Crimean voters were at the polls today for a referendum. The issue: to join Russia now, or join Russia later. That's the list of choices.
Ballots were being counted, and the first numbers from the referendum on whether Ukraine's Crimea region should join Russia or become an independent state were expected in a matter of hours after polls closed Sunday night, an election official said.Crimean Electoral Commission head Mikhail Malyshev said more than 80% of voters had cast ballots by the time polls closed at 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. ET). Preliminary results will be announced at 10:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m ET) Sunday.The United States has already said it expects the Black Sea peninsula's majority ethnic Russian population to vote in favor of joining Russia. Moscow has strongly backed the referendum. The White House released a statement that said the vote was "administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention that violates international law."
The referendum results don't matter. Threats aside, there's no 'NO' option for voters. The referendum is flawed. Even a weak foreign policy president can't ignore the escalation that will necessarily result from events in Crimea.
The next step from the E.U. and the U.S. is likely to be sanctions. Russia may yet feel emboldened to consider a similar soft invasion in eastern Ukraine. But what happens next is still a matter of conjecture.