• With: Matt Kaminski, Bret Stephens, Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 22, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," with Vladimir Putin showing no signs of backing down, President Obama ratchets up sanctions on Russia. Is the Ukraine crisis and growing global disorder the price of failed American leadership?

    Plus, Democrats wage war on the Koch brothers with Harry Reid leading the charge. What they hope to accomplish heading into the midterm elections.


    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community. The basic principles that govern relations between nations and Europe and around the world must be upheld in the 21st century. That includes respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.


    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    That was President Obama on Thursday announcing a new round of sanctions against Russia and warning that there could be more to come as Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no signs of backing down from his Ukraine land grab, signing legislation Friday to complete Russia's annexation of Crimea.

    Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Matt Kaminski, just came back from Crimea, and joins me now.

    Welcome back, Matt.


    GIGOT: So 97 percent of Crimean voters voted to join the Soviet Union -- excuse me, Russia.

    KAMINSKI: Freudian slip.


    GIGOT: Freudian slip, Russia. Was it a free and fair election?

    KAMINSKI: I think you're shortchanging them. In one city of Sevastopol, it was 122 percent of eligible votes who voted to join Russia. The serious point is in Crimea you did have the Russian majority of about 58 percent.

    GIGOT: Right.

    KAMINSKI: And before this crisis, I would say maybe a fifth supported separatist parties, separatist causes. What happened --


    GIGOT: Separatism from Ukraine.

    KAMINSKI: Exactly. But what happened is really a model of the way that Vladimir Putin does politics in Russia. Put on hyper speed for Crimea. He went in only two and a half weeks ago with the military.

    GIGOT: Right.

    KAMINSKI: He closed down the information space, meaning that you couldn't watch any television but Russian television, get any other kind of news. There was no campaign against joining Russia.

    GIGOT: Right.

    KAMINSKI: And in fact, the ballot itself had two questions. Do you want to join Russia or do you want to adopt a separatist constitution from 22 years ago that would make it possible for --


    GIGOT: There was no option to say we'll stay in Ukraine?

    KAMINSKI: There was no status quo option. But there was a lot of intimidation of people, not only the Crimea Tatars, who are a minority, who want to be part of Ukraine --

    GIGOT: Right.

    KAMINSKI: -- and a very sizable Ukrainian-speaking population. But I met a lot of young educated ethnic Russians who said, I'm a Russian, I'm not threatened here in any way, but I want to stay in Ukraine, I'm a Ukrainian citizen. And that was not an option given these people. So, no, it was not legitimate or free and fair.

    GIGOT: So President Obama and Chancellor Merkel of Germany both say they're not going to accept the annexation as fait accompli. But realistically speaking, is Crimea now, for the foreseeable future, part of Russia?

    KAMINSKI: As long as Vladimir Putin or someone like him is in charge in Russia, Crimea is part of Russia. The Ukraines have given up on their - - they pulled out their military forces this week.

    GIGOT: Right.

    KAMINSKI: And I think the real challenge is now, how do you save the Ukraine itself.

    GIGOT: Let's talk about that because there have been Russian reports of Russian troops along the border and maybe going into eastern or southern Ukraine if they get the order. Would the Ukrainian military have any capacity to defend itself from that kind of incursion?

    KAMINSKI: I think the Ukraine military would be an underdog. Remember, Ukraine just went through a three-month revolution.

    GIGOT: Right.

    KAMINSKI: Putin struck Ukraine at its weakest. But the Ukraine military has about 150,000 people who served in the military. They have just mobilized. They have had some time to prepare out east. What is going on in eastern Ukraine is Russian-speaking, but remember, ethically, Ukrainian regions is that you have infiltrators coming across the border from Russia. You have a really intensive Russian special operations. KGB --