The organised crime, corruption, and discrimination that is the oxygen of Vladimir Putin’s ‘spoils for the few’ mode of governance have been boosted by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, finds this report by the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society.
Released one year after the appearance of the Russian President’s ‘little green men’ on the Ukrainian peninsula, Putin’s Peninsula: Crimea’s Annexation and Deterioration argues that the West must not lose sight of the fact that the annexation was the first major land grab in Europe since World War Two and is a stark reminder of the Kremlin’s long-established role in destabilising its neighbourhood.
The report highlights a number of worrying developments in Crimea since Russia began its illegal occupation, including: paramilitary groups closely associated with the authorities have raided myriad private enterprise and forcibly renationalised property; human rights protections have been severely curtailed; and, independent media outlets have been closed down. It calls for EU and US sanctions to remain in place so long as Russia continues its illegal occupation of Crimea.
Key findings of the publication include:
- Russia has pledged to spend substantial sums of money on developing Crimea. However, Russia’s economic weakness, combined with the Western sanctions regime and the fall in the global price of oil, means that it is unlikely that the country can afford such expenditure without compromising long-term fiscal stability.
- Economic sanctions remain the West’s main lever for persuading Vladimir Putin to back down over Ukraine, but a number of companies that would have been subject to EU sanctions have avoided them because they have adopted opaque ownership arrangements. Amongst these is Russian National Commercial Bank, formerly a subsidiary of Bank of Moscow and VTB Group, which moved into Crimea after Ukrainian banks closed down.
- As the situation in Ukraine has evolved, Western diplomacy has focused on trying to stop a deterioration of the situation in south-east Ukraine and to persuade Russia to de-escalate tensions. As a result, Crimea has fallen down the international agenda. Yet, the West should ensure that Crimea remains in the public eye and is raised as an issue in all international forums and in all dialogue with Russia, both bilateral and multilateral.
Dr Andrew Foxall, Director of the Russia Studies Centre at HJS and author of the policy paper, commented: “There has been broad international condemnation about Crimea, but it has not been enough to stop Vladimir Putin importing his ‘spoils for the few’ mode of governing there.
“Russia is not going to give up Crimea anytime soon, but that does not mean the West should sit idly by. There are a number of things the West can do to increase the price for Putin’s folly, not least by ensuring that existing sanctions remain in place and that all relevant sanctions are applied to all entities.”