On February 28th of 2014, Russian soldiers wrested control of a number of key road junctions between Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, as well as the airport in Sevastopol. Over the next several weeks, Russian military units gained control over the entire peninsula in a relatively bloodless seizure of Ukrainian territory. The spontaneity of the armed occupation of Crimea can easily lead one to the conclusion that the crisis sprung out of a quick, arbitrary decision by land-hungry Russian leaders. To view the events that unfolded in Crimea through this lens provides one with a simplistic interpretation of these events that fails to take into account the numerous conditions which triggered the Kremlin to act in such an aggressive manner. The events surrounding Russia’s annexation of Crimea characterize a shift in Putin’s regime toward a more aggressive and nationalistic foreign policy, characterized by the frequent use of military force to pursue Russian regional interests, which many consider are under threat. The expansion of NATO into much of Eastern Europe, the involvement of Western human rights NGOs in a number of countries within Russia’s orbit, and the construction of a variety of anti-missile installations near Russia’s borders have all fed into the perception that Russian sovereignty has come under threat and that the Russian Federation must immediately take drastic measures in order to roll back the threat of foreign encroachment. This paper will examine the relationships between the perceived provocations mentioned above and the decline in relations between Russia and the West, which have triggered the increasingly heavy-handed approach taken by Putin’s regime in asserting Russia’s international interests.
Jared Rowe, ’16
International Relations/Russian Studies
Sponsors: Robert Givens and Lynne Ikach