Crimea after Reunification with Russia: Problems and Prospects

The change in Crimea’s political and legal status, which was completed in strict compliance with international law and current practices, ensured the physical safety of people, created the basis for ethnic and religious peace and stable socioeconomic development and helped maintain the balance of forces in the huge Black Sea region.

Crimea's reunification with Russia following the March 16, 2014 referendum prevented an ethnic conflict that could have led to direct foreign interference in the region. The change in Crimea’s political and legal status, which was completed in strict compliance with international law and current practices, ensured the physical safety of people, created the basis for ethnic and religious peace and stable socioeconomic development and helped maintain the balance of forces in the huge Black Sea region.

Some Western forces and their minions in Kiev planned to elbow Russia out of Crimea and install US troops in Sevastopol, the long-time base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The Maidan riots and the February coup in Kiev brought them very close to that goal. The tragedy was only prevented by the Crimeans’ resolve and clearly expressed will, and by Russia’s actions, carried out in strict compliance with the letter and spirit of international law.

The West has not recognized the results of the Crimean referendum, but this cannot stop Crimeans from working for a better future, nor blot out the positive spirit in Crimea and throughout Russia.

While welcoming Crimea’s return into the fold of Russia, the public was becoming increasingly irritated at the double standard policies of the United States and the EU, and expressed a desire to contribute more actively to the drafting and implementation of an independent foreign policy.

However, the integration of Crimea and Sevastopol into Russia’s political, legal, socioeconomic and cultural space is not yet complete. The transition period has been complicated by technical problems due to a destructive policy on the part of Kiev, such as blocking the water supply to the North Crimean Canal, as well as severed business ties, supplies and logistics. But the situation does not call for alarmism: new logistical chains are being developed, there is no shortage of food or other products in Crimea, and many companies based there continue to cooperate with Ukrainian partners.

Unlike Kiev authorities, Russia does not intend to limit Crimean businesses’ ties with anyone. It is working to ensure the water and energy independence of Crimea and Sevastopol, which is a key factor in guaranteeing public and industrial requirements and development.

Under a draft of Crimea’s socioeconomic development program, 100 billion rubles (about $3 billion) will be allocated annually for the region’s socioeconomic and infrastructure development within the next three years. The goal is to increase the gross regional product and salaries fivefold by 2020. Crimea should become self-sufficient no later than 2017. Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has said that private investment should be much larger than budgetary allocations.

But these plans will not become a reality without serious preparatory work, including the approval of a new infrastructure plan, the provision of free land to businesses and the implementation of many other administrative and technical procedures designed to prevent chaos. This should be done very quickly. According to Kozak, the directions of infrastructure and business development in Crimea should be clearly outlined by autumn. “The public, businesses and the government should have a complete picture of the situation by September 1, so that all socially active people will be able to contribute to the region’s socioeconomic development,” Kozak said.

The apparent focus on the tourism and recreation industry is not sufficient for the flourishing of Crimea and Sevastopol. Roads need to be built and renovated on the peninsula, and the industries which Ukrainian authorities deliberately kept under should be given the chance to develop. These issues concern military hardware repair companies, high-tech plants and design bureaus. Their reopening and stable operation is crucial for Crimea’s strategic position and possible military provocations on its border. A simple bookkeeper's perspective on the situation – “the less we spend the better” – will not do in this case. Of course, squandering funds is not an option, but Crimea represents an element of Russia’s national security, which cannot be gauged in monetary terms. The new Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey promised in early July to “restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine” and even to hold “a victory parade in Ukraine’s Sevastopol.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in response that he would not recommend that anyone consider attacking Crimea and Sevastopol, which are Russian territory. The current consolidation of Ukrainian troops in the Kherson Region could be part of larger US measures aimed at “deterring” Russia.

A demonstrative example in this context is the proposed Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014, which prohibits any federal department or agency from doing anything that could be interpreted as recognition of Russian sovereignty over Crimea or approval of the “illegal annexation” of the peninsula.
The US style of foreign policy provides for forcing its ways and rules on all other countries, but in particular on its closest allies and Central and Eastern European satellites, and some post-Soviet countries. Considering the instability in Ukraine, which will likely last for a long time, it is crucial that motor and railway communication be quickly established between Crimea and Russia via the Kerch Strait.

The participation in these projects of Russia’s key trade and economic partners, such as China (German businesses are reportedly considering joining in), could encourage other countries to think again about the economic costs of stubborn disregard for international realities.   

The addition of a new region that is linked to Russia territorially but not ethnically promises more discussions about the future of Russian federalism. Russia’s division could create a shift from the ethnic territorial principle to a purely territorial one, which does not mean, however, that its regions will have the same legal status.

Russia is gradually dealing with the problems of repressed ethnic groups that have been held hostage by Kiev politicians for decades, but Crimean authorities and local governments should refrain from making overstated and deliberately impossible demands. Let alone commonplace blackmail, such as that employed by the self-proclaimed leaders of extremist organizations who have compromised themselves by cooperating with the current Kiev authorities and their foreign sponsors.   

Russia will, without a doubt, apply national legislation to cut short any attempts to undermine the sociopolitical situation in Crimea and Sevastopol. On the other hand, taking into account the realities of modern information society, problems should be discussed in a calm and balanced manner, without hysterics and xenophobia, which are distinctive features of many Ukrainian media outlets. Kiev and the rest of Ukraine will eventually shake off anti-Russia propaganda, but the process will be long and painful.

The accession of new entities to the Russian Federation will not be painless, but there are no grounds for alarmist sentiments. Changes in the course of development are logical, but the authorities should do their best to make these changes as quick and people-friendly as possible. Eventually, Crimea’s special status will shorten the repayment period and help turn the peninsula from a subsidized region into a development model for other Russian regions. 

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.