Meet the Press   |  March 23, 2014

How Does U.S. Regain Upper Hand in Ukraine Crisis?

A Meet the Press roundtable examines the options for the United States to reassert authority to Vladimir Putin.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> roundtable is here, david brooks of "the new york times," andrea mitchell , mayor of philadelphia mike the nutter is here well and rich lowry , editor of the national review . welcome to all of you. i want to start with this crisis in the ukraine . and here's my question. what does it take for the u.s. to regain the upper hand in this fight with the vladimir putin , david?

>> fear. i think president obama has been quite good, quite aggressive, up front with the sanctions. they're beginning to hurt. there are two things they'll never do, overcome the russian mentality, they're thinking we handled stalin grad. we still won. we can endure a little economic suffering. second the psychology of fear. who do you fear? the president has been very aggressive, predictable especially given our alliances. but does vladimir putin fear barack obama and to create that climate of fear, you have to do something aggressive, something that will get putin back on his heels. in this thing continues to escalate, the idea df arming ukraine , giving them weapons to have a deterrent effect is some place.

>> nobody wants a shooting war in ukraine . if you're this administration, you don't want that. why? prospect of civil war , prospect of giving a cause celeb to the russian leader. the message is you want a strong prosperous ukraine . that's the tough message to vladimir putin , isn't it?

>> it is. our congress has still not voted even on the basic ukrainian comrik package because of a dispute over the imf. that sends a terrible be signal. the latest sanctions are beginning to hurt around that inner circle . but the weak link here is angela merkel , the germans and rest of the europeans can reluctant to take tough steps. they've been weak. so this coming week, how tough are the europeans willing to be? the russian army will use any pretext top roll thanks over the ukrainians. watching them digging trenches in eastern ukraine makes one think of world war i.

>> it's interesting, are, too. to hear chairman rogers and his fear, a real fear that the intelligence committees have and community has and others that in fact, vladimir putin won't stop in russia . here's the cover of the in crimea. here's the cover of the economist magazine with the new world order that would only be complete with a shirtless photo of vladimir putin on top of the tank. but the new world order , rich, seems a lot like the old world order , like the 19th century world order where geography matters a great deal to keep some kind of ethnic and territorial upper hand over others.

>> angela merkel said the famous remark she talked to putin and he was living in a different world. that's true. we thought we were living in a world where everyone accepted basic international norms. he's limbing in a world where he can take territory through lies and force of arms. he's calibrating his next move right now based on what the west does. he's assuming the sanctions will be fairly anemic and eventually that it will all be forgotten and he'll get another reset. we have to make it clear we have to do everything we can to buttress that new government in ukraine including arms and you have to have sanctions that inflict severe pain.

>> you're looking at this, no doubt, from. the point of view of the president's domestic agenda going to the issues you're dealing with as a mayor every day. you look at a foreign policy crisis taking more and more time and effort away. do you worry about it impacting president obama 's leadership in other areas?

>> president obama did do many more things than one thing at a time. so he has an entire team. i think that the sanctions are starting to work as andrea said. you see what the u.n. security council did in terms of the resolution. so the world is starting to come together around this particular issue. china was with us. russia is increasingly going to be isolated in this situation. so the president also looking at domestic agenda and listeninging to americans, i mean, most americans are tired of war. don't necessarily want to be in this kind of conflict. so there is a balancing act here.

>> this is what putin is counting on. he made the same calculation in dwight about the president bush , but you know, it's interesting. think about the world when saddam hussein took over kuwait and that president bush said this not stand. the international world order was a very different thing. what does it take for the u.s. to singularly use its influence today as opposed to other years.

>> people may say why do we care. it's far away . it's a country we don't know the much about it. rich alludes to the real problem. we had a post cold war era which has been a lot better than the 19th century . you don't have the spheres of influence. russia can't say we control everything. we control everywhere where our people are. the second is you don't invade other countries breaking down the laws. it's complicated. but you basically have some stability. and within that stability, you can have global trade , you can having free movement of people and putin is this radio active individual who wants to create history. large ego, large russian nationalism he's whipped up around him. he is a threat to this order. that's why it matters to the economy, to the way the world conducts itself for a couple years.

>> as the president embarks on this trip to see leaders in europe, in the middle east , i mean, we are not by ourselves. we cannot operate as if we're by ourselves. but i mean, there does, again, there needs to be a coalition of nations that say we will not tolerate this kind of activity. where does it end? it does have an international impact. it has impact hearing ha domestically, as well. we have to get things done in the united states at the same time.

>> at the same time though, what we see with putin and david, you just alluded to it, is that he is now whipping up this national ashism which is very appealing to large parts of teeny sections of moldova which are saying we want to be russian, too. he could use the pretext of self-determination with these groupses in eastern ukraine and elsewhere saying we want to be russian. and then what do we do? does nato do a so-called chapter five and take military action.