A pro-Russian activist demonstrates his solidarity with Crimea’s new government. (photo courtesy of american.aljazeera.com)
A couple weeks since Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia, the latter nation-state has strengthened its grip on the small peninsula. As the international community still views the annexation of Crimea as illegal and illegitimate, Russia keeps plowing forward in solidifying its control over the small territory.
Over the weekend Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss diplomatic solutions to the crisis in Ukraine. After the meeting, Kerry expressed concern of Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border, promised that the West will impose broader sanctions on the Russian economy, and that the U.S. still views the Russian’s annexation of Crimea as illegitimate. Kerry commented that the 40,000 Russian troop buildup has created an atmosphere of “fear and intimidation” within the area. If the West is correct in the Russian military buildup, deterring Russia from any further action within the area could prove futile, and make it difficult for Ukraine to defend itself against any Russian aggression. The U.S. and the West plan on targeting Russia’s oil and gas industries, which are vital to the health of the Russian economy in response to Russia’s military actions and lack of compliance in negotiations. Kerry reiterated to Lavrov that the U.S. does not view the Russian occupancy of Crimea as legitimate. This rhetoric and the threat of economic sanctions has been consistent since Russian forces entered Crimea, however it doesn’t seem to have any effect on the decision-making of Putin and his government.
To further its legitimacy over Crimea, besides blatant defiance to the West’s concerns and sanctions, Russia sent Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Crimea on Monday for a cabinet meeting. Medvedev promised during a televised meeting to create a special economic zone within Crimea, raise pensions and wages in the small territory, and improve infrastructure. These public announcements confirmed Russia’s commitment to keep the small peninsula within its dominion.
Ukraine will hold its Presidential election on May 25th with the hope to bring some stability back into the country. However, with rumors of pro-Russian militant groups disrupting the elections, Russia’s view of the new Ukrainian government as illegitimate, and the West holding strong in its belief that Russia’s actions in Crimea were illegal, stability may be far off for Kiev and the Ukrainian people.