in the South of Russia, four years ago, “the Caucasus — 2016” has already conducted partly in Russian-annexed Crimea. This time, apparently, will be the same. In this regard, the representatives of the United States, former Ambassador William Taylor, as well as official Ukrainian persons indicate the possibility of a military attack.

The problem with water in the Crimea escalates

“Any military exercises on the border can quickly turn into an attack,” — said the Ukrainian foreign Ministry. Among the possible reasons for the Deputy Minister of foreign Affairs Vasily Bondar called the political instability in Russia, as well as the unresolved issue of water supply of the Crimea. “I don’t doubt it,” replied the commander of the Ukrainian Navy Alex Neiipp to the question whether Russia in the near future to attack the South Ukrainian Kherson region because of the big problems with water supply on the Peninsula.

Later these statements were slightly adjusted. But in Odessa, where after the annexation of Crimea in 2014 is the Ukrainian fleet, take seriously the possibility of aggravation of the situation. This wariness is really related to the problem of water supply, which for the last two years has intensified due to the very severe drought. Before the annexation of the Peninsula, 85% of which was supplied with water from built in Soviet times, the North-Crimean canal. After the annexation of Kiev has blocked the channel, stopping the supply of water to Crimea.

The solution is not visible

In other areas of Russia relatively quickly found solutions to minimize the dependence of the Peninsula from Ukraine. Electricity supply problems were solved by a submarine cable, the so-called “energy bridge” from the Russian region of Kuban. Logistical difficulties were settled by the construction of the Kerch bridge, and the expansion of the airport in Crimean capital Simferopol. But for a sufficient supply of the Crimea, the decision is not visible.

The drought in the Crimea

Crimea is a region of Europe with a minimum of water reserves, which at the time necessitated the construction of the North Crimean channel. 2020 was one of the driest in the history of the Peninsula, so little water the last time was 25 years ago. Drinking water is missing, but local authorities have urged the population to save. Big problems observed in the agricultural regions in the North-East of the Crimea, where previously the water was supplied exclusively from the North-Crimean canal.

Only local solutions

To mitigate the situation after the annexation of the Crimea discovered in Soviet times was built three wells, from where water is pumped to the North Crimean canal. At the same time agriculture is on the spot adjusts and moves to so-called drip irrigation, which is used in arid countries to save water. However successful these attempts have not yet become. In other problem areas trying to replenish the water reserves of natural sewage tanks and also from underground sources.

In any case, we are talking about local, and not fundamental solutions. Globally the situation could be changed, building a water pipeline from Kuban in southern Russia, or from the Rostov region. However, this project is not just costly — in both regions are simply not a sufficient amount of water. “Money is not the problem. But we will take the water from people who have it, and so is not enough”, — explained the Director of the research Institute of agriculture of Crimea Vladimir Pastecki. Another idea — a very expensive construction of a desalination plant in Kerch in the East of the Crimea.

Russia should negotiate with Kiev

This would mean that Russia in the medium and long term needs will be to start negotiations with Ukraine on the resumption of the supply of water. The fact that Russia recently in the negotiations on the war in the East of Ukraine once again tightens the tone and demands from Kiev to specific proposals on the special status regions of Donbass, is regarded as higher interest rates with regard to water supply problems in the Crimea. But Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky doesn’t want to compromise. “I’m against it”, — quotes the Deputy of the presidential party in the Parliament, Bohdan Yaremenko, the position of his head.

Does this mean that a military conflict really inevitable? The construction of a desalination plant in Kerch worth about 600 million euros is still cheaper than war, simply replied in the Crimea. But if in subsequent years will have the same drought, Moscow will have to find a permanent solution to the problem. By that Kiev would like to prepare now.