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'New Yorker' Editor: U.S. Lacks 'Historical Leverage' Against Russia Because it Has Invaded Other Countries Too

Appearing on NBC's Today on Monday, New Yorker magazine editor and former Washington Post Moscow correspondent David Remnick fretted that the United States lacked the moral authority to oppose Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "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." [Listen to the audio]

Moments earlier, co-host Savannah Guthrie excused the Obama administration's poor handling of the situation: "So what is the White House supposed to do? I mean, 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?" Remnick replied: "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."

Remnick added: "Let's remember, first of all, there's been no shooting, no extensive bloodshed in Crimea yet. So far, this is a kind of demonstration war."

At the top of the segment, Guthrie observed: "Tempting to look at this as a battle of wills between Putin and Obama. It's much more than that, but what do you think is really at stake here?" Remnick responded: "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 a country where they have legitimate interests, but they're doing it through invasion."

Prior to Remnick worrying about the U.S. not having "historical leverage" against Russia, Guthrie lamented: "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, this polished, burnished image of Russia, and seems to have undone it in a matter of three days."

NBC did its best to help Putin project that image during the network's coverage of the Olympics:

NBC Glorifies Russia's Soviet Past as 'One of Modern History's Pivotal Experiments'

NBC's Bob Costas Describes Putin as Better Statesman Than Obama

Awww! NBC's Meredith Vieira Laments Demise of Soviet Union as 'a Bittersweet Moment'

NBC: Moscow's Subway System Is Stalin's 'Palace for the People'

Here is a full transcript of Guthrie's March 3 exchange with Remnick:

7:10 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUHTRIE: Let's turn to David Remnick, he's the editor of New Yorker magazine. He was also a Moscow-based reporter during the waning years of the Soviet Union and is a noted authority on U.S.-Russian relations. Good morning to you.

DAVID REMNICK: Good morning, Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Tempting to look at this as a battle of wills between Putin and Obama. It's much more than that, but what do you think is really at stake here?

REMNICK: 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 a country where they have legitimate interests, but they're doing it through invasion. They're doing it through invasion, there's no question about it. They've so far limited it to the Crimea, but the great economic bread basket of that country is in eastern Ukraine, which also has a lot of Russians. So this could spread to the east and it's already dangerous and it could get horrendous.

GUTHRIE: So what is the White House supposed to do? I mean, 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?

REMNICK: 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 in Crimea yet. So far, this is a kind of demonstration war. Russia's assertion of strength, "We can do this because we can." And 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 or threatening the lives of Russian-speaking natives of Crimea...

GUTHRIE: Pretext, you think.  

REMNICK: ...that's ridiculous, that has not happened. It hasn't happened in Crimea, it has not happened in eastern Ukraine.

GUTHRIE: 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, this polished, burnished image of Russia, and seems to have undone it in a matter of three days.

REMNICK: Well, they have. And 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.

GUTHRIE: You wrote this weekend, these are going to be frightening days that we see in the next few and worse and I know we'll be watching.

REMNICK: They already are. They already are.

GUTHRIE: David, thank you very much.

REMNICK: Thank you, Savannah.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.