|7th United States Ambassador to Russia|
January 10, 2012 - February 26, 2014
|John F. Tefft|
Michael Anthony McFaul
October 1, 1963
Glasgow, Montana, U.S.
Donna Norton (m. 1993)
|Education||Stanford University (BA, MA)|
St John's College, Oxford (DPhil)
Michael Anthony McFaul (born October 1, 1963) is an American academic and professor of political science who served as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. Prior to his nomination to the ambassadorial position, McFaul worked for the U.S. National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and senior director of Russian and Eurasian affairs. In that capacity he was the architect of U.S. President Barack Obama's Russian reset policy.
Born in Glasgow, Montana, McFaul was raised in Butte and Bozeman, where his father worked as a musician and music teacher. During high school, McFaul participated in policy debate; his partner was current U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R) of Montana.
While an undergraduate at Stanford University he spent time in the Soviet Union, first in the summer of 1983 studying Russian at the Leningrad State University (now Saint Petersburg State University), and then a semester in 1985 at Pushkin Institute in Moscow. He earned a B.A. in international relations and Slavic languages and an M.A. in Slavic and East European Studies from Stanford in 1986. As a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a DPhil in international relations from St John's College, Oxford, in 1991. He wrote his dissertation on U.S. and Soviet intervention in revolutionary movements in southern Africa.
McFaul's past engagement with Russian political figures included a denunciation of him in 1994 by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and a member of the State Duma (the Russian parliament), and a subsequent shooting incident in which a shot was fired into McFaul's office window in Moscow. Two years later, Alexander Korzhakov, a confidante of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, invited McFaul to the Kremlin during the 1996 Russian presidential election, because of McFaul's research on electoral politics.[unreliable source?]
In his capacity as a professor of political science at Stanford University, McFaul was the director of the university's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. A Hoover Institution Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, McFaul is a Democrat who was the architect of U.S. President Barack Obama's policy on Russia. In a 2012 interview for the news portal Slon.ru, McFaul described himself as "specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions".
In 2009, McFaul joined the Barack Obama administration as a senior adviser in Washington, D.C., where he was the architect of the so-called "Russian reset" policy. In 2011, Obama nominated McFaul to be the 7th post-Soviet United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation. On December 17, 2011, the United States Senate confirmed McFaul by unanimous consent. McFaul became the first non-career diplomat to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia. He arrived in Russia just as massive protests were erupting over Vladimir Putin's resumption of the presidency. As ambassador he was often controversial, meeting with Russian pro-democracy activists and commenting frequently on Twitter in English and Russian.
McFaul announced his resignation as ambassador to Russia on February 4, 2014, effective after the Sochi Olympics. In a blog post, he expressed his gratitude for the job and his sorrow at leaving Moscow, but explained that originally he had planned to spend only two years in the Obama administration, and after five years, his family desperately wanted to return to life in California.John F. Tefft was confirmed as the next ambassador to Russia.
McFaul returned to Stanford as a professor of political science and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He continued to be involved in geopolitics. In October 2014, he stated that he believed the Russians continued to bug his and his wife's cell phones in the United States. He is currently on the Kremlin's sanction list of people who are not allowed to enter Russia.
On January 17, 2012, soon after McFaul was appointed the new United States Ambassador to Russia and arrived in Moscow to assume his post, a number of organizers and prominent participants of the 2011 Russian protests, as well as some prominent figures of the Russian opposition parties, visited the Embassy of the United States in Moscow. On the entrance to the embassy, they were encountered by TV journalists who asked them why they were visiting the new Ambassador. On the video later released on YouTube and titled " ? ? ? " (Receiving instructions in the Embassy of the United States) opposition activists appear flustered by the unexpected media attention. Later, when upon leaving the embassy and once again being encircled by journalists, the activists responded by declaring the journalists spreaders of "Surkovian propaganda" and made no other statement. The visitors to Michael McFaul included Yevgeniya Chirikova (member of Strategy-31 and Khimki forest activist leader), Boris Nemtsov (leader of the People's Freedom Party at the time; assassinated in 2015), Lev Ponomarev (human rights activist of the Moscow Helsinki Group), Sergey Mitrokhin (leader of Yabloko party), Oksana Dmitriyeva (deputy head of A Just Russia), Lilia Shibanova (head of the GOLOS Association elections monitor group). Leonid Kalashnikov from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation also attended. Two weeks later, journalist Olga Romanova who managed the financial spending of the December protests, also visited the American Embassy. She said that they discussed Russian protests and the United States Presidential election campaign with McFaul.
Reaction to the incident was mixed: President Dmitry Medvedev, in his public comments at Moscow State University, largely exonerated McFaul by saying that meeting with opposition figures was a routine occurrence, although he warned the new U.S. ambassador that he was on Russian soil and should respect Russian political sensibilities. The incident sparked a highly negative reaction in the state-controlled Russian media, which accused him of conspiring with the opposition. But an article in The Daily Beast wrote that McFaul's stance won plaudits from pro-democracy activists and Web-savvy Russian youth and that, "in the tight-knit world of Moscow's opposition, McFaul has become something of an Internet celebrity, making him a true 21st-century diplomat."
On July 17, 2018, the Prosecutor General of Russia announced that it was seeking to question McFaul, amongst other Americans, in relation to its investigation of allegations made against Bill Browder. This followed a request Vladimir Putin made to President Donald Trump during the summit in Helsinki. In a White House news conference two days later, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump described Putin's suggestion as an "interesting idea", but neither rejected it out of hand nor made a firm commitment. On July 19, shortly before the Senate was to vote on a resolution opposing the idea, Sanders stated that Trump "disagrees" with the Putin proposal. The Senate approved the non-binding "sense of the Senate" resolution on a 98-0 vote; it stated that no current or former diplomat or other government employee should be made available to the Russians for interrogation.
After the 2016 election he became a regular commentator on MSNBC and social media, and has frequently been critical of the policies and actions of President Donald Trump with regard to Russia. McFaul supported the Iran nuclear deal. In July 2019, McFaul wrote that Communist Party of China's officials "champion the advantages of their system -- an ability to undertake massive infrastructure projects, the capacity to manage income inequalities and a commitment to harmony in government and society. In contrast, polarized U.S. politics in the Trump era seem to impede any major initiative, be it infrastructure development or addressing income inequality."
Coit D. Blacker called McFaul "the leading scholar of his generation, maybe the leading scholar, on post-Communist Russia" and a Stanford news release said his knowledge of Russia "was an important resource to politicians. He advised President George W. Bush on his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin".
An article in Russia Profile called McFaul one of the leading U.S. experts in democracy and democratic transitions. An article in The Daily Beast described McFaul as "an earnest Stanford academic".
McFaul and his wife, Donna Norton, married in 1993 and have two sons, Cole and Luke.
Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, tweeted, in the wake of the email leak, that he wanted Russia to stop meddling in U.S. elections.
On Tuesday, Russia's Prosecutor General's Office said it seeks to question 11 U.S. intelligence officers, businessmen and diplomats, including former U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul.