Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vladimir Putin Declares Crimea as Eternally a Part of Russia

Though analysts were "curious to see whether the president would take a conciliatory tone in his annual speech to Russia’s political elite," given the instability of the Russian economy due to in part to sanctions imposed on the West over Russia's intervention in Crimea, (The Guardian) Putin's speech instead took a fierce tone as he slammed the West over their interference over his attempts to annex Crimea.

By stating the Crimea territory "has a sacred meaning for Russians as important as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for those who profess Islam and Judaism," Putin portrays the territory as an area of religious importance to Russia, (LA Times) in an attempt to justify his forced annexation of the region. Interestingly, despite this, he has denied involvement of Russian troops in the Ukrainian crisis, despite the claims by NATO officials that "they have observed Russian armed convoys crossing the unprotected border into Ukraine" (LA Times).

Though logically, one would think that Russians would "prefer continued access to consumer goods over influence in Ukraine, iPads over great power status," given Russia's poor economic conditions, (Bloomberg) Putin's approval ratings are actually increasing. (Forbes) Though Western sanctions were intended to damage the credibility of Russian leadership, they have actually increased approval ratings due to increased defensive patriotism inspired by Western sanctions. Putin took advantage of this viewpoint to denounce the West for imposing sanctions, stating they "would have simply found another excuse to contain Russia with sanctions" (The Guardian).

 Questions for discussion:

1) Western sanctions have done little to damage the credibility of Putin domestically, which was their intended goal. Should Western strategy towards Putin's encroachment of Ukraine be modified? If so, how so? If not, why not?

2) Is the West engaged in another "Cold War" with Russia? Explain your reasoning.

3) What do you think the future holds for relations between Russia and the West? What policy should the West, in particular, the United States, adopt towards Russia?


Christian Carlson said...

Well, if the initial Western strategy was to damage Putin's credibility, and if that goal isn't being fulfilled right now, then it seems obvious to me that Western strategy should, in fact, change. If the sanctions as they are now aren't effective, then maybe they should be more severe, affecting a large range of things. By doing so, that could possibly put more pressure on Russia as a country and Putin as its leader. I wouldn't necessarily say the West is really engaged in a "Cold War" right now. Not much along the lines of what happened before is really happening now, and I feel that such a comparison isn't really appropriate. Rather, I see Russia as being more of a "Grouchy Ladybug." I think the future holds quite a lot for Russia and the West. Though I can't say precisely what sort of policy may be the most ideal in this situation, I feel like definitely something should be done.

Jordan Kranzler said...

I don't think they are working. Russia is facing economic hardships right now, but many experts agree that these are more due to structural issues in the Russian economy rather than international sanctions, so Russians haven't really held Putin accountable for his foreign policy that is damaging their reputation around the world. And even if the sanctions are causing economic damage, which some say they are, Putin has consolidated the political power in Russia to such a high degree that he isn't likely to face so much opposition. To your second question, yes, you could say that, as Russia is fighting for a sphere of influence the the West would not like to see happen. In terms of policies the US should take, I think that, in this conflict, the we should provide more intelligence support to Ukraine.

Miranda Brinkley said...

Obviously, if the sanctions placed on Russia are counterproductively improving Putin's approval ratings, the US needs to rethink their strategy on how we approach the problem. Whether the rest of the world agrees with us is essentially irrelevant because nobody is willing to risk a WWIII, and as long as the people of Russia continue to support Putin he will have no incentive to change-especially as he continues to promote his image. Militarily there is little that can be done without risking a full out war that would have disastrous consequences, which is why I appreciate the effort that economic sanctions were used first but it has already been acknowledged that they have done little to help our cause.

Alex Ilyin 6 said...

It is very hard to find the right solution in this situation. I doubt increasing sanctions on Russia will do any good. As you stated, that Russians are beginning to unite behind Putin as the sanctions increase, as they are being told that the U.S. are aggressors in the conflict. I do believe you can see this conflict as a sort of a "Cold War", however it is not the same type of Cold War that we saw in the late 20th century, since obviously a space race and an arms race are not involved. As for some possible solution, the only one I could possibly think of is to continue to fund Ukraine.

Brian Yee said...

I think that a continuation of the sanctions wouldn't be effective for the most part. I mean, if they've done exactly the opposite of what the US intended they should change. Also, instead of focusing on the US, pressure should be put more on Russia itself so that the people can see what Putin has really done to the Russian economy and foreign policies. By emphasizing something in a different country, it takes away the focus on the specific country it affects and possibly other affairs that affect them on a more international level.