The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Crimea Approves a Secession Vote as Tensions Rise,” describes what European and American officials say is one more line crossed by Russia and its occupying force in Crimea. The holding of a referendum represents an unconstitutional step without approval by all of Ukraine. Regions can not just decide to become independent of their own accord.
Due to be held on March 16, the referendum will without doubt be held to authorize the presence of Russian troops. Meanwhile, pro-Russian supporters in provinces of Eastern Ukraine are starting to hold their own demonstrations in favor of a Russian incursion there, and it may not be long before Russian troops occupy these areas as well.
President Obama held another hour long conversation with Vladimir Putin, but he might as well be talking to Republicans in the House for all the progress he is making. The Russians will do whatever is in their own self-interest regardless of the pleas of others.
Limited sanctions have already been imposed, and the European Union seems to be a little less recalcitrant these days. The seizure of Russian assets is not far down the line, especially if events unfold in the way that seems most likely: with a Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine as well as Crimea.