Meet the Press   |  March 30, 2014

Russian Policy Experts Weigh in on Ukraine

Following a report on the latest developments in the Ukraine, former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and the New York Times' Peter Baker look at the possibility of a diplomatic solution.

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

>> all mean? ambassador mcfaul, i want to start with you. we know this phone call between president obama and president putin seemed to be is the setup to get this lavrov/kerry meeting to happen in paris. what do you make of the two different readouts of the call? president obama made it seem as if a diplomatic solution is possible. putin 's readout starts bringing up moldova and talking about possibly new interventions.

>> well, that's exactly the point. i mean, it depends on what solution you're talking about and what negotiation you want. i think if you look at it from the russian perspective, the readout and other things that have been said, they're pivoting, changing the subject. they're saying crimea is 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. as president kennedy said 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 bit like that. they're changing the subject to talk about what they want, no the what we want to talk about.

>> peter, putin wants to lock in crimea . and it seems as if the president is tacitly -- he never says it. he says we shouldn't but the europeans are basically saying look, if the status quo is crimea and nothing es, we can accept that. how does the president justify that?

>> they'll never admit that the outloud. it will be like the baltics when we officially never recognized the fact that the soviet union had absorbed them.

>> but they did.

>> we couldn't do anything about it. what you're seeing here is a possible sort of defacto and acceptance of crimea as long as you don't go any further. the west wouldn't be happy with that, but that would probably be the best outcome they can expect at the moment.

>> do you get the sense, ambassador mcfaul, that these first and second rounds of sanctions is having enough impact suddenly putin is at least talking about a diplomatic solution and letting the ukrainian election process go through with international observers and so forth?

>> no, i think the first round of sanctions were designed to punish him and his circle of friends and some of them have suffered. i think there's been real punishment. it's the specter of the new sanctions they have to think about, that the president talked about sanctioning different economic sectors. that's one cost now that they have to think about. the biggest cost, of course, is violence. i mean, there's no doubt in my mind if russia goes into eastern ukraine , some ukrainians will fight in a guerrilla struggle. that's first and foremost on his mind. i don't see it happening anytime soon.

>> ambassador, moldova, is he headed there with the same rationale, protecting russian interests? is he going and is that next?

>> exactly. he's a revisionist power to you. things we thought were settled 20 years ago or at least in iceuv$g in these conflicts he's trying to say we have to open up the pandora's box. it's very dangerous.

>> so he's going?

>> he's going to make it an issue. he's going to make it an issue we have to now negotiate and we're going to negotiate in i think a weak position given where he is right now.

>> peter baker , when president obama called russia a regional power , he was clearly irritated by the premise of the question. romney. but he wasn't ahead and said no, russia 's not a superpower. it's a regional power .

>> directly aimed at putin 's self-identity. the crux of putinism is russia is a great power and one of the primary powers on the international stage and everything he does is geared toward proving that.

>> all right. ambassador mcfaul out there in northern california , thank you, sir. peter baker , you're going to be back on the roundtable. thanks.