Many of us
who have been following the events unfolding in Ukraine for the past several
weeks have experienced emotions ranging from apathy to horror. Regardless of
the position of the rest of the international community, the Kremlin now says
Ukraine’s Crimea region as a part of Russia. Many Ukrainians, including
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, are understandably outraged, calling the
contrived annexation "a robbery on an international scale." Others throughout the
world, including many Americans, are still asking questions akin to, “why does
this matter?” To understand why it matters, we must attempt to understand the
motivations of the autocrat pulling the strings, Vladimir Putin.
author’s opinion, the Crimea annexation is simply the next step in creating “a
powerful supranational association capable of becoming one of the poles in the
modern world and serving as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic
Asia-Pacific region.” This is not linguistic
hyperbole, but instead language taken directly from an editorial written by
Putin himself in October 2011. The association Putin refers to is the Eurasian
Union. In December 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a remark
that seems to represent the American government’s only public position on
Putin’s idea: “There is a move to re-Sovietize the region”, she said. It appears that Vladimir
Putin and the Russian Federation are attempting to rebuild much of the Soviet
empire, but under a new name and with new ideals. According to Putin, “none of
this entails any kind of revival of the Soviet Union. It would be naïve to try
to revive or emulate something that has been consigned to history. But these
times call for close integration based on new values and a new political and
economic foundation.” Unfortunately, “the
history and rhetoric of the Eurasian movement suggests that it will inevitably
be some hodge-podge of anti-Western, anti-liberal thought.” Belarus and Kazakhstan
have already agreed to join the Eurasian Union, while a number of other
post-Soviet states, including Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, have
signaled interest in joining.
Crimea and Ukraine as
a whole play a vital role in Putin’s developing Eurasian Union. “Ukraine—with
its steel mills, coal plants, bountiful agricultural resources, and massive
population of 46 million people—has always, according to Russia experts, been
key to Putin’s vision for the Eurasian Union.” The current worst-case
scenario is that Crimea is nothing more than a stepping stone to Russia’s
invasion of all of Ukraine. “With Ukraine in his pocket, Putin will have both
the material and infrastructure assets he needs to reassert Russia as a global
power. Without Ukraine, Russia will effectively be reduced to its 17th century
borders, with some access to the sea.” Putin’s well publicized
claim that he is defending ethnic Russians, artificially supported by the sham
referendum vote taken on March 17, could feasibly extend to all of Ukraine.
While this is still most certainly a hypothetical scenario, the author believes
it is time for the international community to begin crafting a strategy to deal
with a potential Russian invasion of all of Ukraine. Crimea is but a piece of a
larger puzzle. What the aggregate puzzle ultimately reveals could shape much of
21st century geopolitics.
Eshchenko and Laura
Smith-Spark, Ukraine Cries Robbery as
Russia Annexes Crimea, CNN (Tuesday
Mar. 18, 2014, 2:38 p.m.), http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/18/world/europe/ukraine-crisis/index.html?hpt=hp_c2.
 Vladimir Putin, A New Integration Project for Eurasia: The Future in the Making, Izvestia(Oct. 3, 2011), http://www.russianmission.eu/en/news/article-prime-minister-vladimir-putin-new-integration-project-eurasia-future-making-izvestia-3-.
 Leon Neyfakh, Putin’s
Long Game? Meet the Eurasian Union, The
Boston Globe (Mar. 9, 2014)http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/03/09/putin-long-game-meet-eurasian-union/1eKLXEC3TJfzqK54elX5fL/story.html (citation
 Putin, supra note 3.
 Neyfakh, supra note 4.
 Kyle Spencer, Ukraine
is the Key to Putin’s Eurasian Union, Seeking
Alpha (Mar. 4, 2014) http://seekingalpha.com/article/2065283-ukraine-is-the-key-to-putins-eurasian-union.
Posted by Cory R. Busker on Thu. April 3, 2014 1:00 PM
Crimea, Russia, Territorial disputes, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin