TODAY | March 02, 2014
>>> of "meet the press." good morning.
>> good morning, lester.
>> the president spent 90 minutes on the phone with russia 's vladimir putin s. the president prepared to go to the mat over this issue? what can he do?
>> it sounds like he's prepared to go to the mat. the big question is what does that mean? he warned of consequences if people stepped over the line. his national security adviser said on "meet the press" last sunday it would be a grave mistake to invade. just friday the president said there would be cost to intervention. what's the cost? what is the u.s. going to do? i think there would be more of an attempt to isolate russia nationally. is there a role for nato in protecting a line? i think some attempt to restore a balance of power that is now a vacuum that putin is now filling. i think that's what the president would like to see.
>> if we step back, this all began because ukraine looked like it was going to start leaning more towards europe and the west and the prime minister decided to go another direction. beyond that does the u.s. have a national security stake here? why is this so important to this country?
>> i think that's a tough question to answer as well, because the united states is not about to send military might into this part of the world. in 2008 when the soviets invaded breakaway parts of georgia, the bush administration did not do that. that's not going to happen here. look, i think there's concerns about russia trying to restore something of the soviet union might which is what vladimir putin seems to want to do in terms of what he calls his new abroad. i think there's a question of standing up on the side of democracy and wanting to see economic and political stability in this part of the world which is important ultimately to europe.
>> it will obviously take a lot more than this to get back to the cold war days. nonetheless we're potentially looking at a russian occupation of at least part of ukraine. as this continues to wear on, could this be one of the biggest foreign policy challenges to this administration?
>> i don't think there's any question about it. the president says he doesn't think this is part of the cold war chest board. the issue is putin does view it that way. he views the united states and thought this under bush as well, meddling in russia 's affairs and he thinks the same about president obama . let's talk about areas that the united states does have a keener interest in. that's in the middle east in syria . the secretary of state has been very blunt, blaming russian support for assad, allowing him to double down in his killing campaign against rebels in syria . so wherever you turn, whether it's syria or these countries on russia 's doorstep or iran, russia plays a very large role here. how we confront him becomes