“If there is a referendum and it votes to move Crimea out of Ukraine and to Russia, we won’t recognize it and most of the world won’t either,” deputy national security advisor Tony Blinken said on
"Were that to happen, the isolation of Russia, the cost that it would pay, would increase significantly from where they are now," he said.
Russia has shown no signs of backing down over the Crimea
The sanctions came after Russian troops seized control of the Crimean peninsula, which has a Russian-speaking majority. Moscow claims that the takeover of key facilities there in late February was the work of local pro-Russian militias.
A referendum organized by pro-Russian members of Crimea's regional assembly is scheduled for March 16.
“We've seen Russian markets go down substantially, the ruble go down, and investors sitting on the fence. So Russia’s paying a price for this,” Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
"It's not a done deal," he said of Crimea seceding from Ukraine to join Russia. "I think the door is clearly open to resolving this diplomatically."
"I do not believe ... that Crimea will slip out of Russia's hands," Gates said on "Fox News Sunday."
“A critical reason for Putin’s aggression has been President Obama’s weakness, that Putin fears no retribution,” Sen.
Cruz cited the lack of retaliation by the administration for the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria in its civil war.
Russia had opposed the deployment of the system in Poland and the Czech Republic. It was designed to shield European allies from Iranian missiles.
"The notion that this is somehow a result of Syria makes very little sense to me. This is about Ukraine," he said on CNN.
He noted that Russia sent troops into the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2008, when Bush was president.
Gates, who also served in the Bush administration, cited Georgia as well in coming to Obama's defense.
"Putin invaded Georgia when George W. Bush was president. Nobody ever accused George W. Bush of being weak or unwilling to use military force," Gates said on Fox. "I think that even if we had launched attacks in Syria, even if we weren't cutting our defense budget, I think Putin saw an opportunity here in Crimea and he has seized it."