The Crimean Intervention. Divisionary Use of Force in Russia's Foreign Policy?

If limiting the influence of EU and NATO on Ukraine was the primary driving force behind Putin’s intervention in Crimea it would appear as if the Russian government has scored a momentous own goal. Indeed, by presenting itself as a hostile foreign power that seeks to frustrate Ukraine’s western ambitions, Moscow has provided the country’s politics with the unifying force that it has so far been sorely lacking.

What this interpretation and arguably most explanations for Moscow’s motives have in common is a strong focus on Russia’s foreign policy interests. However, while Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in Eastern Ukraine has arguably done little to strengthen Russia’s geopolitical position, it has undoubtedly strengthened President Putin’s hold on power. Accordingly, the theoretical framework of diversionary conflict might offer a more plausible explanation of Russian Foreign policy. The paper will briefly discuss the theory of diversionary action. In the following, the domestic incentive for diversionary action in Russia will be analyzed, Ukraine’s suitability as a target will be considered and finally, the domestic effects of Russia’s intervention will be evaluated.