What's happening in Russia and Ukraine today, March 18:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty with Crimean officials making Crimea part of Russia. The move comes after Sunday's referendum on the future of the Black Sea peninsula in which officials say over 97 percent of voters backed Crimea becoming part of Russia. The referendum was deemed illegal by the government in Kiev, the U.S., and the European Union.
Speaking earlier today before the Russian parliament, Putin said that "in people's heart of hearts, Crimea has always been part of Russia."
In the wake of the news of the Crimean referendum the U.S. and the E.U. issued asset freezes and travel bans on some individual Ukrainian and Russian officials. Speaking yesterday President Obama said that sanctions could be expanded "if Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine."
What do the European and American sanctions include?
The E.U. published a list of sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials. The sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans. In order for the E.U. to impose sanctions all 28 member states must agree to them. There were reportedly about 120 individuals on a list of those who were being considered possible targets of sanctions but, as The Guardian explains, there was disagreement among E.U. nations on the number of Russians and Crimeans to be targeted by the sanctions:
It is notoriously difficult to secure EU agreement on sanctions anywhere because they require unanimity from the 28 member states. There were wide differences over the numbers of Russians and Crimeans to be punished, with countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Spain reluctant to penalise Moscow for fear of closing down channels of dialogue.
Yesterday Obama signed an executive order expanding already existing sanctions. The latest sanctions target 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials and include asset freezes and travel bans.
Putin is reportedly planning to ban some U.S. senators and officals from visiting Russia.
What is being said about recent events in Crimea and Russia
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin asked on Twitter if Obama had considered that some of the officials targeted by asset freezes don't have assets abroad:
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the sanctions did not target enough Russian officials, saying:
The crisis in Ukraine calls for a far more significant response from the United States. Today's Executive Order could be an important part of that response, but sanctioning only seven Russian officials is wholly inadequate at this stage.
Over at Bloomberg, Henry Meyer and Yuliya Fedorinova say that although sanctions against Russia may put its economy in recession, most Russians view Putin's defiance of the West as a show of strength:
Even at the risk of sanctions that could tip the economy into recession for the second time in five years, Russians see his defiance of the West over Ukraine as a sign of strength, reinforcing his image as a leader who restored his country's greatness from the post-Communism chaos of the 1990s.
Writing in The National Interest, Job C. Henning and William Courtney argue that "robust military steps" are needed in order to ensure Ukraine's territorial integrity and the removal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
The Los Angeles Times editorial board says that U.S. and other countries should be willing to impose further sanctions on Russia in response to the annexation of Crimea.
At CNN, Assistant Editor and foreign affairs columnist at The Guardian Simon Tisdall has said that in light of the fact that the outcome of the referendum in Crimea seems to have broadly reflected the views of its residents it would not be wise for Obama and European leaders to refuse to recognize result of the vote:
The crucial turnout figures of up to 83% are suspect and may well be inflated. But independent reporting of enthusiastic celebrations suggested the overall outcome genuinely reflected popular wishes—and was crudely democratic.
For this reason, it is unwise of U.S. President Barack Obama and his European counterparts to declare they will "never" recognize the Crimean result.
More from Reason on Ukraine here.