In December of last year, the United States sanctioned Crimea following the country’s annexation by Russia in March, and Google, along with major players like Apple and Paypal, have been pulling their services from the country.
The background behind the annexation is a long and disputed one, but after Russia kinda sorta invaded and Crimea kinda sorta asked to join the Russian union, a bunch of other countries got in a fairly large snit about it, but only kinda sorta responded.1 One of those responses was the US sanction, which forbids companies from providing services to the region as well as technology transfer and exports.
According to RT, AdSense, AdWords and the Google Play Store will no longer be available in Crimea as of February 2015, but people are saying their access has already been cut off. However, some users have been able to get around Google and Paypal’s restrictions by linking their accounts to nearby Russian areas, such as Krasnodar.
Was Government Nudging A Factor?
There are several reasons that I believe the US government may have “urged” Google and others to finally get around to taking these actions. First off, the sanction decree was signed on December 19, 2014 by President Obama, and only now are the major tech companies making shuffling moves to cut off access. Additionally, TechCrunch is reporting that Google Search, Maps and Gmail will still be available, so clearly they’re still trying to keep a hand in. The area is also one that leans towards the Android operating system, so the loss of Google Play Store sales has to sting.
This a move that clearly had to be made, it’s not like Google or Apple are going to lead a charge against the U.S. government for a tiny country of just 2 million people, but it’s obviously one that’s going to have a much larger impact on Crimean citizens than their government, and it doesn’t sit well with me. Even if you suppose that Crimea really did want to join the Russian union and were not coerced, why only sanction Crimea and not Russia as well? It seems like the US and EU felt they needed to do something more than nothing after all the shouting and threats, but maybe nothing would have been better in this case.