Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the United States had no control over escalating tensions in Crimea in an interview about the Ukraine crisis Wednesday with CNN's Jim Sciutto.
"We have never recognized the annexation of Crimea," Hagel said. "That is something that's going to have to be dealt with as we work our way through this."
In taking a passive stance on the issue of Russian invasion — a term the Obama administration has shied away from amid escalating Russian-Ukranian hostilities — Hagel emphasized that the United States has no control over quelling tension in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. He said that the situation will "get sorted out":
"But as we've said, I've said, the president has said, all of our administration officials have said, we need to get the tensions lowered, the escalation stopped, and get into a position — and we can't control that, we can help it, we can foster it; our NATO partners can — where this thing gets sorted out so the world doesn't go to war over this."
Hagel's comments came as President Obama delivered a speech in Tallinn, Estonia, where he called Russia's aggression "a brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine."