The coming year, Vitaly Portnikov says, will be another “year without Crimea” for Vladimir Putin, one where he will not have whatever bounce the Crimean Anschluss gave him among Russians however much he may try to resuscitate that as he did in 2018 when his propagandists played up the bridge to the occupied Ukrainian peninsula.
When the Kremlin leader seized Crimea, oil prices were still high enough that the average Russian did not feel the cost of that action to his own well-being, the Ukrainian commentator says; but falling oil prices, Western sanctions, and the Russian economic crisis have changed that.
Russians no longer feel as they did for a brief time after the Anschluss that it was an effective step by Putin to “raise them from their knees,” Portnikov continues. Instead, many of them now feel they are “on their knees” again – and they blame now not the 1990s as they did earlier but Putin’s policies, including his absorption of Crimea.
Russia is falling ever further behind the rest of the world, “and Crimea which until recently had seemed to Putin a pearl in the crown of his invented empire and to Russians as a significant triumph of ‘sacred’ historical justice has become a burden, yet another region which needs money that Russia doesn’t have.”
As a result, “2019 will be a year without Crimea,” as both Russians and Putin forget about it except as a problem. “Crimea will disappear from the Russian information space now until Putin’s successor begins talks on its return to Ukraine because they will be desperate for Western assistance for the salvation” of their country and ready to make any sacrifice.
Then and only then, Portnikov says, “Russia will again remember Crimea – about Ukrainian Crimea.”
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