It doesn’t look like Obama’s sanctions warning has had any effect on Putin at all. Following Sunday’s referendum in the Crimea — in which 93% supposedly voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia while at least 21,000 Russian troops looked on — Russia’s president has issued a decree.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday recognizing Ukraine’s Crimea region as a sovereign state.
The decree posted on the Kremlin’s website appeared to be a first step toward integrating Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation.
The decree, which took effect immediately, says Moscow recognition of Crimea as independent is based on “the will of the people of Crimea”.
Russia’s rubberstamp parliament is expected to vote on annexing Crimea within a few days. Basically, it will vote on that whenever Putin wants them to for his own strategic purposes.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government plans to go ahead and sign an agreement to have closer political ties with the European Union. That’s set to happen on March 21, the day that the truce between Kiev and Moscow ends.
Ukraine also says that it will “never accept” Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which Putin’s decree today speeds along.
Both Ukraine and Russia continue to mobilize their military forces. Given the timing of the decree and Ukraine’s deal with the EU, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that Russia intends to invade eastern Ukraine, in the name of “protecting” the ethnic Russians who live there (from violence instigated by Russia itself), Wednesday or Thursday at the latest. Well, unless Putin intends to wait on Ukraine to sign its agreement with the EU and then invade, to expose the EU’s weakness and irrelevance decisively.