Ronan Farrow Daily   |  March 04, 2014

US ups the ante on Ukraine

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin defends his intervention in Ukraine as the U.S. government ups its ante with remarks from both President Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry. NBC’s Ian Williams and former U.S. Amb. to Russia Michael McFaul dig deeper into the crisis.

Share This:

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

>>> we begin today with breaking news. today the tug of war over ukraine is intensifying with russia 's president defending his intervention and u.s. upping the ante. here's president obama over an hour ago. take a listen.

>> although russia has legitimate interests in what happens in neighboring state, that does not give it the right to use force as a means of exerting influence inside that state.

>> doesn't have the right to use force and then we turn from d.c. to kiev where secretary of state john kerry made a symbolic stop in independence square where that revolution began and visited a shrine to the fallen and after that he blasted russia .

>> it is diplomacy and respect for sovereignty, not unilateral force, that can best solve disputes like this in the 21st century .

>> kerry brought a lot more than just talk with him. he actually put a big offer on the table, one billion in aid, including energy assistance. just for his arrival, putin took to tv to defend his presence in the crimea region. he called it a unconstitutional coup and any military in intervention would be a mu humanitarian mission.

>> there's no reset with vladimir putin . he is not going to expect the president to be more flexible after he is re-elected.

>> the first shots were fired in the erupting crimea region. video captured russian troops firing warning shots at ukrainian soldiers who marched on an air field to demand their jobs back. let's gets more from kiev with ian williams . what type of reaction are they getting from the people on the ground in ukraine ?

>> reporter: hello from from a damp and foggy kiev . the initial reaction has been good to the visit and offer the aid. kerry said he was coming as a gesture of support to the interim ukrainian government . he was well received when he visited the barricades that turned into a shrine covered in flowers for those many of whom were shot by snipers during the violence of just a few days ago, which saw the overthrow of yanukovych . now, also at the same time, he went and met leaders and told them about this offer, a bill dollar loan agreement. i think the tone of what he has been saying here is well received in terms of the passion and also in terms of the disdain towards the comments that came from putin earlier. so generally it's been very well received here. good comments on the social media . and i guess really now is how he can turn this offer the financial aid into something concrete with the help of the imf and the eu, ronan.

>> a tough climate out there. we appreciate you joining us. ian williams reporting from kiev . thank you again.

>>> in this tug of war you just heard about between america and russia , the question remains is anything strong enough to over -- on why russia is so invested in this fight? is there military might rests on it. the large navy that russia has stationed in crimea 's warm water port, a few numbers you should know. 6,000, the estimated number of russian troops that arrived in crimea in the past few days. also 15,000, that's how many members of russia 's navy were already stationed there. and finally, a big one, 845,000, that is the total number of armed forces in russia . here to dig deeper in the russian perspective is former u.s. ambassador to russia and former colleague of mine, michael mcfall. thank you for joining us. what stood out most to you about putin 's comments today?

>> the dual messages. there were two major messages in con tradition contradiction to each other. he tried to justify the legalities of having soldiers in crimea , and know he denied they were ordered by him rather strangely and said the ukrainian government was illegitimate and therefore russia 's legal comments to ukraine before this revolutionary government took power are no longer valid. that was a threatening set of comments he made about what might come next. at the same time, he also left the door open for negotiation. he said i have no interest in an exing crimea and we want to see the return of a legitimate government in ukraine . i think it shows he himself has not decided what is going to be the end game for him in terms of this crisis.

>> and what do you think the end game is for president obama here?

>> the end game for president obama and the western world and i would say the entire international community is that russia needs to withdraw its forces, to recognize again the territorial integrity of ukraine and to allow ukrainians to decide what kind of government they'll have on what kind of election process they'll have. including, perhaps, changing the constitution. some have mentioned that a more federal system of government might be away to placate the worries that ethnic russians in crimea and eastern ukraine have. that could very well be the case. but ukrainians need to decide that by themselves not with an occupying power in their country.

>> we just talked a little bit about how important ukraine is strategically to russia militarily in terms of the energy pipe lines that run through it. do you think secretary kerry is capable of offering any diplomatic proposal that will sway putin in light of those things?

>> i don't know. i honestly don't know and don't believe anybody that knows. it obviously, ukraine plays a very important role in terms of the way that president putin sees russia 's role in that region. he's been trying to create something called the you're asian economic union to create a counter to the european union and wants ukraine to be a part of that. he's frustrated that his partner in that endeavor, president yanukovych fled and is now in russia . that's why he did what he did in crimea , an impulsive response to the failure of the yanukovych regime. i don't think he figured out what his next move is. i don't think he knows what he wants to do. he understands the risks of an all in and out war in ukraine between russian soldiers and ukrainian soldiers, that is a complete disaster for russia . i think he's still trying to figure out what his long-term strategy is here.

>> and ambassador mcfaul, i did want to get your take on the domestic stakes, senator mccain raming against barack obama . we've got several saying he's viewed as a weak actor. do you think vladimir putin views obama as weak in this?

>> i don't think weak or not. i think he was going to go into crimea no matter who was president in the white house . and i would remind your viewers he went into georgia when george w. bush was president in 2008 . if you go back over time , eisenhower was president when the soviets went into hungary in 1956 and poland when they declared marshall law with soviet assistance, that's when ronald reagan was president.

>> there's only so much you can control.

>> we would be better served to think about how we can unify to help the ukrainians right now rather than talking about who's weak and who's not.

>> michael mcfaul , good to see you. thanks for joining us.