Russia's annexation of Crimea has also given it massive new maritime holdings and with it, access to a ton of fuel reserves.
As things begin to cool off between Russia and the West and things continue to devolve in Ukraine (civil war, anyone?) the upshots of Russia's swift Crimean land-grab are becoming better known as the focus returns to what just happened. In Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin forbade the Tatars from mourning the anniversary of their deportation (by the Russians) this week. And now a (literally) subterranean issue is also gaining attention: the fuel reserves in the Black Sea. Here's how it's shaking out:
When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine on March 18, it issued a treaty of annexation between the newly declared Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation. Buried in the document — in Article 4, Section 3 — a single bland sentence said international law would govern the drawing of boundaries through the adjacent Black and Azov Seas.
That redrawing has given Russia access to a ton of what was formerly Ukraine's maritime holdings. As the Times pointed out:
In the top graphic, the orange is the part of the Black Sea that Ukraine once claimed. In the bottom map, the orange is what's left with old Russian claims in light red and the new Russian claims in darker red. According to analysts, the area is worth trillions and is bigger than Maine. (Naturally, Russia denies they were interested in the offshore holdings, saying there is “no connection” between the two.)
So this may prompt a theory: Was Crimea what this whole thing was about all along? Almost definitely not. But as Max Fisher explains, thanks to sanctions and the recent wariness of global investors to put money in Russia, the Putin offensive may have finally stopped as the Russian economy begins to smart. As a result, the United States is oddly poised to declare some kind of victory, despite its seemingly laconic foreign policy:
It sounded silly, a shrug of a policy. And maybe it even was. But it also turns out to be working surprisingly well. Russian President Vladimir Putin has over-reached in Ukraine, creating problems for himself so bad that they may force him down as or more effectively than plausible American actions alone might have (although they helped). Putin is hanging himself by his own rope.
So goes the thinking if you discounted little and inconsequential Crimea from the equation. Crimea and its maritime holdings no longer seem or inconsequential anymore.