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March 2, 2014

As the West begins to shape its response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the emerging conventional wisdom is that there is little the world can do to stop Vladimir Putin from doing whatever he wants to do. Here is Peter Baker in The New York Times warning that Russia will likely get away with its Soviet-style land grab fairly easily:

Russia is an even tougher country to pressure, too formidable even in the post-Soviet age to rattle with stern lectures or shows of military force, and too rich in resources to squeeze economically in the short term. With a veto on the United Nations Security Council, it need not worry about the world body. And as the primary source of natural gas to much of Europe, it holds a trump card over many American allies. [The New York Times]

Ben Judah, writing in Politico Magazine, goes further, arguing that wealthy interests in Europe are too invested in Russia's oligarchical scheme to put any pressure on it:

Moscow is not nervous. Russia's elites have exposed themselves in a gigantic manner — everything they hold dear is now locked up in European properties and bank accounts. Theoretically, this makes them vulnerable. The EU could, with a sudden rush of money-laundering investigations and visa bans, cut them off from their wealth. But, time and time again, they have watched European governments balk at passing anything remotely similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which bars a handful of criminal-officials from entering the United States.

All this has made Putin confident, very confident — confident that European elites are more concerned about making money than standing up to him. [Politico Magazine]

In this view, the West has neither the means nor the will to draw Putin's blood. But it does have the means, including the visa bans and banking sanctions that Judah cites, which would chip at the heart of the Russian regime; a revived effort to install missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, which were scrapped amidst a "reset" in relations that is obviously dead and gone; and a general strengthening of Western-friendly governments around Russia, including Georgia, Poland, and the provisional government in Kiev (whether this includes NATO membership in the case of Georgia and Ukraine is a debate for another day).

Does the West have the will? To suggest that it doesn't seems to underestimate the historical significance of the moment. This is a naked land grab on a different order of magnitude than Russia's move into Georgia in 2008, which was legitimately shrouded in a fog-of-war-type situation. Now that the scales have fallen from everyone's eyes, now that Putin's territorial ambitions and agenda have been so totally exposed, the West has little choice but to make his transgressions as painful as possible — otherwise what would stop Putin from expanding his thug regime? Ryu Spaeth

1:00 p.m. ET
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

While many Americans tune in to Sunday night's Oscars ceremony, the Trump White House will host its first major social event: the 2017 Governors' Dinner. The black tie affair includes a receiving line, reception, and formal dinner with the First and Second Couples. It is timed to correspond with the National Governors Association's winter meeting in Washington each year.

"The Governors' Dinner is one of the most important social events held at the White House each year," said Laura Dowling, who was the chief White House floral designer for six of President Obama's eight years in office. "In terms of scope, style and planning requirements, it is just one step below a state dinner in organizational complexity."

The dinner is First Lady Melania Trump's first in her new role as White House hostess. "The first lady has put a lot of time into this event, welcoming our nation's governors to the capital," said White House Press Secretary of the evening's festivities. Bonnie Kristian

12:24 p.m. ET

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday offered a dismissive assessment of President Trump's first month in office in conversation with ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "What has the Trump administration done?" she asked. "From their inaugural address, where they talked about decay and carnage, they've done nothing except put Wall Street first, make America sick again, instill fear in our immigration population in our country, and make sure Russia maintains its grip on our foreign policy."

"I call him the deflector-in-chief," Pelosi added. "He has no jobs bill, so he has got to talk about the press. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about kids, transgender kids in school. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about immigrants and have a ban on Muslims coming to country." Watch an excerpt of her comments below. Bonnie Kristian

11:47 a.m. ET

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum all said in interviews Sunday that calls for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election are premature. The possibility of such an appointment was raised Friday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who argued it is inappropriate for the investigation to be performed by someone, like new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a political appointee.

"The Justice Department over the course of time has shown itself, with the professionals that are there, to have the ability to investigate these type of things," Christie said in a conversation with CNN's Jake Tapper. "When a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control."

"I think that's way, way getting ahead of ourselves here," Cotton said while talking with Chuck Todd on NBC. "There's no allegations of any crime occurring, there's not even an indication that there's criminal investigations underway by the FBI as opposed to counterintelligence investigations, which the FBI conducts all the time."

"The rush to a special prosecutor is always a dangerous thing," Santorum said in a different segment of Tapper's show, contending that appointing a special prosecutor would usurp congressional power. Watch comments from all three below. Bonnie Kristian

11:25 a.m. ET
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Oscar-nominated actress Meryl Streep has accused Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld of defamation for comments, published Thursday in Women's Wear Daily, in which he said she declined to wear his dress to Sunday's the Academy Awards ceremony because another designer offered to pay her for the exposure.

"Don't continue the dress. We found somebody who will pay us," Lagerfeld said he was told after beginning work on Streep's gown. He added, "A genius actress, but cheapness also, no?"

Streep denied Lagerfeld's account Thursday, and Chanel issued a statement confirming her claim that "there was no mention of the reason" she chose a different designer. But late Saturday evening, Streep issued a vehement second statement. "Karl Lagerfeld, a prominent designer, defamed me, my stylist, and the illustrious designer whose dress I chose to wear, in an important industry publication," she said. "That publication printed this defamation, unchecked. Subsequently, the story was picked up globally, and continues, globally, to overwhelm my appearance at the Oscars, on the occasion of my record breaking 20th nomination, and to eclipse this honor in the eyes of the media, my colleagues and the audience."

Streep ended her statement with a demand for an explicit apology from Lagerfeld: "He lied, they printed the lie, and I am still waiting." Bonnie Kristian

11:05 a.m. ET

Emmy-winning actor Bill Paxton died Saturday due to complications from surgery, his family confirmed Sunday morning. He was 61 years old.

Paxton was known for his appearances in films including Terminator, Aliens, Apollo 13, Twister, and Titanic. He had a lead role in HBO’s Big Love and was shooting a new cop drama for CBS called Training Day.

"A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker," said a statement from Paxton's family. "Bill's passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable." Bonnie Kristian

10:51 a.m. ET

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) refused during an interview on CNN's State of the Union to say he would share his presidential campaign email list with the Democratic National Committee. His evasion came less than 24 hours after his preferred candidate for DNC chair, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), lost to the establishment-supported former Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

"Where we are right now is that we are going to support and have supported and will continue to support those candidates who have the guts to stand up for working families and take on the big money interests," Sanders said in response to a question about the list from host Jake Tapper. "What we are going to do is support those candidates who have the guts to stand up to the 1 percent and fight for the 99 percent."

As Tim Murphy explained at Mother Jones earlier this month, Sanders' campaign "rewrote the rules of email fundraising during his campaign by relentlessly courting small-dollar contributors," many of them first-time political donors. The DNC is "desperate" for the list, Murphy said, though the Sanders camp believes party leadership is missing the point: "The list wasn't the campaign's secret weapon; Sanders was."

Watch an excerpt of his remarks to Tapper below. Bonnie Kristian

10:33 a.m. ET

The impulse of some conservative House Republicans "to say just get rid of the whole thing" in the ObamaCare reform process is "not acceptable," Ohio Governor John Kasich argued during an appearance on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday. "Republicans have to reach out to some of the Democrats" in Congress if they are to craft a new health care program "that still provides coverage to people," the former Republican presidential candidate told host John Dickerson.

"You have 20 million people, or 700,000 people in my state" whose health coverage is now provided through the Affordable Care Act, Kasich said. "Where do the mentally ill go? Where do the drug addicted go?" Kasich conceded reforms are needed to make the system functional and affordable, but, he added, "we're just not going to pull the rug out from under people." Watch his comments in context below, and see this analysis from The Week's Ryan Cooper on how Kasich's fears could come true. Bonnie Kristian

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