If we try to sum up the preliminary results of consequences of accession of Crimea, it is possible to evaluate the balance of positive and negative trends.
- The overwhelming part of society was proud of our victories country at the Olympic Games in Sochi, what was strengthen by the return of the Crimea.
- The rating of the president of Russia within the country grew enormously. After the Georgian war, the rating of support of the president was 86%, after the Ukrainian events – 83–84%.
- The positions of Russian language in Ukraine were strengthened.
- The issue with the Russian bases of Naval Forces in Sevastopol was resolved.
- The Crimea “came into native harbor”.
- The Russian President acted as the collector of Russian lands.
- Russia, most likely, shouldn’t spend money for maintenance of the Ukrainian economy.
On it, situational gains come to an end.
Now some words about losses. I will begin not with the main thing. Before return of the peninsula, citizens of the Russian Federation freely went to the Crimea, and persons interested could buy real estate there, without meeting any counteraction from the Ukrainian authorities. I am not sure that present authorities will be loyal to those who has real estate there, or want to buy it. It is based on Russian practice of real estate trade.
The Crimea long time will remain the subsidized region. Hopes that the new authorities of the Crimea will be able to turn the region into a flourishing region aren’t too great. To the difficulties of Crimea it is possible to add complicated situation with the Crimean Tatar population.
The cost of rent of the Sevastopol Naval base till 2017 made 97,75 million dollars a year that is approximately equivalent of the cost of 1 million barrels of oil or 29 million m3 of gas at the price of $380 for 1000 m3. At milliard sales of gas to Ukraine, this sum wasn’t decisive for the budget of Russia.
Now about more serious losses. We don’t want to recognize it, but, having got the Crimea, we lost Ukraine. Divorce of two fraternal nations, which always felt and appreciated the unity, for decades will be reflected in culture and mentality of Russians and Ukrainians. Having achieved strengthening of Russian language in Ukraine, very soon we will face a situation when its use will be minimized among Ukrainian population.
If there were options of a combination of the European choice of Ukraine with some possible forms of its participation in the EuroAsian project, now they are finally lost. Today It is difficult to say how far Ukraine will go on its European way, but their choice is obvious. The accession to NATO can become the first step on this way. Further, Ukraine will prepare probably for the accession to the EU.
Without Ukraine the EuroAsian project which was, and still is more political, than the economic enterprise, is doomed to difficulties. Considering that over 40% of foreign trade of Russia are focused on the EU, the possible gain of trade with the countries of the EuroAsian union doesn’t offset possible losses in any way. Besides, Russia which export to the EU generally consists of oil and gas, will face decrease in its purchases. The EuroAsian market, or trade with China, won’t be able to give us those technologies which are necessary for modernization of the country.
Russia quickly loses its positions on the international arena. Thus, it is not only due to different economic and political sanctions. Europe is rather selfish and still dependent on Russian gas, and appreciate trade gains from export to Russia. More important that Russia in the perceptions of the West returned to the image of the state existing in the Soviet period. It was possible to trade with the USSR, exchange with some restrictions state visits, to shake on a swing “détente –cold war”. But, today the situation differs from the Soviet time when there was equality of potentials. Today Russia is not the Soviet Union. At that time we weren’t loved, but were afraid, now we are simply observed watchfully. Should “love” of the West disturb us? Emotionally we are ready to say that we do not care, that we have our own pride and our own identity. However, in practice everything is much more complicated.
Our present relations with the EU and the USA are defined, not by our perception of their behavior in the Ukrainian conflict or by our assessment of justice of their actions. We face not motivation of their acts, but with its real consequences. Our appeals to double standards of their behavior, to their hypocrisy or to their greedy aspirations grab our resources, aren’t always fair and work only for domestic propaganda.
From the pragmatic point of view our way toward modernization will be stretched for many years. References to Stalin-Beria breakthrough in nuclear missile technologies is hardly well-founded today. Against that, other time, other life priorities, complexity of return to mobilization economy.
From the point of view of further development of Russia as the state, we finally should recognize ourselves as a part of Europe, with such inevitable consequences as democracy which is main principle of society development. Real democracy is necessary not for Europe, but for ourselves, because without it economic development is impossible.
Often there are arguments that there is no direct link between democracy and economic development, and supporters of such view give an example of China which for some decades shows economic growth at the level of annual 8–10%, having one-party system and communistic ideology. But, we forget that the USSR for many years was proud of high growth rates of economy, and also forget how it ended. Strategically without democratic reforms, economic development of China inevitably will come to the deadlock and consequences of possible social explosion there will strongly surpass consequences of collapse of the USSR not only for China, but also for the whole world. Tactically, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China is occupied now with the search of balance between the democracy and stability, based on growth of economy, and taking into consideration specifics of the Chinese demographic situation, mentality of the nation, historical experience and realities of the modern world.
Russia now faces the similar task. After chaos of the 1990th the leadership managed to stabilize economy, created conditions for growth of GDP, raised standards of living. However further development of the country in which the difference of the income, and corruption continues to grow, problems of development of infrastructure of economy aren’t solved and social tension increases. Situation strongly demands democratic reforms. The situation around Ukraine strengthened our movement aside from establishment of the partner relations with the West that is serious threat for our national interests, which won’t be compensated by return of the Crimea.
*Published in Russian language on the magazine “Contemporary Europe” by the Institute of Europe, of the Russian Academy of Sciences