Crimea : Putin's Shortsighted Blunder?

Revolution follows any autocracy and since Russia is not exactly a paragon of a democratic polity (its government having been declared as an authoritarian regime by the Democracy Index), its President Vladmir Putin often employs populist measures to boost his popularity and preempt any revolutionary feelings. Over the years, he has severely depleted his treasury to molly-coddle his people and now, with the financial stability of his government in dire straits, the Kremlin has sought to boost its approval rating by annexing the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, a region dominated by Russian origin people. It also serves the purpose of asserting Russian power and signifying that the country would not compromise on its interests.

Crimea : Putin's Biggest Blunder?
Has this strategy worked in the short-term? Yes. Putin's approval rating has skyrocketed by nearly 10% in less than a month to 71.6%, according to the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Research. His government now faces no major threat from its population. Public discontent, on the rise for years now has waned considerably for the average Russian citizen sees the move as an affirmation of Russian strength. For obvious reasons, Putin's action inflate the self-satisfaction of the ordinary Russian citizen and removes the specter of revolution.

In the long term, it can boomerang with drastic implications. In an era where soft power (cultural diplomacy; essentially the clout a country enjoys because of the popularity of its culture among the people of another country) reigns supreme, Russia has undeniably hurt it's image in the eyes of the global citizen. The number of people who have are unfavorably disposed to Russia has shot up drastically after the Kremlin's Crimean move.

In early February, a Gallup survey found that 60 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of Russia. Public judgment of Russia in Europe was even more grim: Almost two-thirds of French, 60 percent of Germans and 50% in Poland surveyed gave Russia a thumbs down. Such public distrust in Russia does not bode well for it as any country's international standing is dependent on public opinion of the country to a large extent.

Further, by annexing Crimea, Putin has also burnt his hands with the West; Russia has already been suspended from the G8. For a man who dreamt of a 'Eurasian Union' (a thinly-veiled attempt at reviving the ghost of the Soviet Union), Putin has also ruined his chances in Ukraine. If Russia aims to politically dominate the region, a friendly Ukraine is an indispensable requirement. 

The overthrown Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych also got elected on the back of strong support from the Russian minority in Ukraine. With Crimea no longer a part of it's territory, the size of the Russian minority in Ukraine significantly reduces and along with it, so do Russian hopes of installing a puppet President like Yanukovych.

Putin may have succeeded in the short-term but he has sapped the foundations of Russia's foreign policy and his pet-project of a Eurasion Union. He has bought his political survival but has been forced to bury his international dreams for Russia. His annexation of Crimea could prove to be Putin's biggest strategic blunder.

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