Four years ago this week, events were taking place in Ukraine that would pave the way for a new era in Euro-Russian, and US-Russian relations. The Maidan revolution in Kiev had reached its zenith. Vikor Yanukovych was removed from his post of president of Ukraine by the nation’s parliament. The deposed former president fled the capital and made his way to the eastern Ukraine, expecting to be welcomed with open arms. To his surprise, the reception he received was cold, and it was made clear that his presence was not welcomed. Days later, Yanukovych turned up in Russia. The general consensus is that he fled Ukraine to avoid prosecution, however, he publicly stated the reason for fleeing had more to do with self-preservation, claiming that his car had been attacked by armed men when leaving Kharkov for a meeting.
While the Yanukovych drama played out, and a new pro-West government assumed power in Kiev, Russian special forces were arriving in Crimea. The ‘little green men’ as the global media called them, wearing no identification or insignia, spread out to secure key points across the Crimean peninsula. One of those sites was the Crimean parliament building, where the parliament was in emergency session. With Russian troops in close proximity, the body voted to dissolve the Crimean government and replace Prime Minister Anatoli Mohyliov with Sergey Aksyonov, who belonged to the Russian Unity political party. The die had been cast and Crimea was on its way to being annexed and absorbed by the Russian Federation. On 19 March, 2014, the Russian Duma approved a constitutional amendment establishing Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects, and the annexation became official.
The Crimean annexation and Yanukovych melodrama were but separate acts in a much larger theatrical piece; the build up to the climax, if you will. That climax would occur in eastern Ukraine with the outbreak of fighting between pro-Russian separatists, and Ukrainian government troops. What began as a series of small firefights around the Donetsk Airport escalated into a major confrontation that has seen Russian weapons, military supplies, and even troops introduced into the war on behalf of the separatists. The fighting continues on today with no end in sight.
Four years have gone by, and it is time to reexamine the effect those events have had, and continue to have on the geopolitical situations in a number of areas, and world affairs as a whole. Crimea and the start of fighting in Ukraine proved to be the catalyst for a resurgent Russia. From the Baltic, to Syria, Moscow has reaped the benefits of 2014, shaping an aggressive foreign policy based on diplomacy through intimidation, the use of hybrid war, and when necessary, limited overt military action.
*Author’s Note: After the Poland 2022 project I will begin a comprehensive reexamination of events of winter and spring 2014 the effect they have had on the world since.*