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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Reaction to Putin's declaration of Crimea independence

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 17, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, today Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Crimea independent and sovereign. This is after that referendum over the weekend. U.S. froze the assets of Ukraine's ousted president and 10 Russian officials, not seven, who aided the succession. And the E.U. did more freezing of assets. We're back with our panel. A.B., what about the response to this and where things stand?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I think Vladimir Putin had a great day. He issued his decree declaring independence to Crimea. And then he and his top officials taunted President Obama on Twitter about the weakness of the sanctions. Putin knows he is the talk of the planet. We have a ceasefire, whatever that means, until Friday, which is four days away.

The E.U. sanctions like ours are really exit ramp material. They are offered in hope of future talks between the new government in Kiev and the Russians. That doesn't look like it's going to happen before Friday.  There are other pleas that maybe he will deescalate and remove some troops from Ukraine and stop threatening to choke off oil and gas supplies to them. None of this is going to happen this week.

And so I think he is having a wonderful time. And whatever -- you know, the words of President Obama if you actually listen to him, the words, had they been matched with really tough sanctions would have been fine. It's that both the E.U. sanctions and the ones President Obama announced today are not severe, and until they attack Russian banks, and their energy revenues, he is not going to budge.

BAIER: One of the people who was targeted, the Russian deputy prime minister in the inner circle, tweeted this, "Comrade Obama, and what will you do with those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or didn't you think of that?" It was quite something to see on Twitter a number of different officials, and they are from verified accounts according it to Twitter, coming out and commenting on all of this.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, it certainly was. But I mean, the reason they are able to do that is because they this is a response that's worth mocking. This is a picture of weakness that we have seen from the administration. If you look at the president's statement today. Basically what he announced a few sanctions target ago few people maybe that might have some consequences.  And then the rest of his statement was a lot of "standing withs" and "future consultations" and "standing together" was this other one – future consulting. This is meaningless mismatch. It means nothing. The president has been doing this now for three weeks. If we are lucky and if the Russians are unlucky the president may at some point decide to escalate to a slap on the wrist. But this doesn't even amount to that.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: He is being ridiculed by Russians especially because the statement and the policy are ridiculous. He doesn't have a lot of cards, but he has some cards. And if he thinks that sanctioning seven Russians out of a population of about 150 million is a sanction, he is living in a different world.

The one thing that we could do is to respond to the Ukrainian request when the president was here last week. They asked the Pentagon for weapons. And we said no, because somehow to arm the victim of aggression is a provocation. So, we said no. We're going to offer them MREs, offer them rations. Well, that's going to hold off Russian tanks, I'm sure. And this response of, you know, we are now going to calibrate as if Putin -- are they going to sanction 11 Russians now so I have to stop where I am, is really preposterous. Again, if you are going to do something, do it, otherwise, say nothing. But this really is a humiliating response by a president who can't even get the Europeans to join him in effective sanctions, which we could do.

BAIER: The last Democratic president at a forum in Dubai weighed in on dealing with Vladimir Putin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: He is highly intelligent, deeply, deeply patriotic in terms of Russia. But he sees it more in terms of the greatness of the state and the country than what happens to ordinary Russians.

The one thing I will say about him is he was always pretty transparent. He never pretended to be what he wasn't. And I found in dealing with him, and by the way with most other leaders with whom I had differences, that it was best to be brutal with them in private and be honest because they respected you if you were.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, obviously respect is missing. Clinton is right that the Russians see greatness as national standing and not the lives of individuals, but that has been so in Russia since Peter the Great. It's not a new revelation. And if you aren't aware of it, you have no idea how to deal with Russia.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for a real example of loyalty.

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