Speed Reads

Foreign affairs

Ahead of Crimea's Sunday referendum, an analysis of border disputes

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Oh, what a difference a month makes, writes Greg Myre as part of a crash course on how a country changes its borders.

Disputed peninsula Crimea, a part of Ukraine last month, is now a day and a referendum vote away from seceding to join Russia. Legality and Western warnings aside, "this is the first time since 1945 when a great power has changed, or is about to change, Europe's borders by force," Josef Joffe, editor of German newspaper Die Zeit, told NPR.

Myre categorizes those boundary shifts into three types: Breakaway territories, amicable divorces, and disputes spanning generations. (Spoiler: Amicable divorces are the most desirous and also, of course, the rarest.) The situation in Crimea obviously does not fall under the "amicable" umbrella. Will the region vote to secede on Sunday and be subsequently recognized (albeit grudgingly) as a part of Russia? Or will Crimea remain a disputed region for the foreseeable future? Much may depend on whether Russia honors the results of the referendum.

But as Kiev claims Russian troops took control on Saturday of a Ukrainian area not part of the Crimean peninsula, that path looks doubtful.

Read Myre's entire analysis over at NPR.