ISSN 2330-717X

Who Is Mr. McFaul? – OpEd


By Svetlana Kalmykova

On Wednesday, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev received credentials from 8 foreign ambassadors in Russia, including the US’s new ambassador Michael Anthony McFaul.

“For Russia, relations with all its partners are important,” Mr. Medvedev said. “But relations with the US are a priority for Russia’s foreign policy.”

“I have to admit that in the last few years, Russian-US relations have considerably warmed,” the Russian president continued. “The fact that we have signed a number of very important agreements is evidence of that. Russia is ready to cooperate with the US, even in issues where our positions differ.”

Mr. McFaul came to Russia in mid January, but he has been well known in Russia long before. Until December 2011, Michael McFaul was President Barack Obama’s chief advisor on Russia. He is known in Russia as one of the main initiators of the policy of “reset” in Russian-US relations.

Soon after coming to Russia, Michael McFaul opened his personal Twitter page. On it, he communicates with Russian politicians, human rights defenders and common Russians. Besides, he has given several interviews to some Russian media sources, which were vividly discussed in Russia. Mr. McFaul has also met with leaders of the Russian opposition.

The latter fact made some Russians suspect that Michael McFaul had come to Russia with a certain secret mission. After all, he had already got a reputation of one of the secret organizers of a number of so-called “velvet revolutions.”

However, some experts do not share this view on Mr. McFaul.

“Some Russian analysts believe that the advent of the new US ambassador will result in a considerable warming, if not a radical breakthrough, in Russian-US relations,” the head of the Russian Center of Political Forecasts Sergey Grinyaev says.

“Mr. McFaul is an experienced diplomat,” Sergey Grinyaev continues. “Many Russians hope that he has come to revive the policy of “reset”, not to bury it.”

Michael McFaul himself has said several times that the aim of his mission as an ambassador is to warm the relations between Moscow and Washington.

In particular, he said that Barack Obama’s administration would try to abolish the notorious Jackson-Vanik amendment.

The Jackson-Vanik amendment is an amendment to the US Law on Trade, adopted back in 1974. It limited the US trade with the Soviet Union because the latter, at that time, created obstacles for Jews who wanted to emigrate from it. Now, the Soviet Union does not exist any more, and today’s Russia does not create obstacles to anyone who want to emigrate from it – but the amendment, for some reason, is still there.

Mr. McFaul has even promised that he would try to do his best for Russia and the US to achieve an agreement on the issue which is currently the main apple of discord between the two countries – the US plans of a network of anti-missile facilities in Europe. However, this agreement may hardly be reached before the end of 2012, the US ambassador believes.

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VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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