Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
The Ukraine crisis – at what point does the U.S. have an obligation to intervene?
(CNN) – Lawmakers in Crimea voted Thursday in favor of leaving the country for Russia and putting it to a regional vote in 10 days.
It's an act that drew widespread condemnation, with Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk calling the effort to hold such a referendum "an illegitimate decision."
(CNN) – Republican Sen. Dan Coats has said Russian President Vladimir Putin has imperial ambitions that could threaten the international community. Russia is under fire for its military invasion into neighboring Ukraine.
"This first step is something we ought to put in the context of history. When the Soviet Union came unglued, it was thought that they are not going to be a major world player. Putin has put himself in the place of saying, 'No, I want to restore Russia to its former position,'" said Coats.
Putin insisted Wednesday his military isn't planning to seize Ukraine's Crimean peninsula – but didn't close the door on action "to protect local people." Crimea is mostly populated by ethnic Russians. Should Russian troops intervene, Putin said, "It will be legitimate and correspond to international law because we have a direct request from a legitimate president and it corresponds to our interests in protecting people who are close to us."
"Does this not remind us of what happened with Hitler in the early '20s and '30s?" said Coats.
(CNN) – With the crisis in Ukraine, global diplomacy is moving quickly. The U.S. sanctioned some Russian and Ukrainian officials by imposing a visa ban, and Russia's foreign minister is meeting john Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome Thursday, after the foreign minister Sergey Lavrov accused NATO of making the situation worse.
"These sanctions imposed by the U.S. ... it's more of a Washington story. The administration wants to get out ahead of the Congress, otherwise the Congress will get out ahead of the ... administration," said four-time U.S. Ambassador, who most recently served as ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill.
"I don't think these sanctions will have much of an effect on the way the Russians really think about it. I don't think they're coercive in the sense of the Russians will hit the side of the head with the palm of their hands and say, 'Oh boy, we have got to change our ways.' It's more punitive and it's more an effort to show the U.S. isn't just sitting there," said Hill
For more from Christopher Hill, now serving as Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, check out the video above.
(CNN) – Secretary of State John Kerry spoke from Paris Wednesday about the progress on a Ukraine deal, setting the bar rather low.
"I don't think any of us came here with the anticipation that in this moment, in this atmosphere of heightened tension and confrontation, that we're suddenly going to resolve that here this afternoon," Kerry said.
(CNN) – In response to the Russian incursion into Ukrainian territory, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. is beefing up its presence in the region.
But will that rattle the Russians at all?
Military analyst Major General James "Spider" Marks, U.S. Army (Ret.), says the move is not aimed at Russia.
"What that is intended to do is bolster the confidence of our allies and our friends, to make sure they know we're standing by and paying attention. That's the intended recipient," said Marks.