If you thought U.S.-Russian relations were tense before, read this. I wonder if Vlad knows that he just crossed the ultimate “red line.”

Skip to 1:30 for the key bit, in which O denounces the bogus annexation referendum as illegitimate unless and until the new Ukrainian government signs off on it. Fair enough, but shouldn’t he also demand that Russian troops be removed before the vote takes place? I realize that’s mostly a formality — a province that’s just been occupied by a superpower probably won’t dare vote no, even if invading forces are (temporarily) off the streets. But if the point is to get Russia to de-escalate before it goes rolling on through eastern Ukraine, getting those troops to cool off is a key priority. Crimea’s probably lost no matter what. Giving Putin a reason to put his guns away now at least might keep the rest of the country intact.

Over at Breitbart, Joel Pollak hammers O for making democratic self-determination a core U.S. demand in all this. After all, the more we talk about letting the people decide, the easier it is for Putin to say that that’s just what Crimea is doing. I wonder if that isn’t the whole point, though: The U.S. knows that there’s no military option to kick Russia off the peninsula, so the only way out of this for the west is to create some fig leaf of legal and orderly annexation. If the Ukrainian government can be convinced to let Crimea go and Putin can be convinced to send his tanks home so that the annexation vote kinda sorta looks “free and fair,” then the province can be handed over and the crisis kinda sorta defused. The objection, in other words, is simply that Putin’s making the surrender more difficult than it needs to be.

By the way, fairly or not, the Crimea standoff does appear to be hurting Obama at home. Note the trend from Fox News’s new poll:


His approval rating is down to 38 percent, a new low for him in FNC polling. Meanwhile, at Gallup, Obama’s disapproval has reached 55 percent after briefly touching a new high of 56 just this past weekend. Think having Harry Reid mumble about the Koch brothers on the Senate floor every day will make things right?