Starting with the annexation of Crimea in March this year, and most recently a mobilization of troops surrounding the Ukraine border, Russia, and its enigmatic leader Vladimir Putin, have been of abundant concern on the global radar. But what exactly does Putin stand to gain through his recent moves? Let’s take a look at the facts.
Russia’s Annexation of Crimea
Before March 2014, many in the West may not have even known of Crimea’s existence. But since Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukrainian control, the territory has been in the international public eye. But why Crimea? What strategic value may it have to offer Putin?
According to Leonid Volkov, a political blogger and author of “Cloud Democracy,” Crimea may be part of a larger plan in actualizing Putin’s buffer between Russian and Western powers.
In a recent piece on CNN, Volkov ponders the possibility of Crimea being part of a two-pronged approach to advancing Russia as an independent power.
1.) Crimean territory would proliferate Putin’s economic and geographic buffer between Western control, and advance Russia as a sans Western nation.
2.) It would incentivize Russian oligarchs, who in 2013 were part of a $63 Billion outflow of capital, to either leave Russia or bring their money back home as a result of increased sanctions by the EU and U.S. in response to Putin’s latest power moves.
Despite Putin’s blowhard attitude, U.S. sanctions could prove to be costly for Russia as evidenced by their decreased GDP growth in the first quarter of 2014.
Influence Among Russians
Russia’s favorability has declined significantly in the American sphere, but Putin has seen a marked increase in support from his own country. According to U.S. Pollsters, Gallup, Putin’s ratings jumped 29 percent from 54 percent in 2013 to 83 percent in 2014.
This could be, in part, related to a very powerful propagandized media climate in Russia which contributes to the bolstering of Putin’s influence over his own public image.
If Putin continues to see great strides in his approval ratings, he may be less likely to cease his bullheaded approach towards increasing Russian influence–even despite U.S. sanctions.
Negotiations Between Russia and China
In May of 2014 Russia and China struck a $400 Billion 30 year gas deal, bringing two of the strongest non-Western powers unprecedentedly close to each other and solidifying Russia’s biggest natural gas deal since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[contextly_sidebar id=”IySmHTGJlBy11rCjjmv0xV6LMOpeok2a”]This was another major advancement in Russia’s play for independence. With this deal, Putin hopes to rebalance his reliance on the European market–his biggest buyers–and potentially couple with China; the second largest global superpower.
Though this deal is as Putin put it “an epochal event,” Russia may not exactly be getting the financial return it had hoped.
According to The New York Times, this deal prices Russia’s gas at $350 per thousand cubic meters, whereas in 2013 Russia’s European sales were about $380 per thousand cubic meters.
Because many of the details were kept confidential, it difficult to assess which side came out on top. One thing is certain–Since Russia and Putin have so much to gain, they also have much to lose.