March 22, 2019

Five Years of the Annexation of the Crimea

Consequences for the World, Russia and Ukraine

 

March 18, 2014, an agreement was signed in the Kremlin on the “accession” of the Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia, which became the official date of their annexation. Since then, every anniversary of this event has traditionally attracted attention to the Crimean problem in Ukraine, Russia, and throughout the world. As it should have been expected, in March 2019, the world's reaction to this issue was very wide, and in covering it, media emphasized the so-called five-year jubilee of the Russian annexation of the Peninsula.

For example, the problem of Russia's annexation of the Crimea was touched upon within the framework of the UN, the European Union, NATO and the OSCE. At this, the condemnation of Moscow's actions and the support for Ukraine were mainly expressed. In turn, Russia (at the level of international organizations and its diplomatic missions in other countries) tried to justify its capturing the Crimea and Russian policy towards our state.

At the same time, most assessments on the Crimean theme are superficial and concern only some consequences of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine without their systematic analysis. Therefore, it is expedient to address these all issues once again in terms of their role and place in geopolitical processes, and their importance not only for Ukraine and Russia, but also for the whole world community. Let's try to answer a few questions regarding this subject.

 

Firstly, what is Russia's attack on Ukraine and, accordingly, the Russian annexation of the Crimea in the geopolitical context?

In the formation of a new multi-polar system of international relations, disagreements and confrontations between different centers of power are getting worse
In the formation of a new multi-polar system of international relations, disagreements and confrontations between different centers of power are getting worse

In view of the global changes taking place in the world, Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine has become the manifestation of the formation of a new multi-polar system of international relations, in which disagreements and confrontations between different centers of power are getting worse. First of all, we mean the struggle for strengthening positions and influence in the world, as well as access to natural resources and transport communications.

Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine was exactly part of such struggle, which fact is largely ignored by experts who look at the Crimean problem mainly in the context of Russian-Ukrainian relations. However, Moscow's actions had more profound goals and were aimed at expanding Russia's sphere of influence by restoring control over Ukraine and blocking the processes of its European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Given the importance of Ukraine as the second largest potential country of the former USSR, for Moscow resolving this issue is of fundamental importance for the implementation of strategic plans for the revival of Russia as a world power. According to such plans, the first step on this path should be creation of the Eurasian Union. However, without Ukraine, it will never become a full-fledged organization, which fact is recognized by both, Russian and Western political scientists.

Besides, through the annexation of the Peninsula, Russia tried to achieve some other goals important for the Kremlin. In particular, it was supposed to raise the rating of V. Putin, which significantly dropped in the period of 2011–2013 after his re-election to a third term of office (with violations of electoral law, as the opposition stated). And, finally, the annexation of the Crimea was to strengthen Russian positions in the Black Sea region, as well as to demonstrate Russia's resolve to realize its interests by all possible means, including military ones.

 

Secondly, what has Russia's aggression against Ukraine demonstrated from the geopolitical point of view?

The development of the situation surrounding Russia's actions against Ukraine shows a rigid and uncompromising geopolitical struggle in the world
The development of the situation surrounding Russia's actions against Ukraine shows a rigid and uncompromising geopolitical struggle in the world

The development of the situation surrounding Russia's actions against Ukraine shows a rigid and uncompromising geopolitical struggle in the world in which neither of the parties will take a back seat. For example, neither the West nor Russia stopped before the actual restoration of the Cold War between them, including the introduction of mutual economic sanctions and turning to a military confrontation. In this regard, against the background of the fifth anniversary of the Russian annexation of the Crimea, resonant were the United States' statements regarding the continuation of military and technical assistance to Ukraine, as well as imposing new restrictions on Russia.

At the same time, Russia's aggression against Ukraine shows that all international mechanisms for resolving global problems have lost their effectiveness both, in bilateral and multilateral formats. The agreements between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the RF's international obligations that were in force at that moment, in no way prevented Russian aggression, and subsequently did not help to regulate bilateral relations. The international organizations, including the UN and the OSCE, also failed to cope with the above-mentioned problems.

At the same time, in that situation, Western countries refused to completely break economic relations with Russia or to directly move to a military confrontation. In fact, they preferred their own economic interests over the interests of other countries (including partners'), not wanting to engage in wars with powerful nuclear adversaries.

Quite illustrative was the reaction of the Third World countries led by the People's Republic of China, which demonstrated the immutability of their positions on non-interference in the confrontation between the West and the East. In fact, none of them, including China, as the second largest after (after the USA) world power, did not condemn Russia's aggression against Ukraine and did not take direct part in containing Moscow with the help of sanctions. Thus, they also confirmed the priority of their own interests. Under the circumstances, was also demonstrated the immutability of Beijing's geopolitical strategy, which means waiting for mutual weakening of the USA and Russia, which should create conditions for the PRC's world leadership.

 

Thirdly, what were the consequences of Moscow's moving to an open aggressive policy with the use of armed force?

Russia's crossing the “red line” in international relations had a wide range of consequences both, geopolitical and situational
Russia's crossing the “red line” in international relations had a wide range of consequences both,
geopolitical and situational

As shown by the events of 2014, Russia's crossing the “red line” in international relations had a wide range of consequences both, geopolitical and situational. The main ones are:

 

in general, for the world — a complete destruction of the whole geopolitical system that had developed since the collapse of the USSR, namely: the resumption of the confrontation between the West and the East as two antagonistic centers of power. Despite the reluctance of the parties to bring such confrontation to a military conflict, it has already led to the actual elimination of the system of collective security that had existed in the world, including in the nuclear and missile sphere. As a result, the challenges, risks and threats to global security have significantly increased;

 

for Russia — both, the achievement of certain results in the realization of its interests, and the emergence of critical problems in important spheres. For example, having annexed the Crimea, Russia has really strengthened its positions in the Black Sea region, has improved V. Putin's rating, and also demonstrates the resolve of the Russian policy to the whole world. At the same time, all this is situational and in no way helped Moscow to make real progress in the implementation of the desired geopolitical plans.

Russia's only gain from the annexation of the Crimea is its getting a military base in the Black Sea
Russia's only gain from the annexation of the Crimea is its getting a military base
in the Black Sea

In particular, Russia not only failed to raise its role in the world and expand its sphere of influence, but on the contrary, undermined and narrowed it. In 2014, Russia was expelled from G8, and then — deprived of voice in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The same situation has arisen in the UN, where, in fact, Russia is on its own. At this, in the vast majority of cases, UN members do not support, but condemn the policy of Moscow. Evidence of this is the annual resolutions of the UN General Assembly on the Crimea, in which Russia is accused of violating international law and human rights in the Peninsula.

At the same time, the aggression against Ukraine completely prevented the realization of Moscow's plans to build the Eurasian Union (EAS), and hence — the prospects for Russia to enter the level of a great world power. It is absolutely clear that Ukraine will never take part in the Kremlin's integration initiatives. However, since 2014, relations with partners in the future EAU and the already existing CSTO have been getting worse as the result of Moscow's aggressive policy and its confrontation with the West.

At best, members of these organizations, including Belarus and Kazakhstan, are trying to obtain economic preferences from Russia, but in no way do they support its imperial ambitions and are looking for other partners — from China to the United States. We have already written about this in our previous publications. But will briefly give just one example. March 18, 2019, Russian Ambassador M. Babich's press-conference on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the Crimea's “accession” to Russia was held in Minsk. The Belarusian media demonstratively ignored the event.

Russia and China are still considered “strategic partners”, but will never become true allies
Russia and China are still considered “strategic partners”, but will never become true allies

Even more complicated are Russia's relations with other neighbors. Poland, the Baltic States, Norway, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are members of NATO, which opposes them to Moscow. Especially in the context of the confrontation between Russia and the United States/NATO, which is accompanied by increased military activity of the parties in the Baltic and Black Sea regions as well as in the Arctic. And after the Crimea and Donbas, Finland is already considering a possibility of NATO membership. The same opponents of Russia are Georgia and Moldova, which already were objects of its aggression.

No secret is the nature of the relations between Russia and China, which are still considered “strategic partners”, but will never become true allies. As noted above, Beijing pursues exclusively its own interests and has no intentions to side with Moscow in its confrontation with the West. China even sees Russia as an object of its own expansion.

Having attacked Ukraine, Russia lost all its partners and allies. To date, it simply has none, unless we count in Iran, Syria, Venezuela and other similar countries, which fact in no way adds to its authority in the world.

As a result of the annexation of the Crimea, Russia has already lost 10 % of its economy
As a result of the annexation of the Crimea,
Russia has already lost 10 % of its economy

The same can be said about the Russian economy. Here are just a few facts. Thus, according to estimates of the Bloomberg, as a result of the annexation of the Crimea, Russia has already lost 10 % of its economy and 150 billion US dollars. To this we can add a drop in the rate of Russian GDP growth to the lowest level among the countries of the former USSR (lower than in Tajikistan), Russia's loss of Western technology, which has led to its lagging behind developed countries, the outflow of capital from the country, and the curtailment of foreign investors' activity.

All this has lowered the standard of living of the Russian population, forced Moscow to resort to unpopular decisions, including on raising the retirement age and increasing taxes. In turn, the fall of ratings of the Russian authorities began, including of V. Putin himself — to a critical level of about 30 %, which was observed before Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Roughly to the same level, has fallen the number of Russians who still approve of Moscow's capturing the Crimea. That is, Russia's only gain from the annexation of the Crimea is its getting a military base in the Black Sea. And is it worth all those problems that it has faced after that? Especially, given the consequences of all this for Ukraine;

 

for Ukraine — the consequences of Russia's annexation of the Crimea were also diverse and diametrically opposed in nature. For example, our state lost the Crimea and got a conflict in the Donbas (we have lost 7 % of the Ukrainian territory, several million people of the country, almost 19 % of GDP and 25 % of industry). With Russia's further aggression in the Azov Sea, Ukraine's economic losses have become even greater.

It would seem that this completely ruled out the possibility of normal development of Ukraine, as Moscow hoped. However, it failed to realize its intentions. Russia's aggression forced Ukraine to mobilize its efforts in all spheres, which made it a true state, independent from the Russian-Soviet past.

Losses of the national economy Ukraine's GDP growth
For Ukraine the consequences of Russia's annexation of the Crimea
were diverse and diametrically opposed in nature

Thus, the Ukrainian Army was not just revived, but the entirely new Armed Forces of Ukraine were created, able to resist Russia. And our state already is already backed by the United States and NATO, which not only help Ukraine to strengthen its defense potential, but also include it in the general system of protection of Europe from Russia.

We also mentioned the Ukrainian economy, — the new opportunities that it received after getting rid of Russia to be exact — on our website. But let's take a look at them again, taking into consideration today's realities. According to the results of 2018, Ukraine's GDP grew by more than 3 %, which is almost three times the same index for Russia and is in line with the global pace. And the export of Ukrainian goods increased by 10 %. At this, not only of raw materials and agricultural products, but also of high-tech equipment. In turn, the share of the European Union in our exports already reaches 40 %.

Ukraine left the “gray zone” between the West and Russia, and this allowed it to choose a clear course of European and Euro-Atlantic integration
Ukraine left the “gray zone” between the West and Russia,
and this allowed it to choose a clear course of European
and Euro-Atlantic integration

Of course, there are a lot of problems in Ukraine, first and foremost, socio-economic ones. However, unlike Russia, Ukraine is resolving them the best it can.

However, the main thing for Ukraine, really fatal, was completely different. It left the “gray zone” between the West and Russia, and this allowed it to choose a clear course of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. This was our state's main achievement. And this completely distinguishes us from Russia, which, on the contrary, has turned into a “gray zone”, a raw material appendage of China.

 

What conclusions can be drawn from our answers to the above questions?

They are quite clear and have been repeatedly presented in our publications as well as in other media. Let us summarize them to one denominator. So:

  • Ukraine for the first time in its history has became the cause, source and driving force of global changes
    Ukraine for the first time in its history has became the cause, source and driving force of global changes
    Crimea's theme is not closed at all and remains on the agenda, even if Russia denies this. Both, five years ago, and now, it remains the focus of the international community and has a significant impact on the development of the geopolitical situation in the world;
  • The United States and Europe have not accept and will not accept Russia's policy and will not let it get away with the annexation of the Crimea. Their positions are clearly pragmatic and are not at all dictated by unprofitable support of Ukraine, but by their own geopolitical interests;
  • Within the framework of such interests of Russia and the West, Ukraine actually is a “battleground” between them. Despite the tragic consequences of such a situation for Ukraine, it for the first time in its history has became the cause, source and driving force of global changes;
  • Regardless of our attitude to this, Ukraine will continue to be at the intersection of the interests of Russia and the USA, NATO and the EU. And, therefore, it will be subject to their mutual claims (diametrically opposite in character) in terms of Russia's attempts to destroy Ukraine's independence and the West's support to Ukraine;
  • with further European and Euro-Atlantic integration of our state, it is necessary to strengthen its military potential as the only truly reliable guarantee of security.