Owen Matthews, i seks år Newsweeks Moskva-korrespondent, sier Krim gjør at Ukraina aldri kan bli del av Russland igjen.
Ved å ta Krim med makt har Putin fremmedgjort ukrainerne. De vil aldri kunne godta en union med Russland igjen.
Krim er tapt, men Ukraina har fått en boost i retning Vesten. Hvis Ukraina har vært i tvil er valget nå ugjenkallelig tatt; Ukraina er på full fart mot Vesten. Hva mer er: Putins oppførsel har skapt en sympati blant vestlige land for å hjelpe Ukraina økonomisk, som tidligere ikke var der.
David Cameron says that Russia’s annexation of Crimea ‘will not be recognised’. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk promises that ‘we will take our territory back’. They are both misguided. Let Crimea go: it will be the making of Ukraine and the end of Vladimir Putin. Without Crimea, there will never again be a pro-Moscow government in Kiev. Ukraine will have a chance to become a governable country — a strongly pro-European one with a Russian minority of around 15 per cent. Putin will have gained Crimea but lost Ukraine for ever. And without Ukraine, as former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski famously said, ‘Russia can no longer be an empire.’
What’s more, in taking Crimea Putin has made himself a hostage to Kiev. Putin’s main economic leverage is that he sits on Ukraine’s gas pipelines: but now Kiev sits on Crimea’s road, rail, water and power. And unlike the gas wars that the Kremlin launched against Ukraine in 2005 and 2009, which cut off Moscow’s European customers, a Ukrainian blockade of Crimea will hurt only Crimeans.
Donetsk — or as it was known until 1961, Stalino Province — remains a problem for the revolutionary government in Kiev. Russian-backed protesters and imported provocateurs are vocal and violent. But they are in a minority. According to the last census in 2001, ethnic Ukrainians account for 57 per cent of the population, Russians only 38 per cent.
But Putin’s biggest problem is not that annexing Crimea will be expensive for the treasury — it is that it will be expensive for Russia’s elite. On the face of it, US and EU sanctions amount to a mere pinprick. But the cost to Russia’s business class will be deep, and come in subtler ways — higher borrowing costs, evaporated international enthusiasm for their share offerings, a sliding stock market, a weak ruble, bad credit ratings. With energy prices sliding too, and Europe pushing hard to find alternatives to Gazprom, Putin is strangling the goose that laid golden eggs in pursuit of an incoherent imperial vision. Russia’s moneyed class will not forgive him.