"I always think he's [Putin] been overrated as a grand strategist, I see him more as a tactical guy. I think he’s more emotional than people think,” former US Ambassador to Moscow from 2011-2014 and now professor of political science at Stanford University Michael McFaul said Hromadske.
According to McFaul, Crimea and the war is the East was an “emotional, tactical response from Putin as a way to punish the new people that had come to power". Until last February Putin never outlined a big grand strategy to bring Russians together and he never really talked about Crimea as being a part of Russia. It was the collapse of the Yanukovych government which caused Putin to intervene, said McFaul.
“I don’t think he knows exactly what he wants other than to weaken the government in Ukraine,” said McFaul. In order to cope with Putin, according to McFaul, Ukraine has to succeed as a democracy and a market economy and anything which is against that, externally or internally, is helping Putin: “If you’re a corrupt person in Ukraine, you’re an ally to Putin,” asserted McFaul.
The current situation in Ukraine reminded him of the beginning of the US’s containment policy during the Cold War, McFaul explained. The US has a national security interest in helping Ukraine succeed because if it breaks down that will create opportunities for chaos, fighting that could spin out of control.
McFaul refuted that the West was not prepared for the annexation of Crimea or the war in the Donbas. He explained to Hromadske that a military response could have risked war and escalation with Russia. According to McFaul, the sanctions against Russia are the most comprehensive in the history of the US. However, he admits that the West’s weakest point has been the informational wars and the West needs to be more engaged and devote more resources to it.
Hromadske International’s Ian Bateson and Angelina Kariakina spoke with Michael McFaul on April 22, 2015.