Russia House

editorial

2014-08-25
Can Russia and America Work Together to Crush the Islamic State?
While Moscow and Washington face off over Ukraine, a much bigger and longer-term challenge presents a possible opportunity for collaboration.

By Jiri ValentaLeni Friedman Valenta
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2014-08-21
The U.S. needs Russia

By Jerome Israel
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2014-08-20
Ukraine's Nightmare Drags On
In recent weeks, the American media has seemed focused on reporting on nearly every newsworthy eventexcept the Ukraine crisis.

By James W. Carden
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2014-08-18
Ukraine factories equip Russian military despite support for rebels

By Michael Birnbaum
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2014-08-13
The New Cold War and the Necessity of Patriotic Heresy

By Stephen F. Cohen
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2014-08-12
The West on the wrong path
In view of the events in Ukraine, the government and many media have switched from level-headed to agitated. The spectrum of opinions has been narrowed to the width of a sniper scope. The politics of escalation does not have a realistic goal - and harms German interests.

By Gabor Steingart
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2014-08-11
How the US and Russian Media Are Covering the Ukrainian Crisis

By Gilbert Doctorow
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2014-08-06
Flight 17 Shoot-Down Scenario Shifts From magazine covers to pronouncements by top politicians, Official Washington jumped to the conclusion that Ukrainian rebels and Russia were guilty in the shoot-down of a Malaysian passenger plane. But some U.S. intelligence analysts may see the evidence differently, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry
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2014-08-05
​US to Georgia: Dont touch Saakashvili, hes our SOB

By Edward Lozansky
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2014-08-04
Pentagon wants extra $19M to equip, train Ukrainian troops

By Maggie Ybarra
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Russia House

2012-04-13

Is There a Problem With the U.S. Ambassador to Moscow?

Edward LOZANSKY, President, American University in Moscow

According to standard, generally accepted rules of diplomacy, an ambassadors responsibilities include meeting officials, attending government ceremonies, receiving and analyzing reports from his staff and operatives, and sending regular correspondence back home with his/her comments and advice.

Mike McFaul, however, apparently finds this diplomatic routine too boring and does not intend to stick within its limits during his tenure in Moscow. Mike is by nature an activist who likes to work in the field and who has never concealed his dedication to the idea of democracy promotion throughout the world despite the pretty dismal record of color revolutions throughout the post-Soviet space. One does not have to read all his books, just look at titles like the self-explanatory Russias Unfinished Revolution, to realize what his priorities in Russia are.

McFaul definitely understands that Russia, democratic or not, is an important international player whose help America often needs to meet global security challenges. In many observers view he is the chief architect of the reset policy to improve U.S.- Russian relations after eight years of George Bushs disastrous presidency. At the same time he has to keep his guard up if he wishes to please many folks back home who consider the reset to be Obamas greatest failure and a policy of appeasement to Moscow. To pacify those critics McFaul resorts to what is known as a dual track policy that of talking both with government officials and the opposition.

Torn between his own interests, an ambassadors obligations and domestic infighting among different pressure groups, McFaul is clearly in a very difficult position. Life at Stanford must surely have been much more quiet and comfortable.

I foresaw some of McFauls future troubles already at the time of the nomination hearings at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Having the privilege of attending those hearings, I must admit I was a little bit puzzled by his statement regarding the way he saw his future responsibilities as U.S. ambassador to Moscow. Confirming that he would do what he thought was best for America he also added that Washington was not in the business of pleasing Moscow.

Indeed, U.S. ambassadors have to care first and foremost about American interests. That goes without saying. Still, they usually do not publicly demonstrate their disregard for the countrys interests where they are posted. It is just not done. Professional diplomats can always be relied on uttering some platitudes.

Not so with McFaul. A few days ago, when asked about the meaning of Obamas private remarks to Medvedev that were supposed to appease the Kremlins missile defense fears and were overheard by reporters, he bluntly said: "It means we are going to build whatever missile defense system we need." Such, mildly speaking, problematic statements may score him some points with reset critics but will president Obama approve of this rhetoric?

Again, McFaul is absolutely right when he says that his job is to do what is best for America. The real question is, though, what particular role played by an ambassador will benefit America most? Searching for pragmatic and mutually beneficial approaches to common global challenges, pleasing the Mitt Romney John McCain crowd, or hopelessly trying to reshape Russia to his liking?

Let us admit that McFaul has a tough job ahead of him and he deserves our full support and sympathy. However, if he wants to succeed in Moscow, his transition from scholar-activist to diplomat has to be completed sooner rather than later.

"Russia Profile"