It is important in writing to continually reflect back and analyze on your own work, even if it is already published and out for the world to see. This blog is no different in that regards other than I am posting this reflection for others to read as well.
Russia has been a rapidly changing topic since I first started blogging about Russia. Putin has also not failed to keep the news from becoming anything remotely boring. Although I had expected that the developments from Russia would be rapid and historical, I did not anticipate some of the more major developments.
A constant theme throughout my blogs is the acceptance of the notion that Russia is gradually becoming more hostile and nationalistic. In many ways I was right about growing hostility. The large scale military training exercises that Russia has formed a habit of doing, and in more and more provocative ways, have only intensified. These exercises have even provoked NATO into responding with exercises similar to Russia’s in nature and in scale. In one major way I was taken back by the actual lack of hostility from Russia; the New Minsk Ceasefire. When I first started blogging I would’ve never ventured to guess that a ceasefire would take place within the Ukraine, especially while pro-Russian rebels had so much momentum on the ground. In fact, back in January if someone had asked me, I would have said Russia was only one incident away from committing to the war formally.
The topic of escalating tensions reminiscent to the circumstances of the Cold War is something I will definitely blog on in the future. I touched upon this topic when I mentioned in the blog, “One Year Later…” that NATO was conducting major military drill operations in the Black Sea. My next blog post will almost certainly touch more upon the growing interest of military exercises by both the Russian Federation and NATO.
To close out the blog page, “Putin’s Russia; Spurred by Economic Crises,” I will be writing a research paper on a more specific topic within the realm of the subject material already covered. In my research paper I would like to cover more on Putin’s role in shaping the nationalistic atmosphere within Russia and his interest in the role of Russia internationally. I would ultimately like to explore what President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions are for the Russian Federation and what effect those ambitions will have in future and current conflicts.
As of 18 March 2015 exactly one year has passed since the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. We have all heard the stories and reports as they have happened but when added all up what is the sum of these stories and what does it mean for the future of Russia and Russia’s relations with the rest of the world? From an economic stand point, Russia has taken quite a blow, however that seems to have had very little effect on Russia’s or Putin’s ambitions. In fact, the economic sanctions on Russia may have only served to strengthen Putin’s resolve and solidify his control of Russia.
Putin’s most recent response to the effect of Western sanctions was to cut the salaries of government staff by 10%, including his own salary (BBC). This may be seen by a few as a sign of Russia starting to run dry and weaken, however, to many in the Russian population this will be seen as a sign of dedication to the greater good by Putin. One commenter on Russia Today, better known as RT (a state funded news agency based in Moscow) said that, “I think this move shows Russian President’s solidarity with Russian public.” in reference to the hardships that the Russian people are facing as a result of the sanctions (RT). This type of response is exactly what Putin and his administration were looking to achieve by putting into effect this policy. By utilizing policies like these, the Russian government can effectively take any blame of hardship off of themselves and redirect it to the Western powers Russia has traditionally disagreed with.
As tensions have risen over the course of the past year there has been a rise in the amount of large scale military operations reminiscent of Cold War NATO and Soviet Union military exercises. NATO is currently underway with an exercise in the Black Sea which Russia is watching with a keen eye. The move for a large scale exercise by NATO was in response to an escalation in Russian military exercises. Of particular note are the reports of Russian bombers and fighters being intercepted and escorted out of airspace close to the airspace of several other countries. With these types of incidents becoming more frequent, fear is on the rise in Europe; to the point where there is now a, “Russian Spotter’s Guide,” and other such things in circulation (BBC).
Perhaps things have settled between the Ukraine and Russia with the new ceasefire deal in effect in the Ukraine, but world-wide tensions have only gotten more strained. NATO and Russia have resumed military strength flexing by means of large scale exercises again after an absence of over twenty years. Nationalism is on the rise in, and is a focus of, the Russian Federation under the iron guidance of President Vladimir Putin. Much has changed since the annexation of Crimea but most of it has not been for the better, maybe the future is brighter for next year’s anniversary.
As it is well known a ceasefire has been declared in the Ukraine and thus far it seems to be holding. Does this mean that perhaps Putin has received the message from all the sanctions placed on him and will turn his focus inward, doubtful at best.
This new ceasefire is just a stall in order to save face following the New Minsk agreements between Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany. If Russia had not backed down in it’s support of the Pro-Russian rebels it would have faced a whole new round of sanctions from both Europe and the US (BBC). This ceasefire will allow for Russia to refit the Separatists and most importantly dodge new sanctions. Does this mean the war is over? Absolutely not, Russia will wait until it can redirect blame to the Ukrainians and then commence the the war. Russia simply needs to wait until a situation occurs, such as a single death or bombing, that could be blamed on the Ukrainian government whether it was sanctioned by the Ukrainian government or not.
Russia has dropped it’s interest rate from 17% to 15%; the Bank of Russia has said that it believes that the Russian economy is stabilizing (BBC). While the rouble and the economy may not be degrading as rapidly as they were, they are still nowhere near “stabilized.” Russia is simply doing what it can to retain its image domestically and internationally.
Just as Russia has been flexing it’s military might recently with their bombers flying near UK airspace, this is just Russia flexing it’s economic might. The 2% decrease of interest rates is Russia sending the world a message that “hey, we can handle this.” The image of Russia that Putin wants to convey to the world is that of an unshakable superpower. He loathes the world seeing Russia weakened by outside entities such as the sanctions placed on Russia by countries in support of Ukraine, and the fall of the price of oil caused in large by the competition between US oil producers and Saudi Arabian oil producers.
Other motivators support the 2% decrease like renewed faith in the rouble could positively impact foreign investments. The main idea remains, however, that the 2% decrease is Russia wanting to remind the world that they are still a superpower able to endure their enemies actions while looking outward towards conquests and opportunities.
Over the course of the next few months I will be blogging about Russia and her current economic crises and how that will affect relations at an international level. I will attempt to answer the question of whether or not these new conditions will make Russia more hostile, or will Russia and Putin focus inward towards economic and political reform.