Foreign Policy

One Week, 180: Obama Admits Crimea Is 'Gone'

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Last Wednesday President Barack Obama marched off to Eastern Europe to make clear to Vladimir Putin that the U.S. has Ukraine's back and that Russia better not violate its sovereignty anymore.

The president said from Estonia, where he was pushing for greater NATO defense of the Baltic states (which are NATO members), but no direct action regarding Ukraine (which isn't a NATO member), "We will not accept Russia's occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea or any part of Ukraine."

One week later, it's apparent Obama had no expectations of Ukraine regaining its lost peninsula and no intentions of doing anything about it.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today claims he had an encounter with the president that went something like this:

I was in a meeting in the White House a few weeks ago, and the president was giving us a synopsis of the problems around the world, and I said, "You didn't mention Crimea. Is that just gone?" And the basic answer was, "Yeah, that's gone."

If the account is true, it's not particularly surprising. Obama has shown little will to help Ukraine. After all, good relations with Russia will always be politically more important to the U.S. than the independence of Ukraine. Vox acknowledges that "the U.S. is taking some tougher steps in Ukraine" in terms of economic sanctions against Russia, "but they are not very much." America has zero history of strong ties with Ukraine, anyway; we've never even sent a Ukrainian-speaking ambassador to them. And, despite Kiev's pleas that the U.S. sell them some newer military equipment, Obama cannot because Russian intelligence has deeply penetrated Ukraine and would almost certainly get its hands on any sensitive technology we might send.

Ukraine's 45 million citizens' best hope for not becoming as miserably unfree as Putin's actual constituents is that the Kremlin accepts that it cannot afford this war any longer. Russia is on the verge of recession, Crimea is a money pit, and hundreds of mothers of Russian soldiers want to know why their sons are dead.

On the bright side, Ukraine yesterday announced that 70 percent of Russia's invading force has left the country since a ceasefire was announced last week.

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