The Crimean question nevertheless tells us three things about Trump 18 months into his presidency: His crude and uninformed policy positions consistently outlast staff opposition and efforts at reasonable persuasion; this is particularly true when it comes to appeasement of Putin; and the steady growth of Trump’s personal authority inside the White House and the Republican Party means that even on issues where he is a minority of one, he can compel his followers to line up behind him.

The case of Crimea is particularly stark because, unlike that of Iran or even trade tariffs, where Trump’s shifts of U.S. policy have at least some support, there’s really been no debate until now about Russia’s land grab among foreign policy experts, or, apart from a handful of outliers, members of Congress. A bill codifying U.S. sanctions against Russia for the invasion passed both houses by veto-proof majorities, including 98 to 2 in the Senate.