"The bloom will come off of the Crimean rose as people begin to understand that this was not for free,"said Deputy National Security Adviser Antony Blinken at a Brookings event today, describing the economic costs to Russia for forcibly taking over the peninsula from Ukraine. As he explained:
I am absolutely convinced that Russia's actions in Ukraine are a strategic loser for Russia going into the future. First, yes, you can say Russia "won Crimea" but in so doing it is losing and probably lost Ukraine. Ukraine is more united in its western orientation than it's ever been. And its sense of national identity is deeper than it's ever been.
And then there's Crimea itself. It's true that in the short term, the actions Russia took in Crimea produced a political bounce for Putin. But I think that's going to change in a significant way. Russia is spending about $7 billion this year just in the direct costs, budgetary and pension support, for Crimea. Over the next several years most experts estimate it will have to spend between $50-60 billion for critical infrastructure, rail and vehicle bridges, electricity and water connections, to make up for what Crimea has lost as a result of Russia's actions in Ukraine.
This puts an incredible downward pressure on defense and discretionary spending to improve the lives of the Russian people, to modernize the economy. In short, the bloom will come off of the Crimean rose as people begin to understand that this was not for free. There are real costs involved.