4 Reasons Why Putin's Crimea Grab Will Backfire
Published: March 28, 2014 (Issue # 1803)
On the surface, President Vladimir Putin’s swift annexation of Crimea was a rousing success. Russian forces easily seized the region, and Putin saw his already high approval rating soar above 70 percent. Many Russians are applauding Putin as a hero who stood up to the West, defended Russians’ rights and rectified a historical injustice.
But rallying around the flag after a seemingly successful military operation is nothing new. Even U.S. President George W. Bush’s ratings shot up to nearly 70 percent immediately after the Iraqi invasion in 2003. Following the initial euphoria, however, Putin’s popularity will likely dip as quickly as it rose, just like with Bush. When Russians see that the high economic costs of the Crimea annexation outweigh the benefits, Putin’s victory will surely turn hollow.
Also by this author: Why Russia Is No. 1 in Anti-Americanism
One inherent problem was the haste with which the “Annex Crimea” operation was executed. Once Viktor Yanukovych was stripped of presidential powers by the Ukrainian parliament on Feb. 22, Putin had to move quickly to take advantage of the power vacuum. But in his eagerness to grab Crimea, Putin overlooked — or at the very least dismissed — the consequences of his actions.
Here are four reasons why the Crimean annexation will backfire against Putin.
1. Ukraine will become a member of NATO.
During George W. Bush’s presidency, the U.S. flirted with the idea of NATO membership for Ukraine, but at the end of the day Bush understood how much Ukraine meant to Russia and backed off. Bush understood that unlike the Baltic states, which joined NATO in 2004, Ukraine was a firm “red line” for Putin. He knew that Putin would never tolerate the notion that Russia’s Black Sea naval base, which Russia had rented from Ukraine since the Soviet collapse, could be liquidated and turned into a NATO beachhead.
President Barack Obama understood even better than Bush that NATO membership for Ukraine was not worth a major conflict with Russia. Thus, the topic was completely off the table during his presidency.
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