Since the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the transfer of assets to a group of oligarchs, most of whom (those that survived Putin’s new-age purges) are closely aligned to Putin, we have seen pressure gradually build on those ‘border area ‘nations,’ to either toe the line re Moscow’s ‘needs,’ or succumb completely and re-join the new Russia. Crimea is the case we are seeing now and we can be sure that Putin has not finished re Ukraine. He will not be content, if he could ever reach that state, until most of Ukraine is back in his clutches. That which remains will be week, economically unless the EU pours in massive amounts of reconstruction, to the point that Ukraine can make its own way. Unfortunately, the Russians are not totally amiss when they talk about corruption in Ukraine, a sure fire formula to drain any gains made re the input of the EU. Of course the Russians should know all about that facet of the new economic order in Russia but they dare not speak of it.
I am not without some sympathy re the aspirations of the majority of Crimeans; most of whom would vote in a fair election to go back to the ‘motherland,’ but the figures put out by the ‘electoral process,’ are hardly believable. The so-called free referendum was fraught with inconsistencies and unfair access to media re publicising the ‘questions’ on the voting paper. One would also question the choices available—the words were loaded in favour of the final outcome.
Has Putin gained from this saga? NO---more Russians are seeing him for what he is--- a new age Stalin or Tsar. They have diminishing opportunity to challenge the journey that Putin is taking Russia—one headlong to economic isolation and one that could curtail growth in the EU and beyond. Putin’s plans are egocentrically motivated and do little to build stability in the region and the world at large. That does not mean that that the USA is a shiny example of ‘a hands off approach to self-determination,’ amongst the family of nations. Russia, the USA and others have much in common; it is that Russia appears to be the bully of the moment, but their protestations about USA foreign policy are not without some merit.
Opposition to Putin will continue and one fact that we all know is that---‘no one last forever.’ In the meantime the damage he inflicts n the Russian psyche will take years to heal. He also cements in a ‘culture’ that relies on naked power to lead a nation. Real democracy in Russia is the real loser.