If you can believe the numbers, more than 95 percent of the voters in the Crimea area of the Ukraine voted to secede and join up with Russia. Government officials in Ukraine, most European nations and the United States claim the referendum voted on last Sunday, under the alleged military protection of armed Russian soldiers, is a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and international law.
The European Union issued sanctions against Russian and Crimean officials as punishment for the violations. So did the United States. Uncle Sam issued sanctions against 11 top Russian and Crimean officials. Those 11 targets will have their assets frozen, won't be able to do business with U.S. banks or engage in deals in which currency is converted into dollars, and won't be able to get visas to travel to the United States. It should also make it hard to get financing from other foreign entities, as well.
Three of the top targets of the sanctions laughed off their punishment on Monday, questioning the competency of whoever drew up the list.
Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and Vladislav Surkov, both targets of the sanctions, boasted on social media that they have no accounts or property abroad and that the actions mean nothing to them.
Sergei Aksenov, the new Crimean prime minister and another target, sent out a photo-shopped image of Barack Obama dressed in a Russian military uniform to make fun of the president.
One day before the sanctions were announced a Russian TV journalist, handpicked by Russian President Vladimir Putin last year to head a new state news agency, publicly announced that his country could turn the United States into "radioactive ash." He made the remarks on his weekly television program while standing in front of a photo of a mushroom cloud.
In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the world's third largest nuclear arsenal was held by Ukraine. In 1994 Ukraine, Great Britain, the United States and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum reaffirming a commitment to protect Ukraine's borders in exchange for the nation giving up its nuclear weapons. Article one of the agreement states: "The United States of America, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine … to respect the Independence and Sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine."
Under the agreement, Ukraine's nuclear arsenal was transferred to Russia for elimination.
There are arguments agreeing and disagreeing with Russia's actions in Crimea but this much is certain: Russian officials think the current sanctions imposed by the Unites States are a joke. They will do nothing to deter the Russians and many fear their next target is the pro-west Ukraine itself.
With the loss of Crimea, the United States and Great Britain must work with other European Union member states to shore up the Ukraine economy and give Ukrainians a chance to get their economic house in order. Political, diplomatic and financial sanctions imposed upon Russia must be meaningful and not just fodder for jokes and an embarrassment to the United States.
If we don't help to settle the crisis in Ukraine, the Budapest Memorandum won't be worth the paper it is written on.
And that's scary when you think that we are currently wading through a temporary, six-month international agreement with Iran to insure that their uranium enrichment activities are for peaceful use.