Russian militarization policy towards Crimea was declared as a “security respond” of Moscow as an “opposition” to NATO allegedly expansion. After the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine has officially declared its course on the European Union (EU) and NATO integration. The current scenario does not fall within Russian military doctrine of total control over the post-Soviet space. Under the circumstances Russia declared the ostensibly risks of “violence against Russian speaking population in Ukraine” (totally absent in the reality) as the “justification” to occupy Crimea and invade eastern territories of Ukraine.
With the use of hybrid warfare methods, the peninsular was illegally occupied under the disguised “responsibility to protect Russian speaking population and ethnic Russian” residing in Crimea. However, the genuine interest in the attempted annexation is considered as the Russian Black Sea Fleet that is the military expansion power in the Black Sea region. Despite the high cost Russia continues hybrid warfare and military build-up in Crimea as a part of new military doctrine and proclaiming the “security perception of opposition” to NATO. Consequently, the progressive militarization was condemned by the world community.
After several years of negotiating on Association Agreement with EU a former Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign it in November 2013. Instead, he was promised the $15 billion loan from Russia with further integration to Eurasia zone under Moscow leadership. The president’s unilateral decision was not supported by the population of Ukraine and as the result Ukrainians went out on the streets and demanded to restore closer relationship with the EU instead of Russia. The government’s violence against the protesters has led to the intensification of the protests that eventually caused the change of the government – The Revolution of Dignity. The new government promised reforms in Ukraine and further integration with the EU.
The current scenario did not fall within Russian regional vision and Moscow condemned the acting Ukrainian government and considered them as the agents of the EU and US, who pledged the support for Ukrainian pro-European vector of development. Eventually, it raised a “security threat” to Russian military doctrine, therefore, Putin responded by the illegal attempted annexation of Crimea for the loss of the sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space and “loyal” Ukrainian government.
Russia portrayed Ukrainian pro-European government as “far-right group” who would “violence against Russian speaking population” in Ukraine including Crimea. Consequently, Moscow used the fake construction of the “threat” from Ukraine and the chaos to undertake illegal actions in Crimea and the east of Ukraine as the “justified” act to “protect” “Russian World” “(that is the “trans-ethnic and linguistic space for all ethnic Russians, Russian speakers and those, who stay loyal to Russian state”). Under the circumstances, “unidentified paramilitary groups”, “little green-men”, appeared in the peninsular and they were the main hybrid force of staging a referendum in Crimea.
For the first time Putin denied the presence of Russian Special Forces in Crimea, but, eventually, admits the deployment of Russian troops to the peninsular . Indeed, in the court case no. 20958/14, Ukraine v. Russia (Re Crimea), the ECHR studied Putin’s statement during the night of 22 to 23 February 2014 to the heads of security agencies of the Russian Federation that he had taken the decision to “start working on the return of Crimea to the Russian Federation” and his interview of 17 April 2014 to the Rossiya TV channel confirming the following: “…the Russian servicemen did back the Crimean self-defense forces. They acted in a civilized, but a decisive and professional manner”.
In this connection, the Court gave particular weight to the expressed acknowledgment that the Russian Federation “disarmed the military units of the Ukrainian army and law enforcement agencies” and that “the Russian servicemen did back the Crimean self-defense forces” which reinforced the credibility of the Ukraine’s account in the case .
As the result of fake “referendum”, orchestrated with the help of Russian troops, it was declared that “96.77 % voters casted their votes for reunification with Russia” . At the same time the Russian Federation Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights indicated that allegedly “not more than 60 % of votes were in favor of annexation” and that “voter turnout” was as low as 30 % . Ultimately, the illegal attempt to annex Crimea occurred in March 2014, resulting in sanctions, international condemnation and further tension and militarization of the peninsula by Russia.
Moscow stressed on the “historic and cultural links” with Russia and Crimea as the justification to “protect ethnic Russians and Russian speakers” from the pro-European influence and used armed troops to occupy the territory with the subsequent fake “incorporation” into the Russian Federation. Contrary, there is a reasonable ground to believe that one of the underlying reasons of the attempt of annexation was the perseverance of the Russian Black Sea Fleet basing in Crimea as an “opposition to NATO presence”. According to Nilsson  Russia considers the fleet is a “protector of the Russian nation,” that has “militarized the question of “defending” the Russian diaspora” in Ukraine and Georgia . Hence, the occupation of the peninsular has political (presented as fake “cultural, historic reasons” and “disguised oppression of Russian speaking population”) and military components.
By the illegal attempt to annex Crimea, Russia has demonstrated a clear neo-imperial ambition in the so called “near-abroad”. Russia fears that Ukrainian government backed by the EU and NATO will eradicate Moscow’s influence in the Black Sea region by evicting Black See Fleet from Crimea. Russia used the fake “disguised oppression of Russian speaking population” to invade Crimea to expand its influence over the Kerch Straits, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. According to Gardner  the attempt of annexation the peninsular and intervention in eastern Ukraine demonstrated “the complete failure of NATO, EU, and Russia to negotiate a new post-Cold War Euro-Atlantic security architecture”.
Ukrainian pro-European choice has been seen by Moscow as a potential security threat and influence loss in the region. The US and NATO declared their full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. While Moscow activated imperial ambition to create “Novorossiya” – a region of southern and eastern Ukraine backed my hybrid warfare and propaganda; Russia used subsequent military build-up (militarization) in Crimea despite the high costs and further tension in the region.
Moscow considers the world order from the security perspective and bipolarity where the presence of NATO and the US is “not acceptable”. In accordance with the Primakov doctrine Russia will insist on its dominance in the post-Soviet space with subsequent Russian lead integration and the key to multipolar world is the opposition to NATO expansion .
Eventually, the militarization of Crimea lines under Moscow’s doctrinal policy and, unfortunately, is the reality due to the “security perspective”. It looks like the “danger” has political roots as Moscow consider West as the key source of “interstate tension” in Europe that encroaches upon the “Russian World”. Russia, therefore, will continue to use the military and non-military technics to hold the grip in Crimea. Since 2014, they actively reshuffle the population of the peninsular where military and their families made up the large wave of people sent to resettle in Crimea. Thousands of new apartments are constructed in cities and towns for the newly arrived military .
Russia will continue to disarrange the cohesion of NATO by its military dominance in the region and NATO’s deterrence aim will be to demonstrate that the use of force is no longer feasible to resolve political problems. For the Russian military leadership NATO expansion is the first and foremost a military threat and Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, EU integration and democracy promotion by the West is one overarching threat assessment. According to Russian military doctrine NATO has every reason to be considered both a “military danger” and a “military threat” to Russia. From a NATO perspective, Russia’s scheme of security can be realized only at the expense of other countries . Thereof, the militarization of Crimea is a question of Russian “security” and opposition to NATO in the Black Sea region following the perseverance of Russian dominance.
Russia’s official security doctrines are detailed in its 2014 Military Doctrine, 2015 National Security Strategy and other documents as 2016 Foreign Policy Concept, 2017 Naval Strategy, and 2020 Principles of Nuclear Deterrence Strategy . The cornerstone concept of the new doctrine is a new way of the warfare – a use of hybrid warfare methods and technics. As it was mentioned by Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov the rule of war has changed significantly and has shifted from the use of armed forces that is a hard power to hybrid warfare that is a soft power. Hybrid war envisages that the modern warfare is based on the widespread use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian and other non- military measures .
Russian military doctrine sees as the military danger a “violation of the rights of citizens and people in former Soviet republics who identify themselves, ethnically or culturally with Russia”. This foreign policy concept was approved by the President Vladimir Putin . The recent version envisioned the use of armed and other forces to “guarantee the defense of Russian speaking population and ethnic Russian located beyond the borders of the Russian Federation”. Undoubtedly this means that Russia will never admit its actual level of militarization of Crimea as it is covert by nature and in combination with information propaganda and the use of non-military technics, misinformation and asymmetric operations to spread the effective control over the occupied territory.
The explicit Russian militarization policy towards Crimea has been condemned by the UN since 2018 when the first resolutions 73/194 was adopted by the General Assembly on Problem of the militarization of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, as well as parts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov following the second 74/17. The third resolution 75/29 was adopted on 7 December 2020 and noted the security concerns and “the build-up of forces and the holding of Russian military exercises in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov regions” and “the progressive militarization of Crimea by the Russian Federation as the occupying Power” . It looks obvious that the militarization is a deliberate policy of Russia towards Crimea as international community observes the increased military presence in the peninsular and condemns it.
On December 16, 2020 Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in their decision on admissibility in the case no. 20958/14, Ukraine v. Russia (Re Crimea), has also studied the question of increased military presence of Russian troops in Crimea. Russia admitted the increase of military personnel in Crimea for this case, “without providing any explanation of the legal basis on which that increase had occurred”. The Court found that the increased military presence of the Russian Federation in Crimea was at “the very least significant”.
Moreover, the Court considered that “there is nothing in the ‘Agreements on the Status and Conditions of the Presence of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the Territory of Ukraine’ that could be interpreted as allowing the Russian military units to carry out any policing or public-order functions in Crimea” . The partial admissibility of the case is an important step in the de-occupation, recognition of the increased ill- founded military presence of Russian troops and illegal attempt to annex Crimea.
Russian militarization policy towards Crimea is an undisputed fact and the international community needs to continue its support of sovereignty and territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. Generally, we can dub it as the non-recognition policy for occupied Crimea. The impunity for illegal attempt to annex Crimea and aggression in the east of Ukraine can be a bad precedent for further stability in the region and Europe.
Ukraine’s integration into the EU and NATO was a main trigger of Russian “security” perception and further “cooperation” and such integration is vital to respond to the ongoing aggression. NATO needs to reassess its commitment to collective defense and increase its capacity on the eastern border. The EU need to work further on democracy and reforms promotion efforts in Ukraine to enhance statehood resilience. The huge portion of attention should be given to counter measure against hybrid warfare in Ukraine, including Crimea, and to promote Ukrainian international media platforms that could efficiently respond to Russian propaganda.
International community must continue to manifest that it will not tolerate militarization of Crimea. Great attention should be given to the recent UN resolution and the ECHR decision on admissibility with respect to further policy making. The OSCE has to implement monitoring mission to Crimea with the aim to analyze and supervise the demilitarization on the occupied territories.
The militarization of Crimea is the Russian strategic policy to retain the grip over the Black Sea region. Moscow believes that Ukrainian integration to the EU and NATO is the existential threat to Russian “security” and dominance in the post-Soviet space. The illegal attempted annexation of Crimea is a not a gesture to protect artificially created image of “oppression of Russian speaking population”, but the military policy to increase the military presence in the region.
It was a respond to Ukrainian pro-European choice of integration and the unlawful act of aggression against the sovereign state. The UN GA has for the third time condemned the deliberate militarization of the peninsular. The ECHR has recognized the ungrounded increase of military presence of Russian troops and considered that nothing could be interpreted as allowing the Russian military units to carry out any policing or public-order functions in Crimea. It is recommended to keep pressure on Russian, keep the non-recognition policy for occupied Crimea, support reforms in Ukraine and deploy the OSCE demilitarization monitoring mission for further supervision of the issue.
So we may propose such summary points. Russian militarization policy towards Crimea is stated by propaganda as the “security respond” of Moscow, as the “opposition” to NATO expansion that is declared as “military danger” and a “military threat” to Russia. But de-facto it is a tool of further Russian aggression. The Revolution of Dignity did not fall within Russian regional security vision and Moscow condemned the acting Ukrainian government and considered them as the agents of the EU and US, who pledged the support for Ukrainian pro-European vector of development. There is a reasonable ground to believe that one of the underlying reasons of the illegal attempt of annexation was the perseverance of the Russian Black Sea Fleet basing in Crimea as an “opposition” to NATO presence, but de-facto as a tool of Russian expansion in region.
The cornerstone concept of the new Russian military doctrine is a new way of the warfare – a use of hybrid warfare methods and technics, propaganda, misinformation and asymmetric operations. Russian militarization policy towards Crimea is an undisputed fact that is condemned by the UN and recognized by the ECHR. International community needs to continue the non-recognition policy for attempted annexation of the occupied Crimea.
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