TODAY   |  March 04, 2014

Analyst: ‘Not too late’ for Ukraine negotiations

NBC News analyst Michael McFaul, the  former U.S. ambassador to Russia, joins TODAY to discuss the Ukrainian crisis, saying the Russian president has seemingly left the door open for negotiations and that the U.S. has the option to isolate Russia economically.

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>> nbc news analyst, professor at stanford university . until six days ago, he was the u.s. ambassador to russia . good morning to you.

>> thanks for having me.

>> let me talk about what vladimir putin has said this morning. he said he took the action sending troops into crimea because of an illegal coup in kiev. he says the military force is still an option, although only a last resort. and then he said the most important thing to do is to give people the right to determine their own faith. and he feels that sending 16,000 troops into crimea is the way to do that. what's your reaction?

>> well, i thought the press conference had a lot of mixed messages. on the one hand, he threatened the more use of force . secondly, he said there was a revolution in kiev and therefore previous commitments that russia had to respect ukrainian territory. on the other hand, he said what you said, and that's a statement that president obama would agree with. that the ukrainian people have to determine their future. i think he left the door a little bit of an opening there for negotiation moving forward.

>> as john kerry sits with the transitional leaders of ukraine today, what promises can he make them that the u.s. can actually backup with actions?

>> i think he'll have two messages. number one, he will pledge economic assistance and say that we are willing and going to do all we can, we being the west to help stabilize the economic situation there. because, remember, if there's a meltdown economically there, that government will be in trouble and under more pressure from russia . and number two, i think he's going to outline his talking points for when he gets to moscow , which is to say we want to negotiate. we want to de-escalate this. it's not too late for that. but if you move forward, there will be economic consequences of continued occupation.

>> you talk about the economic consequences, and vladimir putin considered all of that before he took these actions. this idea of sanctions, this idea of punishing him by kicking him out of the g8 and restricting the travel of high-profile russians. he knew those were possibilities. he decided the risk was worth it.

>> you're right. exactly right. it was an impulsive decision, i think. like you said, i was just working in moscow a week ago. and this is not their original strategy. their original strategy was to have all of ukraine under russian influence. this is his response to being frustrated to what happened to his guy.

>> isn't this about power? vladimir putin is saying i'm the guy with the clout in this region and many ways around the world right now. and does the united states have a credible way to prove him wrong?

>> yes, from the way that he defines power. and i would say it's a rather outdated way to define power. so, yes, he can move his troops into crimea , there's little the west can do. but over time , we can isolate russia economically and that will weaken russia as a global power . and there are some in moscow , i've worked with for many years, that understand that and don't want to see russia return to being isolated as it was during the 20th century and earlier. i mean, matt, you and i were there in sochi together. you saw the display of the new russia . the idea that we are a great and respected country. not everybody just wants to flush that down the toilet today in the name of occupying crimea .

>> former ambassador to russia , mr. ambassador, nice to see you again. thanks for your time.