Russia moves to annex Crimea, West imposes sanctions

Mar 18, 2014 | News

by Kait Morris

Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the draft of a bill on Tuesday to annex Crimea.

Putin took centre stage in a speech to a joint session of parliament where he spoke about what he termed as the “reunification” of Russian and Crimea.

Crimean leaders and Putin signed what they are calling a treaty of accession after he finished speaking. The Kremlin said afterwards that it considers it to be in place, despite not having yet been ratified by the Russian parliament.

On Sunday, Crimeans participated in a referendum to decide if they would join the Russian federation. The vote was tallied overwhelmingly in favour of joining with Russia.

Putin, on Monday, signed an executive order “On Recognising the Republic of Crimea,” where it formally recognized Crimea as a sovereign and independent state.

Western reaction

The West has reacted strongly to Russia’s actions in Crimea, imposing more sanctions.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement reads, in part:

“This “referendum” is illegitimate, it has no legal effect, and we do not recognize its outcome. As a result of Russia’s refusal to seek a path of de-escalation, we are working with our G-7 partners and other allies to coordinate additional sanctions against those responsible.”


Observers say that Sunday’s referendum was unconstitutional and therefore has no legal effect.

“The referendum is illegal because it violates the Ukrainian Constitution, according to which any changes to the territory of Ukraine are decided solely through an all-Ukrainian referendum,” Christine Czoli, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Students’ Union, told Humber News in an email.

“Given the nature of the referendum, I don’t feel that any results stemming from it can be considered legitimate,” Czoli said. “This has been reflected in the fact that all major international powers other than Russia have refused to recognize the referendum and its results as legitimate.”

“Russia doesn’t see itself as a weak actor that will capitulate every time to the West,” said Humber liberal studies professor Blake Lambert. “Respectfully to the international community, they need Russia.”

A fact that Putin recognizes, saying in his speech: “We have to admit one thing — Russia is an active participant in international affairs.”

Russia is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and according to was responsible for $160 billion worth of gas, crude, and fuel based exports to Europe and the U.S.

The sanctions imposed by the international community upon Russia have not deterred Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Lambert notes that if the EU wanted more leverage over Russia, they could look elsewhere for their oil and natural gas.


In Tuesday’s speech, Putin said that the precedent of Iraq gives Western countries no standing to complain about Crimea.

“You can’t call something black one day, and the same thing white the next,” Putin said in his speech.

“Russia does have a point when it comes to hypocrisy,” Lambert explained. “You cannot say that the U.S. is totally in the right.”

Czoli says that Russia’s movements in Crimea sets a dangerous precedent, but Lambert points out that it is, in part, a precedent that has already been set by the U.S..

She says that the precedent of Iraq does make negotiations more difficult, but also detract from the issue.

“It is appalling that a respectable leader be content in justifying his aggression with past instances of aggression (whether these were justifiable or not). In doing so, Putin distracts from the current situation, in which there is no support for any of the motives he has presented for his invasion of Ukraine,” said Czoli.

Lambert says that the Canadian Government approaches foreign policy from a moral lens, a very specific moral lens, and that the rhetoric used by Western leaders to discuss the situation is over the top.

“This is not the cold war, it’s not,” said Lambert.

“You can’t say Canada and the U.S., or the West was neutral in this,” he said, referring to how the West backed pro-Western leadership in Ukraine.

What next?

In the wake of the executive order and the West’s stance on the referendum, the next step looks like it will be more sanctions.

“The international community must take a strong and united stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s violations of international and disrespect for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” Czoli said.

Lambert is clear when he says that Ukrainians should have the right to determine their own future, and said that he wishes morals and ethics were the most important thing in international relations. Unfortunately, national interest is currently the most important factor.

**Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia commons, World Economic Forum