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The Relationship Between the Crimean Crisis and Globalization


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The Relationship between the Crimean Crisis and Globalization


Beginning in late November, the Ukraine crisis has become a worldwide headline that has encompassed a complex number of both intranational and international issues. The catalyzing event that led to the crisis was the decision by former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, to negate trade talks with the European Union and instead pursue closer ties with Russia. This spurred protests from thousands of people, and as the conflict escalated it forced Yanukovych to escape the Ukraine and secede from his position as the Ukrainian President. In a move that can be seen as blatantly opportunistic, Russia effectively used the civil calamity in the Ukraine to annex the Republic of Crimea, a move regarded as highly illegal by the majority of the international community. On the surface, Russia has claimed that the move itself has been carried out to ensure the continued safety of ethnic Russians living within the Republic. However, after careful analyzation of the economic ties that bind Russia and the Ukraine, one can conclude that the annexation of Crimea is part of a larger plan to ensure that the Ukraine continues to comply with Russia economically. When applying this theory through the context of a realist perspective, it becomes obvious that Russia is acting in their own self-interest as a power maximizer in order to ward off the influence of western globalization. In response to increasing Russian aggression several countries have placed economic sanctions on Russia and its diplomats in a passive aggressive strategy aimed at alleviating the tension within the Ukraine. The notion of placing these sanctions on Russia, as well as their overall effectiveness, highlights the acknowledgement by countries that globalization can be utilized in a fashion that allows countries to economically punish each other for their actions. If globalization did not exist the Ukraine crisis would have to be mitigated using other means, even using military resources, which would escalate the overall conflict within the country and within the world.

Precedents to the Ukrainian Conflict and the Ukraine-Russia Relationship

Prior to being its own sovereign nation, the Ukraine Soviet Socialist Republic was one of the fifteen constituent republics within the Soviet Union. During its tenure within the Soviet Union, the Ukraine was considered the second most powerful republic both politically and economically. The dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the independence of the Ukraine in 1991, and within two years the Autonomous Republic of Crimea was legitimized, but not without its own conflicts. The 1990’s marked sound relations with Russia, with the Ukraine helping co-found the Commonwealth of Independent States, an organization comprised of former Soviet Union nations. The organization itself held little power, but aimed to facilitate an increase of trade between the nations involved. In 2004 the Orange Revolution, an event that precipitated due to the illegal election of Viktor Yanukovych leading to protests and a subsequent re-election, were able to strain the relations between the Ukraine and Russia. This was largely due to its outcome, as the re-election awarded Viktor Yushchenko the Presidency, an individual who pressed for the Ukraine to align themselves closer to NATO than with its old ally Russia. Enmity on both sides remained largely until the election of Viktor Yanukovych in 2010, who took a more pro-Russian stance than his predecessor. This became evident when a seemingly mutually beneficial agreement was signed between Russia and the Ukraine, with Russia providing a thirty percent discount for its natural gas in exchange for the extension of Russia’s lease on its major naval base located within the port of Sevastopol. However, the slow realignment with Russia began to rapidly deteriorate early in December of 2014, when protesters took to the streets in Kiev to voice their support of the European Union and take their stance against the pro-Russian Ukrainian government. Ultimately, Yanukovych’s dereliction of the EU trade agreement was what spurred the protesting of the Ukrainian people, and the subsequent annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Global Significance of the Crimean Crisis

As a whole, the aggressive takeover of Crimea by the Russian Federation has been deemed as highly illegal by the majority of nations within global community. Russia’s actions against the Autonomous Republic led to their dismissal within the G8 counsel, with the other nations within the group making a clear stand against the aggressive foreign policy strategy that Russia has obviously adopted. Instead of using coercive force themselves to punish Russia, the international community has adopted a less physical approach, levying economic sanctions against Russia and some of its most prominent individuals. Only through globalization can a sanction such as the one described be fully effective. This type of strategy utilized by who can be considered the “western powers” and several nations within Europe, takes full aim at the quality of life of all Russians rather than the potential loss of life that could have occurred by sending additional troops in to support the Ukrainian government. However, even though globalization enhances and facilitates the effect that these sanctions have against Russia, they will also hurt several neighbouring countries within Europe and other nations around the world that Russia has been able to do business with. Countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are heavily invested in Russian gas exports, and with the annexation of Crimea their only option will be to begin looking for other avenues to import natural gas. Despite the fact that globalization will facilitate these countries and their search elsewhere for energy, there will be short-term effects felt by countries such as Poland, who relies on Russia to fuel upwards of 60% of their energy requirements.

Although globalization may facilitate these sanctions, not everybody believes that the sanctions themselves can properly adjust the actions taken by Russia with regards to Crimea and its future behaviours within the realm of international relations. The article “Ukraine Crisis: Sanctions not enough, experts say” makes a case for these opinions stating “The latest sanctions are just a slap on the wrist” for Russian authorities, and that they will do little to deter Putin or alter his behaviour in the future. This can be partially attributed to speculations of Russia’s economy already experiencing a slip into recession, which could indicate that sanctions will lose some of their intended effects. An Al Jazeera article also noted that the sanctions dealt by members of the European Union were considered light when compared to those dealt by the United States, due to the fact that the EU relies on Russia for its energy.

In conclusion, the global consensus is that the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea is not only overtly aggressive, but highly illegal as well. This has prompted several economic sanctions of varying severity from not only western powers but from several countries in Europe as well. However, it is noted that the overall effectiveness of the sanctions may be hindered by the already slowing economic conditions within Russia, as it is believed that the nation is currently within a recession. This factor, and the already varying severity of sanctions due to different degrees of economic interaction with Russia by neighbouring countries, indicates that the sanctions themselves may not be enough to augment Russia’s future behaviour towards its foreign policies.

The Crimea Crisis through the lens of Realism

There are several ways that Putin and the Russian Federation's decision to annex Crimea fits into the lens of realism and how this perspective views interactions with the international community. With one of the unifying themes of all realist thinking being that of states holding their security above all else, Russia has proactively secured the autonomous republic of Crimea to secure their own interests during civil unrest within the Ukraine. This desire for state security and influence over the former satellite country was first noticeable with Putin’s fifteen billion dollar bid for Ukrainian bonds, which was a counter-offer made to the nation in hopes that it would ultimately negate signing a trade agreement with the European Union. This offer is what spurred the mass protests within the Ukraine, with Al Jazeera reporting that “Yanukovych abandoned a free trade agreement with the European Union to pursue closer ties with Moscow”.

Russia’s mobilization of military force into Crimea, a move met with disdain amongst nations within the UN, also politely fits within the realm of the realism perspective. The lack a central authority figure to enforce rules against Russia ultimately allowed the nation to exercise what they believed was their right to annex Crimea from the Ukraine. Overall, Russia’s aggressive behaviour regarding Crimea can be largely attributed to their desire of securing their fleet position in the Black Sea. This closely aligns itself with offensive realism for several reasons, and could be considered a rational thought process to a power maximising state attempting to exert control in a politically unstable area. Additionally, when the Ukraine begins to stabilize politically there is a strong possibility of it once again entering negotiations with the European Union regarding a trade agreement. If this should indeed occur, Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula will ensure it does not in fact lose what it considers crucial territory to a trade agreement that caters to “western globalization”.

When applying a realism perspective towards the sanctions placed upon Russia, an individual may concur with the CBC article “Ukraine Crisis: Sanctions not enough, experts say”. In a bigger picture, the sanctions themselves may prove to be utterly worthless and may end up hurting as many UN allies just as badly as Russia itself. So far, the sanctions placed on Russia by countries within the UN have had little to no effect altering Russia’s foreign policy towards Crimea and the Ukraine. Although the UN is attempting to enforce a non-interventionist principle through the use of these sanctions, there can be a case made that great powers have a tendency to overlook the principle itself. The United States more or less exhibited this with their actions regarding Afghanistan and Iraq after September 11th, overturning the non-intervention principle on the grounds of national security and international order. These actions taken by the United States can be looked at as setting a precedent to other great powers in the international community. In theory, it can be assumed that Russia believes it is taking similar action with its annexation of Crimea, believing that Ukrainian instability could potentially threaten Russian citizens and its national security. These notions can be strengthened by the evidence that Putin believes that Russia reserves all means to “protect Russian citizens in eastern Ukraine”. By taking a stance such as this, Russia alleviates itself from taking actions that may be interpreted as unethical in the international community. Although it can be concluded that the sanctions against Russia will ultimately hurt its economy, there is no factual evidence of them achieving their desired effect of altering Russia’s course of action. If the sanctions themselves are only meant to deter Russia in the short-run, there is a major possibility of them impacting other regional countries just as much as Russia itself.


The early state of Ukrainian political instability provided the ideal foundations for Russia to annex Crimea, essentially an effort to permanently assert themselves in an area that is highly valuable to the country. Facilitated by globalization, international actors such as the UN have attempted to punish Russia for these actions by way of placing sanctions on the nation. However, it is still too early to see if these economic sanctions will truly have a powerful enough effect on Russia’s economy to spur corrective action by the nation. Globalization can also account for the fact that these sanctions have the possibility to backfire on the countries placing them, as Russia is a major energy exporter to neighbouring countries in western Europe. If the sanctions last long enough western european countries will have to look to more costly alternatives for their energy consumption, which will ultimately damage an already fragile EU economy. Adversely, Russia has other options to export their resources, such as its eastern neighbour China, who has remained fairly quiet on the ongoing developments within Crimea and the Ukraine. With the application of the realist political perspective, it becomes apparent that Russia’s primary motivations for annexing Crimea were that of a power maximizer who desires the region of the Black Sea that the Crimean peninsula occupies. With the presence of military force within Crimea, Russia has also been able to demonstrate their geopolitical hegemony within eastern Europe. With precedence being set years earlier by the United States and their interventions within Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia can make a compelling case to acquire Crimea, as well as potentially occupy eastern Ukraine on the grounds that ethnic russians could be in danger in the politically unstable state.

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