Calculating Crimea's Cost To Russia

Experts estimate Crimea's annexation could cost Russia at least $3 billion a year.

Calculating Crimea's Cost To Russia
The New York Times / Uriel Sinai

When President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Crimea Tuesday, he was met with a standing ovation from Russia's parliament.

But left unsaid in that speech was the cost of absorbing Crimea and its 2 million residents. (Via Channel 4

Since it left the Soviet Union in 1991, Crimea has received more in subsidies from Ukraine's government in Kiev than it paid in taxes. (Via Warner Bros. / "This Is Russia")

Currently, mainland Ukraine supplies the majority of its water, electricity and gas. (Via CNN)

It also depends on Ukraine for 70 percent of its budget. In other words, Crimea is far from self-sufficient. And without Kiev to foot the bill, that leaves Moscow. 

Experts say Russia needs to build new infrastructure — likely a bridge across the shortest waterway between Russia and Crimea. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Sergiy Klymenko

According to The New York Times, that could take years and anywhere between $3 and $5 billion. 

Then there's the issue of tourism — Crimea's economy has always relied heavily on the tourism industry, and its leaders say they're hopeful Russia can provide an additional boost. (Via CNN

But as The Washington Post notes, that's hard to imagine considering Moscow just poured $50 billion into Sochi ahead of the Winter Olympics.

According to the Post, most economists estimate Russia could end spending at least $3 billion a year in Crimea, though a recent analysis by a Russian paper suggested that number could be as high as $20 billion. 

Then again, it's not as though Putin wasn't aware Crimea would be costly. After Russia annexed the Georgian region of Abkhazia, it was left to pay about 70 percent of its bills. (Via Al Jazeera)   

But this time around, things are different. Russian stocks are sliding, it's losing billions every year in capital flight, and the ruble recently fell to an all-time low against the dollar. (Via Euronews)

So, from an economic perspective, Crimea isn't all that appealing. But then again, Crimea's value was never about what it could do for Russia financially.

As one regional expert told the Los Angeles Times, Crimea is "something very dear to Russian conservatives, who believe it is more important than leading a comfortable life that we build a strong state."