Isolating Putin From the West Won’t Make Him Stop. It’s Where He Wants to Be.

The Russian president’s move to annex Crimea on Tuesday shows he’s ready for a new global order.

Vladimir Putin arrives to address a joint session of Russian parliament on Crimea in the Kremlin in Moscow on March 18, 2014.
National Journal
Marina Koren
March 18, 2014, 4:40 a.m.

It fi­nally happened, what the West has been try­ing to stop for weeks. Rus­sia has be­gun the pro­cess of an­nex­ing Crimea — on live tele­vi­sion.

Dur­ing a speech in Mo­scow on Tues­day to mem­bers of both houses of Rus­sia’s par­lia­ment, Pres­id­ent Vladi­mir Putin an­nounced he would form­ally make Crimea a part of Rus­sia. The re­gion, a sov­er­eign ter­rit­ory of Ukraine, voted Sunday to se­cede from Ukraine and join Rus­sia.

“Crimea has al­ways been an in­teg­ral part of Rus­sia in the hearts and minds of people,” Putin said. “That faith has been pre­served and passed on from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.”

After his speech, the Rus­si­an na­tion­al an­them played, and then Putin and lead­ers from Crimea signed the draft an­nex­a­tion agree­ment. That agree­ment has to be rat­i­fied by both houses of Rus­sia’s par­lia­ment and agreed to by Rus­sia’s Con­sti­tu­tion­al Court, all of which is ex­pec­ted to hap­pen soon. You can watch the full speech in Rus­si­an here:

The move comes just a day after the United States, which loudly con­demned the se­ces­sion vote, an­nounced sanc­tions against key Rus­si­an of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing some of Putin’s ad­visers. By can­celing mul­ti­lat­er­al sum­mits and levy­ing eco­nom­ic sanc­tions, the West was hop­ing to isol­ate Putin polit­ic­ally and eco­nom­ic­ally, put­ting the pres­sure on him to pull back from Crimea.

Tues­day’s fast de­cision sug­gests that Putin is do­ing all the isol­at­ing for them, and he doesn’t seem to mind. The Rus­si­an pres­id­ent said the West had crossed a “red line” in Ukraine, sup­port­ing the op­pos­i­tion and put­ting Rus­si­ans in danger, for­cing Mo­scow to de­fend its in­terests, The Globe and Mail‘s Mark Mackin­non re­ports.

“In the case of Ukraine, our West­ern part­ners have crossed a line, a red line. They’ve been un­pro­fes­sion­al, they’re ir­re­spons­ible,” he said. “They were short­sighted. They didn’t think of the con­sequences. Rus­sia found it­self at the stage where Rus­sia couldn’t give up. If you press the spring too hard, it will re­coil.”

If re­la­tions between Rus­sia and the West were cool­ing be­fore, they’re icing over now.