A potential general geopolitical settlement between the United States, the European Union, and Russia including Crimea would prove to be in the interest of each party. Countries of the Black Sea, Balkans, and Caucasus, which are members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization possess tremendous economic potential that could be put toward the purposes of peace and development. With a population of 335 million, BSEC members possess an intra-BSEC trade volume worth $187 billion annually and represent a major transport corridor for gas and oil and an alternative to Middle Eastern energy supplies. The BSEC has the potential to become Europe’s major transport and energy transfer corridor—if positive relations among the BSEC membership can be achieved.

A general settlement with Moscow that permits Moscow to retain sovereignty over Crimea would be advantageous under the creation of an “international free trade zone” in Crimea. A Crimean international free trade zone under Russian sovereignty would open  Crimea to international investment and trade, tourism, and joint ventures (which could include investments of Ukrainian companies if mutually agreed). On the one hand, such a proposal could offset Ukrainian demands for a complete return of the Crimea ; on the other, it could help save face for Russia’s historical and nationalist claims to Crimea. Even though Moscow would retain sovereignty, Moscow would be compelled to make compromises and sign legal accords in order to attract greater U.S. and European finance. This proposal could additionally provide the isthmus greater social and political autonomy at a local level and permit the protection of the Tatar, Ukrainian, and other non-Russian minorities.

Once there is progress in these areas, the United States and EU could then begin to lift sanctions on Russia, while also looking for ways to bring the United States, EU, and Russia into greater political-economic, financial, and energy cooperation. One possibility would be a three-way trade and financial commission between Ukraine, the European Union, and Russia. Another step would be to bring Moscow back into the G-8 discussions after Russian membership was suspended in March 2014. Both G-8 and EU-Russian-Ukrainian discussions could likewise lead the EU to work out a political-economic association accord that better balances Russian and Ukrainian financial, political-economic, energy, and ecological interests—after the EU’s abysmal failure to do so in 2013–14.

After sanctions on Russia are put to an end, Russia could be offered  American and European investment, as well as joint military and security cooperation.

If Moscow is approached by both the United States and Europeans candidly, there is still a strong possibility that Russia could begin to play a more positive role in the possible resolution of a number of international disputes. 

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