Michael McFaul
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Michael McFaul

Mike McFaul
Michael McFaul.jpg
7th United States Ambassador to Russia

January 10, 2012 - February 26, 2014
PresidentBarack Obama
John Beyrle
John F. Tefft
Personal details
Michael Anthony McFaul

(1963-10-01) October 1, 1963 (age 56)
Glasgow, Montana, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Donna Norton (m. 1993)
EducationStanford University (BA, MA)
St John's College, Oxford (DPhil)

Michael Anthony McFaul (born October 1, 1963)[1] 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.[2] In that capacity he was the architect of U.S. President Barack Obama's Russian reset policy.

Early life and education

Born in Glasgow, Montana, McFaul was raised in Butte and Bozeman, where his father worked as a musician and music teacher.[3] While attending Bozeman 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.[3] 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.[2] He wrote his dissertation on U.S. and Soviet intervention in revolutionary movements in southern Africa.[3]

McFaul received an honorary doctorate from Montana State University during the university's fall commencement in 2015.[4][5]


In 1994, McFaul and one-time close friend and colleague Sergey Markov helped found the Moscow Carnegie Center.[3]

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),[6] and a subsequent shooting incident in which a shot was fired into McFaul's office window in Moscow.[6] 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.[6][unreliable source?]

President Barack Obama is briefed during a flight to Moscow, 2009
Barack Obama, Joe Biden and McFaul with former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev, March 20, 2009

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.[2] 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.[7] In a 2012 interview for the news portal Slon.ru, McFaul described himself as "specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions".[8]

Secretary of State John Kerry and McFaul tour Red Square in Moscow on May 7, 2013
A House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on "U.S. Policy Toward Putin's Russia," on June 14, 2016. McFaul testified as Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, center left, sat behind him.

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.[9] McFaul became the first non-career diplomat to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia.[7] 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.[10]

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.[11][12]John F. Tefft was confirmed as the next ambassador to Russia.[13]

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.[14] In October 2014, he stated that he believed the Russians continued to bug his and his wife's cell phones in the United States.[15] He is currently on the Kremlin's sanction list of people who are not allowed to enter Russia.[10]

Russian opposition visit

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.[16] On the video later released on YouTube[17] 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.[16] 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).[16] Leonid Kalashnikov from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation also attended.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20] The incident sparked a highly negative reaction in the state-controlled Russian media, which accused him of conspiring with the opposition.[10][16][20] 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."[21]

Russian request for an interview

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.[22][23] 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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

Political positions

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.[10] McFaul supported the Iran nuclear deal.[27] 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."[28]


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".[6][29]

An article in Russia Profile called McFaul one of the leading U.S. experts in democracy and democratic transitions.[20] An article in The Daily Beast described McFaul as "an earnest Stanford academic".[21]


  • Post-communist Politics: Democratic Prospects In Russia And Eastern Europe (1993)
  • The Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy: Parties, Personalities, and Programs (1993)
  • Understanding Russia's 1993 Parliamentary Elections: Implications for U.S. Foreign Policy (1995)
  • Russia's 1996 Presidential Election: The End of Polarized Politics (1997)
  • Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin (2001)
  • Between Dictatorship and Democracy: Russian Post-Communist Political Reform (2010)
  • Russia's Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin (2015)
  • From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia (2018)

Personal life

McFaul and his wife, Donna Norton, married in 1993 and have two sons, Cole and Luke.[30]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Public Records Index Vol 1 & 2 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.), 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Michael McFaul". Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d Ioffe, Julia (May 30, 2012). "The Undiplomat". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  4. ^ "Montanan who became ambassador to Russia to receive MSU honorary doctorate". montana.edu. Retrieved 2017.
  5. ^ Kendall, Lewis. "Speaker charges MSU's graduating class with making world a better place". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d Meredith Alexander (November 27, 2001). "Stanford political scientist Michael McFaul takes a revolutionary new look at Russian politics" (Press release). Stanford University. Archived from the original on July 27, 2010. Retrieved 2011.
  7. ^ a b Baker, Peter (May 29, 2011). "Policy Adviser to Become U.S. Ambassador to Russia". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 29, 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  8. ^ ? "" ? ? (in Russian). Channel One. January 17, 2012. Archived from the original on January 20, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 27, 2011. Retrieved 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ a b c d Tolan, Casey (September 9, 2017). "Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, finds new voice criticizing Trump". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2018.
  11. ^ McFaul, Michael (February 4, 2014). "It's time, my friend, it's time". Russia Beyond The Headlines. Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ Andrew Roth (February 4, 2014). "U.S. Ambassador to Russia Resigns". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 4, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  13. ^ Andrew Siddons (August 1, 2014). "Ambassador to Russia Is Confirmed". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 2, 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  14. ^ Tamkin, Emily (July 28, 2016). "We Do Not Get to Blame Putin for This American Election". New America (organization). Retrieved 2016. 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.
  15. ^ Baker, Peter (October 31, 2014). "Former U.S. Envoy to Moscow Says Russians Are Still Spying on Him". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017.
  16. ^ a b c d ? ? ? [Receiving instructions at the US Embassy]. Vzglyad (in Russian). January 17, 2012. Archived from the original on January 19, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  17. ^ ? ? ? [better source needed]
  18. ^ "Opposition Leaders Brief McFaul". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ « ?» [Romanova: McFaul explained "riots by disgruntled citizens"]. Vzglyad (in Russian). January 30, 2012. Archived from the original on February 2, 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  20. ^ a b c Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel: United States Looms Large in Russian Elections Archived May 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine russiaprofile.org
  21. ^ a b Nemtsova, Anna (June 18, 2012). "Michael McFaul: America's Man In Russia". The Daily Beast, via Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on August 31, 2012.
  22. ^ "Russian Prosecutors Seek Ex-U.S. Ambassador McFaul for Questioning in Browder Case". The Moscow Times. July 8, 2018. 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.
  23. ^ "? ? ? " (in Russian). Russian News Agency TASS. July 17, 2018. Archived from the original on July 17, 2018.
  24. ^ Thomsen, Jacqueline (July 18, 2018). "White House: Trump open to Russia questioning US citizens". Retrieved 2018.
  25. ^ Stokols, Eli (July 19, 2018). "Trump invites Putin to Washington, rejects his request to interrogate former Ambassador Michael McFaul". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018.
  26. ^ "Senate votes 98-0 to reject Putin proposal to send ex-US ambassador back to Russia". CNN. July 19, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  27. ^ "Leaving the Iran deal would play right into Putin's hands, says a former US ambassador to Russia". Quartz. May 7, 2018.
  28. ^ "China is winning the ideological battle with the U.S." The Washington Post. July 23, 2019.
  29. ^ McFaul, Michael A. (March 23, 2014). "Confronting Putin's Russia". International New York Times. Retrieved 2016.
  30. ^ "Nomination As Ambassador to the Russian Federation". U.S. Department of State. October 12, 2011. Retrieved 2017.

Further reading

External links

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John Beyrle
United States Ambassador to Russia
Succeeded by
John F. Tefft

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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