The Kremlin's Active Measures Failed in 2013: That's When Russia Remembered Its Last Resort—Crimea
- Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
- Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, The George Washington University
- Volume 26, Number 3, Summer 2018
- pp. 321-364
- Additional Information
Using leaked emails attributed to covert political actors, this study explores the Kremlin's comprehensive influence operations (active measures) to thwart Ukraine's aspirations to join the European Union. These efforts were launched by Putin as early as the beginning of 2013 to avoid losing Ukraine as part of his Eurasian integration project. In Ukraine, however, pro-Russian political forces were weak, clandestinely suppressed by President Viktor Yanukovych and his party. Moscow's major efforts, including the Rus Baptism anniversary, trade sanctions, and "Medvedchuk project" failed to turn the tide; some even backfired, consolidating support for the European project among the Ukrainian elite and public. Although Putin interrupted the signing of the EU Association Agreement by taking advantage of Yanukovych's personal weakness, he became increasingly frustrated with the Ukrainian president, who "sacrifices Russia's strategic interests" and sought to become an "all-Ukrainian national leader" resistant to Russian pressures. Russian policy was at an impasse, without any viable instruments to restrict the westward drift of Ukraine, making the situation totally different from that of 2004. These observations allow us to construct a nuanced interpretation of Russian behaviors in late 2013 and early 2014, which suggest a possible review of and change to their Ukraine policy. The Crimea operation comes to be seen as a well-considered and proactive move to compensate for the failed influence operations and achieve a strategic goal: keeping Ukraine in Russia's orbit.