Russian President Vladmir Putin formally signed a treaty Tuesday, annexing the strategic region of Crimea into Russian territory.
In a speech to parliament, he defiantly brushed aside international condemnation and blasted the West for encroaching on Russian interests.
"On behalf of the conscience of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inalienable part of Russia," Putin told parliament members.
Ukraine leaders are calling the treaty "robbery on an international scale."
*** Will U.S. and EU sanctions do much to deter Russia? Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, answered that question and more on CBN Newswatch, March 18.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden is traveling in Eastern Europe this week. He's working to assure Ukraine's neighbors of American support, promising more sanctions and condemning Russia for violating international law.
"Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab, but the world has seen through Russia's actions and has rejected the logic, the flawed logic, behind those actions," Biden said.
But political experts like Mary Manjikian warn that at this point, the United States has little leverage in terms of trying to influence or coerce Russia.
"They don't see themselves as really needing anything that the West has. You talk about carrots and sticks -- the problem is I don't know that we really have any carrots and I don't know that we really have any sticks either," Manjikian said.
For now, Russia has new territory and, according to naval experts, a strategic opportunity with newfound access to the Black Sea.
"The Black Sea is a huge economic thoroughfare from the Caucuses and the Caspian to central and Eastern Europe. Traffic on the Black Sea -- 300 ships a day," retired Rear Adm. Bill McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, many are wondering whether the U.S. can reverse Russia's hold on Crimea -- unlikely -- and whether it can prevent the Kremlin from further expansion. It's a question that needs to be answered, and soon.