White House press secretary Jay Carney said they discussed “the collaboration that the two leaders have engaged in with our shared allies and others to ensure that the actions in Ukraine and Crimea, the transgressions by the Russian government, are not viewed as legitimate by the international community.”
Carney said that Merkel’s stance on the crisis in Crimea had been “quite clear and strong” and that she had publicly stated her support “on the need for further steps to be taken in response to Russia’s actions.”
The phone call between the two leaders came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin ignored the west and signed a treaty annexing Ukraine's Crimean peninsula to Russia. While the treaty must still be ratified by Russian lawmakers, the Kremlin insisted that Crimea was already a formal part of Russia.
The region, which has been under Russian military control, voted in a referendum on Sunday to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.
The U.S. and allies warned Putin ahead of the referendum not to allow it, calling it a violation of Ukraine’s constitution and international law.
Efforts to punish Russia, though, have failed to de-escalate the situation. The U.S. and European Union on Monday separately announced sanctions that would target a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials, but many analysts said those measures would do little to block Putin's power grab.
Vice President Joe Biden, visiting Eastern Europe to reassure worried U.S. allies, vowed Tuesday that further sanctions were coming and slammed Putin's “blatant disregard” for international law.