By Arthur Evans – As expected, Putin’s stark statement on amendments to the constitution regarding the country’s territorial integrity and cementing Russia’s territorial policies so far has been met with harsh condemnation from the US. US Territorial Disputes expert, Krista Wiegand of the Center for Global Security Studies in Tennessee, said Russia does not want to play by international rules and that countries like Japan and Ukraine are at risk. She also negatively assessed Russian claims to Artik. Russia, on the basis of evidence of physical interconnections beneath the sea, has expressed a claim to 1.2 million square kilometers of surface area, which has been found to be overflowing with natural resources. In this area, America finds allies in Canada, Norway and Denmark as countries that claim to be in this area. However, it is clear, as in the case of other territorial disputes, that, apart from economic pressures, America cannot significantly influence Russia’s internal decisions regarding its territories.
Reactions from Russia’s neighbors
Unlike in America, countries that at least have direct links to “disputed” territories have reacted much more rationally and in a relaxing manner. Secretary-General of the Government of Japan, Yoshihide Suga, noted that changes to the Russian constitution are an internal matter, while Russia expert Icuro Nakamura said the Japanese government was responding peacefully to these constitutional changes. In his view, the changes are aimed at raising patriotic awareness in Russian society. Nakamura believes one of the goals of the changes is a public demonstration of the power Putin will demonstrate to world leaders, who will gather in Moscow in May, raising his overall rating.
Gerhard Mangott, a professor at the University of Innsbruck, said that such constitutional decisions ensure Russia’s territorial integrity in the case of Crimea and Sevastopol. He does not see the possibility of a conflict between Russia and Japan when it comes to such decisions. Any exchange of territory or transfer of territory in the case of Japan will certainly not happen anytime soon, he noted.
Michael Geistlinger, a professor at the University of Salzburg, said that when it comes to Crimea, people’s right to self-determination has been settled. He believes that the annexation of Crimea could not be considered annexation because it was only a confirmation of a national vote deciding that Crimea was part of Russia. Regarding the territory of Kaliningrad, Professor Geistlinger said that he had no doubt that Kaliningrad was part of Russia and that Russia has the right to organize its territory as it has historically been formed. He said that in Germany he published papers drawing comparisons between Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and the case of Crimea, where Western countries’ actions were one-sided when it comes to self-determination, while in the case of Crimea they used an entirely different standard. Because of his views, he often suffered criticism.
Former advisor to the Greek prime minister for co-operation with the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe, Dimitrios Velanis, said: “Russia has many times throughout its history experienced an attack or an attempt by other powers to occupy its territory. It was in almost all wars. From all these wars Russia emerged victorious and lost none of its territories. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. It’s a very striking example that reminds us that many rulers of the world, including Hitler and Germany, had very high appetites when it comes to trying to seize Russia’s natural resources. They have encountered such resistance that humanity will long remember. Humanity is celebrating the victory this year as Russia has not only defended its territory. Russia has succeeded in saving other countries from destruction, which many have forgotten about, as we have seen.”
In addition to warm words addressed to Russia, Velanis commented on constitutional changes, adding that such dangers still exist and that constitutional changes are there to prevent them. He cited the wrong decision to transfer the sovereignty of parts of Russia’s territory to other states, as in the case of Crimea.
The French Foreign Ministry said through its representative that “the constitutional change is a sovereign decision of the Russian Federation, which must fully comply with international obligations”.
From only part of the statements about the new constitutional changes, it is clear that America increasingly finds itself alone in pointing the blades of its foreign policy towards the Russian Federation and Putin. The constant parroting of the same slogans since the start of the “crusade” against Russia in 2014 has been warmly received by an ever-dwindling number of the world and European politicians and political commentators, while the overwhelming majority accepts facts as a reality that will last for a very long time.