On Friday, former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul appeared on MSNBC with host Ari Melber to discuss the escalating Russia/Ukraine tensions.

Melber asked McFaul what it means for President Biden to make the statement he made on Friday regarding a likely invasion of Ukraine by Russia.


“It’s a very somber, scary moment,” McFaul replied, adding: “You don’t put the President of the United States on national television to say what President Biden just did without believing the intelligence.”

Speaking on the differences between the 2014 annexation of Crimea and what could be occurring shortly, McFaul said:

But what I heard the president alluding to today, that sounds like something of tens of thousands of casualties. … 190,000 soldiers and sailors have completely surrounded Ukraine, from the sea, from land in Belarus. And on the other side of the borders, there’s a quarter of a million Ukrainian soldiers that, if there is a land war, are going to fight. This, if it goes the way it sounds like it, this will be the largest conventional war in Europe since 1939.

Regarding why President Biden is speaking about this potential invasion, McFaul said that he believes it’s to “prepare the world and the American people for what could be a really horrific war.”

He also noted that such a war would cause suffering to Ukrainians, ethnic Russians, and that a sanctions package would “reverberate throughout the global economy.”


TRANSCRIPT:

MELBER: What does it mean when this current president, who you’ve worked for, makes a statement like we just heard within the last hour?

MCFAUL: It’s a very somber, scary moment, Ari. You know, I also worked at the White House for three years with President Obama before going to Moscow, and I can tell you, you don’t put the President of the United States on national television to say what President Biden just did without believing the intelligence. And it was rather extraordinary that he even said that we have the intelligence. That, in and of itself, was extraordinary. And the third thing — you already said it, but I really want to underscore it — he went out of his way today in his address to say that they believe that Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, will be one of the targets of this military invasion. Now, we don’t know if he meant an aerial campaign or actually soldiers marching to Kyiv, but that, to me, was especially sobering. To hear that the city of near three million people is one of the targets that they believe Putin has his sights on.

MELBER: How is that different from past incursions in the region?

MCFAUL: Well, you know, in the last intervention, the last invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Putin used his soldiers that were stationed already in Crimea to annex that territory — that was pretty peaceful. And then he supported separatists in Donbas. He’s been supporting them ever since for eight years. That’s resulted in real casualties — around 14,000 people have died in that part of the war already. But what I heard the president alluding to today, that sounds like something of tens of thousands of casualties. You just said it, you know, 190,000 soldiers and sailors have completely surrounded Ukraine, from the sea, from land in Belarus. And on the other side of the borders, there’s a quarter of a million Ukrainian soldiers that, if there is a land war, are going to fight. This, if it goes the way it sounds like it, this will be the largest conventional war in Europe since 1939.

MELBER: What is the purpose of having the president speak out like this before what the U.S. says is now an expected operation?

MCFAUL: I think it’s to prepare the world and the American people for what could be a really horrific war. And I really want to underscore that the Ukrainians are going to suffer, ethnic Russians that live in Ukraine — there’s a lot of ethnic Russians that live in the capital of Ukraine, Kiev, Russians are going to suffer, and we are going to suffer, too, because President Biden and his allies and partners have promised a massive, comprehensive package of economic sanctions against Russia that will reverberate throughout the global economy. And in his previous address, he warned the American people that we’re going to be a part of this; we’re not just going to be on the sidelines, it’s gonna affect us as well.

 

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