TODAY   |  March 03, 2014

New Yorker editor: Ukraine ‘could get horrendous’

David Remnick, of The New Yorker, an expert on U.S.-Russian relations, joins TODAY to discuss Russian troops holding a tight grip on Ukraine’s Crimea region, and how the U.S. could respond.

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>> to dave remnick, a moscow-based reporter in the waning years of the soviet union . good morning to you.

>> good morning to you.

>> a battle of wills between putin and obama. it's much more than that, but what do you think is really at stake here?

>> well, russia wants to assert itself on the world stage. we saw that in pop cultural terms during the olympics, but this is really serious. now they want to assert their strength in the country where they have legitimate interests, but doing it through invasion. doing it through invasion. no question about it. so far limited it, but the great economic bread basket is in eastern ukraine . this could spread to the east and it's already dangerous and it could get horrendous.

>> what is the white house supposed to do? on friday we see the president coming out saying to putin , there will be high costs if you invade. the very next day, he invades. what leverage do we have?

>> economic leverage, diplomatic leverage, but i don't think in any way the united states or europe has any interest in making this military, making it a military clash between the united states and russia . because we know how horrible and bloody that could get. let's remember, first of all, there's been no shooting, no extensive bloodshed yet. so far, this is a common station war. russia 's assertion of strength. we can do this because we can. they feel betrayed by europe, the eu in ukraine, and they want their interests asserted there. they're entirely full of it when they say that ukrainians have somehow been beating up, threatening the lives of russian-speaking -- ridiculous, that has not happened. hasn't happened in eastern ukraine .

>> there's a certain irony here. we were all together at the olympics a few weeks ago where putin was trying to demonstrate to the world that russia is a modern state, and seems to have undone it in a matter of three days.

>> they have. look, the united states also does not have the leverage it wants in historical terms. invading countries is something the united states knows about from really raw experience. and russia knows that and asserts that day in and day out on russian television all the time. that's a cost, too.

>> you wrote this weekend, these are going to be frightening days in the next few and worse.

>> they already. they already are.

>> thank you very much.