Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s Argument Against Crimea Referendum Isn't Valid

“Remember when you have a revolutionary situation and there's legal arguments on everyone's side, the one thing that matters is force. And Russia has the troops on the ground.”

CNN host Fareed Zakaria said he was “struck” by President Obama invoking the constitution and "legitimate government" of Ukraine as his rationale for rejecting a Crimean referendum vote, arguing that by unconstitutionally removing the former president of Ukraine, the current government there was already technically illegitimate.

Thursday Piers Morgan invited on fellow host Zakaria to discuss Obama’s statement earlier that day announcing that a referendum vote in Crimea would be a violation of Ukraine’s constitution and its current government. After playing a clip of Obama’s statement, Morgan questioned whether or not Ukraine actually had a legitimate government now, a point Zakaria expanded on, ultimately pushing (as he has all week) for an autonomous Crimea.

Obama: The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the Ukranian constitution and violate international law. Any discussion about the future of Ukraine must include the legitimate government of Ukraine. In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders.

Morgan: Let me ask you this, Fareed. Is there a legitimate government of Ukraine now?

Zakaria: It's a very good question, Piers, because I was struck by the fact that President Obama invoked the constitution of the government of Ukraine. Well, the president of Ukraine was deposed essentially unconstitutionally, essentially by street mobs that decided to force him out of office. There is a process for impeaching a president. It was not followed.

Zakaria then moved to his solution, which he claimed cannot rely on the "legalisms" Obama invoked:

Zacharia: So I think that rather than rely on legalisms here, this is a revolutionary situation. Things are moving very fast. The more important thing is that we try to find some kind of political accord. And the principle must be, you cannot annex – Russia cannot annex Crimea simply by brute force. There has to be a political negotiation where perhaps Crimea can have some kind of autonomous relationship with Russia. That's the only formula that's going to work. Remember when you have a revolutionary situation and there's legal arguments on everyone's side, the one thing that matters is force. And Russia has the troops on the ground.

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