TODAY   |  March 18, 2014

Putin recognizes Crimea vote

Russian President Vladimir Putin is moving forward with plans to take back Crimea, ignoring the latest warnings from President Obama, as Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Poland this morning.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> let's turn to the crisis in ukraine . the u.s. and its allies are stepping up pressure on russia over its intervention there. but so far, vladimir putin is not backing down. in fact, quite the opposite. he's delivering his own message to the world right now. andrea mitchell is nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent. good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt. joe biden flew overnight to poland. that's the first stop on a trip to reassure neighboring ukraine that the u.s. has their back. russia 's neighbors need reassurance because so far vladimir putin has outflanked the u.s., gaining control over his prized crimea where people are celebrating their alliance with russia . and despite u.s. and european sanctions, putin is defiant. the kremlin's state-run tv anchor suggested that russia is the only country in the world that is able to turn the usa into radioactive ashes. the administration is threatening more sanctions against putin 's inner circle and russia 's arms industry. if russia moves further into eastern ukraine .

>> going forward, we can calibrate our response based on whether russia chooses to escalate or deescalate the situation.

>> reporter: but john mccain says what ukraine needs is u.s. military aid.

>> give a tank, help out training. i would send some of our military to kiev and find out how we can best assist them.

>> reporter: and president obama 's recent ambassador to russia does not disagree.

>> all new options have to be on the table. and most importantly, we have to make sure that the ukrainian state and the ukrainian economy does not fail.

>> reporter: what will stop putin , experts say, not sanctions.

>> if the united states doesn't do much more than it has with these fairly moderate sanctions, especially if russia takes the radical step of annexing crimea , then the perception of u.s. power could take a real hit.

>> and the perception of u.s. power is taking a real hit. at least in moscow, today, as putin telling his parliament to take the final steps annexing crimea by the end of this week. that is rubber stamping, of course, what putin and his troops have already done.

>> all right. andrea mitchell in washington on this. thanks very much.