Senate Intel chair: Crimea’s gone
Posted by CNN's Jason Seher
March 30th, 2014
01:06 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - Some U.S. lawmakers are ready to say that it’s futile to try to persuade Russia to give up control of Crimea.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on Sunday that the debate over the Crimean Peninsula is "done" and the region is now under Moscow's control.
"The Crimea is dominantly Russian, a referendum was passed. That, I think, has been done," Feinstein said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Feinstein's acknowledgment clashes sharply with multiple declarations from President Barack Obama and the United Nations that Russia's annexation of Crimea constitutes a violation of international law.
One hundred countries backed and passed a resolution in the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday branding as invalid Crimea's secession referendum, which has been dismissed as a sham by Western governments.
A day later, Obama reiterated his opposition to what he described as Russia's takeover of Crimea, according to a White House readout of a phone call between Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The United States and the European Union have already imposed two rounds of sanctions on Russia, including travel bans and asset freezes for some of Putin's inner circle.
Feinstein, labeling herself a "student ... of Russian history,” said it’s plain to her how essential Crimea is to Russian interests. She mostly dismissed the continued outcries over its annexation as diplomatic posturing.
When pressed by Crowley, the California Democrat seemed unwilling to risk raising the stakes in the already testy geopolitical standoff and said she understood - even accepted - Russia's move to make Crimea part of the Russian Federation.
"You get the Crimea thing?" Crowley asked.
"I get the Crimea thing," Feinstein replied.
While Feinstein's statements stand in stark contrast to the administration's position, Russian officials continue to paint the Crimea episode as a done deal.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, said not only was his country's initial incursion into Crimea justified, but under no circumstances would Russia withdraw from a region it now considers its sovereign territory.
"What kind of pullback from Crimea are you talking about?" Kislyak asked in response to a question from the show's host, George Stephanopoulos. "We are now in the territory of the Russian Federation."
"Crimea is a part of the Russian Federation," Kislyak added once more.
Kislyak repeated the familiar Kremlin refrain that the Crimea episode came in response to Russian fears that the instability that led to the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Moscow ally, could spill over into Crimea, which is predominantly ethnically Russian.
"There was an expressed will of people living in Crimea to become a part of (the) Russian Federation at that moment when there was an unconstitutional takeover of power with the use of force in Kiev," Kislyak said.
Though Kislyak did leave the door open to a potential diplomatic solution, all signals out of Moscow indicate any accord between Russia's government and the West will not include Crimea.
In an interview Sunday on Russia's Channel One TV, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov scoffed at the U.S.'s insistence that Moscow should yield control of Crimea back to Ukraine. Lavrov said Putin "had no choice" but to welcome the region into the Russian Federation after "an extremely democratic and transparent vote" showed Crimea's citizens wanted to become part of the country. Lavrov also went a step further, saying that if the United States and the West recognize the interim Ukrainian government as legitimate, they have no choice but to tolerate Crimea's annexation.
"This is a dirty trick," Lavrov told "Sunday Time" host Irada Zeynalova. "If they are willing to accept the first reality, then they definitely have to accept another one."
The Russian diplomat is meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on Sunday to discuss efforts to defuse tensions surrounding the situation in Ukraine and the continued buildup of Russian troops along Russia’s border with Ukraine, in addition to Crimea. But Lavrov did little to de-escalate the rhetoric leading up to the meeting, accusing the U.S. - and Kerry – of hypocrisy.
"The first was an unlawful act," Lavrov said, referring to Ukraine's recent government transition, "while the latter was the expression of the will of the people."
"It makes absolutely no sense for a diplomat to say that you have to accept what happened on Maidan (Kiev’s main square) as reality but what happened in Crimea is not reality," he continued.