The Crimean Crisis – Part II
Foreign politicians, political analysts and diplomats saw Russia’s aggression towards Georgia (in 2008) as a precursor event that might be later used in Crimea and Ukraine. In the World map, Crimea seems like an Achilles heel to Ukraine. But, it has now proven to be the stronger region for Russia.
After the escalation of violence in the Ukrainian streets, on February 21st, the Ukrainian President fled from Capital Kiev (his own guards abandoned him). The Parliament installed a new interim government. On Feb. 23, the law of languages of minorities was introduced, which made Ukrainian the sole state language. This law irked the Ethnic Russian majorities of Crimea and the Pro-Russian protestors. After the ousting of Ukrainian President, Pro-Russian protestors asked for Crimea to secede from Ukraine. The languages law further facilitated the clash between two groups. On Feb 26th, Pro-Russians and Pro-Ukraine protesters clashed outside the Parliament building.
On Feb. 28th, Russian forces occupied important strategic places in Crimea. They also occupied the Crimean Parliament and behind closed doors, the parliament elected Sergey Aksyonov as the new Crimean de facto Prime Minister. The new administration was not recognized by the interim Ukrainian government. On March 1st, the acting President of Ukraine vetoed the language bill, but on March 11th the government shut down all the Russian language TV and radio channels. On March 16th, Crimea parliament conducted a ballot, which didn’t provide choice about maintaining the status quo. On March 18th Crimea became the part of Russian federation.
Ukraine doesn’t have (or will have) the chance of forcing Russia out of Crimea. Although, the Western nations including America are seriously against Russian action, they can’t or won’t interfere in this crisis (unless NATO allies are willing to send its troops into Crimea). American and Britain has threatened Russia with economic sanctions.
Russia is dependent on the international economy in a way that wasn’t true 10 years ago. It depends heavily on European imports. So, why would Putin choose to gamble with his billions of dollars ties in the west? Many say that Putin no longer fears the European establishment; some say that Putin has seen through the weakness of United States.
It’s a globalized world, so if a business is not being done with particular country, the created vacuum will attract only another suitor (may be from Beijing). Yeah, the economic sanctions against Russia would degrade Russia’s economy further, but Putin wouldn’t care much. It is also said that Russia’s top men have been buying up Europe. The bankers and lawyers are said to have doing the dirty works, placing the corrupted fortunes from British Virgin Islands to the Dutch Antilles. In 2012, it is noted that, two thirds of the $56 billion exiting Russia can be traceable to illegal activities (drug money or tax fraud). So European elites are now concerned about making money with Russia rather than standing up to it. Of course, these are not proven facts.
USA is also not interested in starting a fresh war (that too with Russia). If Putin recklessly uses Crimean events as a starter to try and break up Ukraine — reincorporating the historically Russian-leaning eastern half into Russia – then USA might change its mind. But, for now they can only skip meetings like G8 or postpone trade talks. We also have to remember that Ukraine is not a NATO ally and if a war breaks out, it will prolong for years without any resolution (which would irk the war-weary American public).
This Crimean crisis impacts both Ukrainian and Russian economy. Ukraine has heavy debts ($13 billion) and US has promised to provide as much support as Ukraine needs for economic growth and stability. These economic troubles will hurt Russian banks, which have leant heavily to Ukraine. Acquiring the Crimea peninsula isn’t also going to be cheap for Russia. Few days before the annexation, Russian Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov said, “The situation in the economy bears clear signs of a crisis.” Now, annexing Crimea will further cost the Russian budget, an amount of $3 billion. The Russian ruble has already weakened about 9.6 percent against the dollar from the start of this year. Putin may think that he could silence European Union and America in the next few years, but for now, this economic stagnation might turn ruinous for Russia.
Few years from now, the Crimean crisis will provide debates about decline of US power and strategical move by Putin, gaining unstoppable access to Black Sea port, because the crisis’ relevance is all about advancing or retreating few paces in the geo-politics chess board. It’s definitely not about Crimea, Ukrainian or Russian people’s future.