A changing of the guard(s) – CrimeaDecember 21, 2015
It has been some time since events in Crimea were mentioned here – not because events in Crimea are unimportant, for they are, it is simply that the events that have occurred are events that will not change the situation, nor go anywhere toward changing it.
Crimea, for as long as President Putin is alive, will simply not be surrendered by The Kremlin.
The institutions of Kremlin repression and the Russian military presence continue to grow on the peninsula with a view to make a military recovery of the territory extremely costly, and a local constituency uprising likely to be crushed in a particularly bloody and old-school Chekist manner.
There is no reason to believe that public opinion in Crimea matters to The Kremlin, any more than it does in Russia currently. Indeed, 2016 seems likely to see The Kremlin contract with the Russian people further strained whilst The Kremlin makes efforts at realigning itself with the Russian elite.
Even after President Putin has shuffled off his mortal coil, it remains to be seen whether Crimea will be return to Ukrainian control. It is thus a “long grass issue” that will see all specifically Crimean sanctions remain in place for many years to come. It will also remain a constant within Ukrainian and western political and diplomatic rhetoric – but with little effectual outcomes in the foreseeable future.
That is not to say it is inconceivable that Crimea may one day return to Ukraine less Kremlin occupying and subduing occupying forces – but it will take numerous planets within Moscow, Kyiv, and Crimea itself to align – and a pre-prepared policy for reintegration swiftly (and hopefully seamlessly) implemented. Until that time it is a matter of repeatedly denouncing the illegal Kremlin annexation of Crimea, retaining Crimea specific sanctions, and continuing the political, diplomatic and economic pressure over the peninsula.
However, no matter how expedient it may be to compartmentalise the “Crimean issue” it does not sit in a vacuum – not only for Ukraine, but also for The Kremlin.
According to Lenur Islyamov, one of the leaders of the on-going civilian coordinated trade blockade of the peninsula, there will now be a Crimean Tatar Brigade created and assimilated into the Ukrainian armed forces.
This is no doubt not an occurrence led by Kyiv’s need for an additional military brigade, but a case of Kyiv’s inability to prevent the brigade forming and arming – thus being left with little choice but to accept it within the armed forces if only to legitimise it and have some form of command and control over it. Kyiv can no longer be seen to have armed and organised groups running amok about the territory it controls that are illegitimate and/or operating outside of the law, or Ukrainian military command.
For the Crimean Tatar, although not necessarily needed, the creation of the Crimean Tatar Brigade is a fairly high profile anchor within the institutions of Ukraine that will assist in insuring that Kyiv keeps Crimea in mind and deed rather than simply in rhetoric. The absence of a “Crimean policy” within Government of Ukraine remains rather obvious.
The Kremlin however, is clearly becoming irritated by the current governance of Crimea. The current local organised criminal running Crimea, Sergey (The Goblin) Aksenov, is proving to be what he was when he headed his pro-Russian political party with a 4% voter base when Crimea was under Ukrainian control – politically inept, corrupt to the core, and with zero institutional ability.
Indeed a Russian government official, on 20th December, made the following comment regarding Crimea – “The professionalism and quality of work of the regional authorities are a major concern to the government leadership. Therefore, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, at the beginning of November, was commissioned to determine the extent of the damage caused to the federal budget in connection with the 2015 budget allocations for the implementation of the federal program, and make suggestions for the punishment of regional officials.”
A signal, some would suggest, that the days of the local political class are numbered – and they always were going to be “transitional” less a stellar performance preventing their eventual replacement. Such statements infer that it is a matter of time until the incompetent, corrupt and in many cases criminal (in an organised crime way) Crimean political elite, after 2 years of complete fecklessness, wanton failure, budgetary rape, and human rights abuses, are likely to be replaced by Moscow’s chosen incompetent and corrupt political class in the near future.
In short, although none of this will change the immediate future of Crimea, there would seem to be a changing of the guard(s) on the immediate horizon, both the Ukrainian guard in the form of the Crimean Tatar Batallion, and also the current leadership (or lack of it) within the peninsula itself.