As world leaders and diplomats rushed to Kiev in an attempt to stabilize the rapidly deteriorating situation in Ukraine following the invasion of the Crimean Peninsula by Russian forces Sunday, Putin has demonstrated surprisingly limited intent to push further into sovereign Ukrainian territory, alleviating the fears of many.
Slamming Western powers for “backing what he called an ‘armed seizure of power’ in Ukraine…Putin emphasized that he saw no immediate need for Russian military intervention [in Ukraine]…describing military force as a ‘last resort’.”
This is the one of the first statements made by Putin following several days of international distress and concerned dialogue, emanating primarily from former Soviet bloc nations fearing the onslaught of aggressive military posturing reminiscent of the Cold War era.
A Fighting Chance
By demonstrating limited intent to aggress further into Ukraine after seizing the Peninsula, Putin has rather effectively solidified Russia’s position as a more global power. Whereas previous years have seen Russia struggle to regain what financial, economic, and military power remained following the collapse of the Soviet Union, recent events have aptly announced the arrival of a stronger, more capable Motherland—a Russia that can exert calculated control over its geopolitical interests, expand its sphere of influence in Eurasia, and hold the majority of Western Europe and its institutions at bay.
The Power of Geopolitics
As SOFREP has previously reported regarding Russia’s invasion of the Peninsula, Ukraine and the Crimea are geopolitically critical to Russian interests, specifically when it comes to expanding Russia’s sphere of influence over the region and Western Europe.
With its recent invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, Russia has proved to the world that its regional security and strategic positioning are critical factors quintessential to providing the depth and cushion necessary to properly defend Russia. This very same Russian zeal to establish an enduring presence in other geopolitically critical regions is also demonstrated by Russia’s ongoing support of the Assad regime and their activity at the Russian naval port in Tartus, Syria. Russia’s aggressive strategic posturing and activity regarding maritime transport and natural resources in the Arctic provide another prime example, as SOFREP has previously reported.
At a Stand-Off
Recognizing that Russia’s significantly strong energy sector provided enough leverage to overcome any short-term financial blowback from Western Europe, Putin chose to justify (albeit, very questionably) a bold military operation in a sovereign territory that served not only to expand Russia’s immediate regional security situation, but also show the world that Russia possessed the military, economic, and financial means to challenge existing Western interests.
According to recent reporting, although the main Russian stock index plummeted following the Russian invasion, numbers are already somewhat recovering following their initial fall. Despite short-term attempts by the US and various other actors to financially insulate Ukraine should Russia reduce the natural gas supply, Russia still maintains the upper hand, knowing full well that in the long-term, the majority of EU nations seek a “pragmatic [economic] relationship with Russia.” This pragmatic economic relationship ensures that, despite multiple calls for sanctions against Russia, few Western European nations will actually pursue actionable measures supporting them.
“The crisis in Ukraine is having political repercussions for most members of the European Union…with countries such as Germany, France and the United Kingdom trying to strike a balance between criticizing Russia’s actions in Crimea and ensuring that their economic links with Moscow are unaffected…the European Union is unlikely to place significant sanctions, such as asset freezes, arms embargoes or trade restrictions, on Russia. Instead, the Europeans will likely apply superficial measures, including the suspension of current negotiations for visa liberalization (a process that was making little progress even before the current crisis) and the temporary suspension of bilateral cooperation in different areas. In the coming weeks, the European Union will push for more diplomatic dialogue between Russia and the West while offering limited financial assistance to Ukraine.” -Stratfor
As various steps towards de-escalation are discussed following Putin’s announcement that he would not annex Crimea, the fact remains that Russia has thrust itself onto the international stage using a bold combination of restrained military action, appropriately leveraged economic influence, and geopolitical posturing. This combination has all but demonstrated Putin’s propensity to assure world powers that Russia is working its way to a more solidified role in international affairs.
In addition to exerting influence in areas geopolitically critical to Russian interests, Russia has also emerged as a player capable and willing of influencing other world events, specifically in regards to the ongoing conflict in Syria. It is important to note the role that Russia played last year during the initial discussion regarding the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, a majorly symbolic breakthrough that Russia continues to broker today.
While the immediate outcome of the Russian presence in Crimea develops further, the fact remains that Russia has demonstrated to Western institutions, organizations, and the US that despite any short-term efforts to curtail Russian aggression encroaching on Western Europe, Russia remains steadfast in its ability to achieve its geopolitical, security, and strategic objectives.
In addition to its ability to influence various Western European entities using its economic power, Russia has demonstrated its emergence as a more global power. While it is not likely it will maintain this position much longer due to recent lessons learned from Western European nations, Russia has successfully challenged the status quo and achieved an outcome that benefits its strategic posturing, regional security, and geopolitical interests.
Thanks for listening.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Haaretz.com)