The Russians Don't Care About Money


This is typical of the thinking on what Russia will or won't do in the days ahead about annexing the Crimea region, and it's wrong:
Against such a background, Putin’s warning that sanctions would “boomerang” back on the West rings hollow indeed. To be sure, the United States and especially Europe would suffer under sanctions. Germany, in particular, has much to lose. A big part of its exports provide Russia with the heavy equipment, metallurgy, and fine machinery that that Putin’s economy can no longer produce for itself. Meanwhile, the European Union depends on Russia for a touch over a third of its natural gas flows. Obviously sanctions would force Europe to scramble to substitute for Russian purchases and energy supplies. A temporary easing of European budget austerity could help a lot with the former, while with the latter, the United States could help by pushing out more gas exports. But even if the West would suffer in an economic confrontation, and Ukraine still worse, there can be no doubt that Russia would lose still more, especially if at the same time the West cut off investment options.

Russia has already calculated what sanctions will cost them, and they don't care. They do care about power and influence and they do need the territory of the Crimea as a way of reconstituting a thriving, influential state.

Vladimir Putin is a Russian populist who wants to build an empire before he dies. He wants not only the throne but vast borders surrounding him. He wants a people who are confident but fearful of his displeasure. He already has billions. He doesn't care if the rich suffer, nor does he care if everyone else suffers along with them. He cares about building a stronger Russia through their sacrifice.


This is not about history or economics. Both are irrelevant to a Russia that faces an aging population and demographic annihilation. What does matter is having as much of the old Soviet empire well within their sphere of influence and that is why no one in the Baltic region should sleep easy at night. The Russians can survive sanctions and, thanks to the nearing of the end of winter, they can survive reduced demand for energy from Europe. What they can't survive is the continued destruction of the Russian soul, and that soul is wrapped up in controlling Ukrainian territory.

You may as well ask the English to give up Wales. They won't do it and they don't care how much money you wave under their nose.