by our UCSJ manager in L’viv, Volodymyr Valkov
What is going to be the future of the Crimean peninsula and most importantly its people in the unfortunate event of Putin’s successful yet illegal military intervention in Ukraine?
The future promises to be grim, to say the least. It is worth taking one brief look at the living conditions found in Transdnistria, another break-away republic engineered and sustained by Soviet-Russian dictatorship. Transdnistria is a time machine. Stepping behind the border buffer zone guarded by Russian ‘peacekeeping’ army vehicles at the Moldovan-Transdnistrian border is comparable to making a trip back in time.
Transdnistria is poor and destitute. Formally it is not a recognized member of the international community. Everything is dull and gray in a painfully familiar Soviet industrial style. People are scraping by and try to escape in search of a better future for their families. The only flourishing industry there is liquor. Transdnistria has three ‘official’ state languages, including Russian, Moldovan and Ukrainian. The only real language there is Russian. Transdnistria is a scary Russian theater, where everything is fictitious: money, law, rights and freedom. This is the kind of future that Putin has in store for Crimea and its residents.
Despite the ongoing show of supposed military might in Crimea, Russia is a weak country with inflated personal ambitions. But Putin’s ambitions cannot provide a decent living to those he occupies. Russia’s extractive economy, unrealistic military spending, corruption, oligarchy, swelling offshore accounts of key officials in tax havens around the world, internal separatist threats make is a soon-to-fail dystopia.
Annexation of Crimea will sink Russia in different ways. Putin’s judgement will no longer be credible. Russia’s economy will collapse sooner or later because the political silence of the majority of the Russian population depends on economic deprivation and intimidation. Ordinary Russians are very smart people who cannot be tamed forever. Geopolitical threats to Russia will increase, especially from North Caucasus, Middle East and Far East. Russian security forces will become stretched too thin. Condemnation of the international community will negatively impact many pending trade and military negotiations, making the future of the Customs Union irrelevant. Ukraine will continue to resist. The invasion of Crimea will precipitate the Russian Spring in the next 10 years.
Putin’s aggression revealed virtually all of the shortcomings in the Ukraine’s national security that have to be taken care of such as the proper delineation and demarcation of Ukraine’s borders with Russia, reviewing of all personnel in the national security sector, immediate modernization of the military, drastic increasing of energy efficiency to reduce gas consumption, restructuring of the extractive and energy-intensive economy. Public opinion in support of immediate expulsion of the Russian naval base in Sevastopol is growing every day. The same can be said about the public approval of Ukraine’s membership in NATO and EU.
If Putin pursues with invasion, Crimea will become a historical disaster for Russia 160 years after the Crimean War and the Siege of Sevastopol.