Ukraine Crisis

McFaul: Focus of U.S.-Russia Tension Shifts to Moldova, Donetsk

Former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Mike McFaul said Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to make the future of eastern Ukraine and Moldova points of contention in the wake of Russian forces’ seizure of Crimea.

Putin and President Barack Obama spoke by phone Friday. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are going to meet Sunday in Paris to discuss the Crimea crisis and the rift in American-Russian relations.

McFaul, an NBC News analyst who served as Obama’s ambassador to Moscow until last month, said the Russians are now in effect saying, “OK, Crimea’s done. We’ve taken that. Now let’s start negotiating about the Ukrainian constitution. Let’s start negotiating about the autonomy of places like Donetsk (in eastern Ukraine).’ As President Kennedy said very famously during the Berlin crisis, he was not going to negotiate about the freedom of Berlin under the guise of ‘what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable.’ This feels a little but like that: they (the Russians) are changing the subject to talk about what they want, not what we want to talk about.”

Another question is the future of the separatist Transdniestria region of Moldova, populated largely by Russian speakers. Putin is going to make Moldova “an issue that we’re going to have to now negotiate. And we’re going to negotiate in, I think, a weak position given where he is right now.”

McFaul added “there’s no doubt in my mind that if Russia goes into eastern Ukraine some Ukrainians will fight in a guerrilla struggle.” But he said he did not foresee a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine “any time soon.”