Since the first appearance of Russian troops outside their barracks in Ukraine’s Crimea region in late February, and until Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty incorporating the strategic peninsula into the Russian Federation, the administration has disputed the notion that Moscow has had the upper hand in the confrontation.
Throughout the episode, the U.S. warned of “costs” for Russian intervention in Ukraine, but the Kremlin has shrugged off every measure announced so far.
The timeline below gives the main developments in the crisis, along with the U.S. statements and warnings issued along the way:
February 22: Ukraine’s Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich, is ousted by parliament after a violent crackdown on protests.
Feb. 23: National security advisor Susan Rice warns that any Russian decision to send forces into Ukraine “would be a grave mistake.”
Feb. 23: Secretary of State John Kerry tells Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the U.S. expects all countries to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity.
Feb. 26: Kerry warns Russia to be “very careful in the judgments that it makes going forward here.”
Feb. 26: White House urges “outside actors in the region to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, [and] to end provocative rhetoric and actions.”
Feb. 27: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings and airports in Crime’s capital, Simferopol.
Feb. 27: Kerry says Lavrov has assured him Moscow is not behind the storming of the Crimean installations, and will “respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
Feb. 28: Russian military exercises begin near the border with Ukraine; Russian fighter planes patrol the border.
Feb. 28: Obama warns that “there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”
March 1: Russian lawmakers approve Putin’s request for Russian troops to enter Ukrainian territory to protect Russian interests.
Mar. 1: Obama speaks to Putin by phone for 90 minutes, tells him to withdraw forces in Crimea to their bases and warns that continued violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty will negatively impact Russia’s international standing.
Mar. 2: U.S. acknowledges that Russia is now in control of Crimea.
Mar. 2: Kerry: “Russia is going to lose … The United States is united; Russia is isolated. That is not a position of strength.”
Mar. 3: Putin denies that the armed, uniformed men blockading Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea are Russian troops, calling them “local self-defense units.”
Mar. 6: Crimean lawmakers vote to join Russia, set March 16 as referendum date.
Mar. 6: State Department institutes a visa ban on undisclosed officials threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty or territorial integrity; Obama issues executive order authorizing sanctions, but no targets are named. “These decisions continue our efforts to impose a cost on Russia and those responsible for the situation in Crimea,” he says.
Mar. 6: Obama in phone call with Putin proposes direct Russia-Ukraine talks.
Mar. 7: Russia says it will respect outcome of the Crimea referendum.
Mar 12: U.S. and G7 partners say they will not recognize Crimea referendum, and warn that if Russia annexes the region “we will take further action, individually and collectively.”
Mar. 12: Obama tells Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk at the White House: “We will stand with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in ensuring that that territorial integrity and sovereignty is maintained.”
Mar. 14: Kerry meets with Lavrov in last-ditch effort to avert the looming referendum. Russia continues to refuse to talk with Ukraine’s government, which it calls illegitimate. Despite the failure of the talks Kerry holds out the hope that Putin will not go ahead and annex Crimea after the vote.
Mar. 15: Russia uses its U.N. Security Council veto to kill a resolution condemning the referendum.
Mar. 16: Crimea referendum goes ahead; official results say 97 percent of voters support joining Russia.
Mar. 16: In a phone conversation, Putin tells Obama the referendum complies with international law. Obama says the U.S. and its European partners “are prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions.”
Mar. 17: The White House announces travel bans and asset freezes on seven senior Russian and four Ukrainian officials. Obama also adopts new authorities to target Russians who “use their resources or influence to support or act on behalf of senior Russian government officials.”
Mar. 17: A senior administration official says these steps entail “real costs” for actions already taken, and “very clear deterrents for actions that may be contemplated.” Asked why Putin himself is not being targeted, the official replies, “it is a highly unusual and rather extraordinary case for the United States to sanction a head of state of another country,” but adds that those officials who are targeted are “very close” to Putin.
Mar. 17: Putin signs a decree recognizing Crimea as a sovereign state.
Mar. 18: Putin signs a treaty annexing Crimea.