Stephen Sestanovich is no stranger to tense negotiations like those currently taking place between Russia and the United States. In the late 1990s, he served as a U.S. ambassador-at-large for the former Soviet Union and was the State Department’s principal officer working on Russian policy. In his new book, “Maximalist,” Sestanovich looks at U.S. foreign policy from the Truman through Obama administrations. He joins us to discuss his book, the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and the referendum vote in Crimea.

Stephen Sestanovich, professor of international diplomacy at Columbia University and author of "Maximalist: America in the World from Truman to Obama"

  • johnqeniac

    Obama and the West look increasingly absurd in their threats of attacking Russia with nuclear weapons in retaliation for the Crimeans’ nearly unanimous vote of self-determination. Please ask your guest about the absurd and totally hypocritical position of Obama and the McCainites that self-determination for Ukrainians to join Europe is totally legal and wonderful, but self-determination of the Crimeans to join a Russian Union is criminal and evil, and must be stopped even it means total, global thermonuclear war. Are we all Ukrainians today, or are we all Crimeans today? Or are we Americans with our own interests? Ask him. Thanks.

    • Severinka

      So far only Russian major TV anchor expressed such a threat –

      Here’s the original – if you understand Russian (I do) :

      • SFreader

        Thank you for posting this! We watched the original over the weekend in a complete disbelief.

    • Bob Fry

      Nukes? Obama and the West haven’t said anything about that.

      • johnqeniac

        Nor dare they. It was hyperbole in the spirit of all the repellant hyperbole coming our leaders and our press. But in fact our presidents are forever saying ‘all options are on the table’ – which is a euphemism for ‘we’ll nuke you we want to.’ More importantly though, our entire history of lawless behavior – from invasions without just cause, occupations, overthrows of governments in the service of our corporations, abrogation of treaties when they interfere with our agenda, meddling in all governments (‘f— the EU’), assassination programs, torture – all, all of these make our demands that other countries follow the ‘rule of law’ – absolutely laughable. The rest of the world judges us by our actions, not our ridiculous, pompous rhetoric, and they learn from our bad example that there is no punishment for bad behavior as long as you have a strong military or at least a nuclear trump card in your hand. We taught Putin that unilateral action in violation of law and justice is allowed for the powerful. Our own behavior has been absolutely toxic to the rule of law. Putin, like us, regards the ‘rule of law’ as something that only applies to the weak. In fact that’s the way we run things inside this country, too. The rich and the powerful are not bound by laws and violate them spectacularly when they want and are not punished, while the poor serve long terms for stealing a loaf of bread. We are certainly an example to the world – but not a good one. I’m sorry to have to speak the truth to you.
        – Gregory Slater

  • Guest

    The USA has built an empire in which our banks and the IMF lend countries money they can’t afford to pay back, and this leads those countries into debt slavery. Once they become our debt slaves, they let us control their economies and install military bases. Your average American has no idea this system exists.

    For more, read Confessions of an Economic Hitman:

  • Bob Fry

    I’d like to hear your guest’s explanation of the USA’s obvious hypocrisy in condemning this rather modest action by Russia against our very long history of, and still ongoing, invasion, meddling, and sabotaging of other countries.

    • aldadebater

      I wouldn’t call annexing another country’s territory through military invasion modest, Bobby boy.

  • James Ivey

    I heard, just briefly in one NPR news report, that the referendum ballot only included two options: join Russia or become an independent state. Remaining part of Ukraine was not on the ballot.

    Is that true? If so, doesn’t that completely invalidate the referendum even for people that aren’t really paying attention?

    • Gene

      The second option was greater autonomy within Ukraine, not an outright independent state. Full independence would not be economically viable for Crimea

      • James Ivey

        Thanks for the clarification. So, the status quo was still not on the ballot.

        That still makes it seem like a ransom ballot, like would you rather have your daughter back in exchange for $1,000,000 or have her die? Simply going back to the way things were before the act of violence (kidnapping or military occupation) is not an option.

  • Jason Holland

    Can you please describe the worst case scenario for Russia.
    If Europe stops all gas and oil purchases from Russia could they just sell to China?
    Could the US lessen Russia’s leverage by selling American gas and oil to Europe?

  • Nisar

    How come Tibet annexation has not come in any of last two weeks discussion, is not there a parallel. Also why Russia does not use the argument of national and economic security for invasion, like might have been used in Vietnam and Iraq.

  • Rozalina Gutman

    Watch this >>SENSATIONAL VIDEO<>RE-POST<>SHARE<< this ASAP and as widely as
    possible with EVERYONE you know, so Mr. Putin can hear the inspiring reminder
    from many media sources about his own VISIONARY CALL FOR PEACE, along with his vows RE. CRIMEA and re. any other attempt to re-divide the Europe's map, that
    may threaten the precious peace and stability for millions of people.

    Please, let Mr. Putin know our collective opinion about his still remaining historic opportunity to be known as one of the most wise politicians on this planet. He may deserve the Nobel Prize for Peace for his such historic peace action. Russia does not need to have an international conflict over Crimea…

    Mr. Putin, please, choose PEACE over senseless confrontation over Crimea, just according to your own noble call! Yes, it still CAN be done – the creative mind can find the way, if there is a will! Please, don’t give up on PEACE! Thank you wholeheartedly!

    Путин сам призывает н е п е р е к р а и в а т ь карту Европы, упоминая пример …К Р Ы М А в 2005 – воистину мудрая мысль правителя-миротворца!

    Мир – это самое дорогое, что у нас есть. Пожалуйста, не подвергайте опастности мир. Зачем России Крымский конфликт? Не надо волноваться:
    Севастопoль всегда был и останется Российской военной базой.


  • Gene

    Putin was once again misquoted as saying the collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest tragedy of the 20th century”, not to mention being taken out of context. What he really said was:

    “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union
    was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian
    nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens
    and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover,
    the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.”

    (Full transcript can be found here:

    Putin has also famously said this: “Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.” So maybe it’s a little premature and dishonest to make him another Stalin just yet?

  • 1zzy

    Initiating military action against Russia would be a mistake. Ukraine’s military force cannot counter Russia’s; this would give a chance to Russia to “win” and take over Ukraine. If the west joined Ukraine in fighting Russia, we’d probably end up in a large nasty war that would involve at least several of the other past satellite countries – Putin would probably invade them.

    I think the best way to win is to isolate Russia. Cut off dependence upon Russia for oil – let the West and Ukraine gear up and start producing green energy quickly. Germany and the Netherlands already have had some success with this, more so than the US. Moving forward with green energy would create jobs and build independence overall.

    During the Stalin years, the denizens of satellite countries were shipped out to Siberia, the gulags, or shot, and Russians were shipped in to satellite countries dilute the numbers. If the Russian speaking people don’t like something in one of these countries, it is not Putin’s place to invade these countries to change anything. Let these Russian-speaking people go back to Russia.

  • menloman

    Obama taught constitutional law at Harvard? No he didn’t, Michael,

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