News / USA

McFaul Takes Up Duties as US Ambassador to Russia

U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul (File)
U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul (File)

Michael McFaul officially takes up his duties as U.S. Ambassador to Moscow this Saturday.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made better relations with Moscow a cornerstone of his foreign policy. And the main architect of the so-called “reset in relations” - Michael McFaul - is the new American ambassador to Russia.

For the past several years, McFaul has been special adviser to the president on Russian affairs - essentially a member of the White House’s inner circle. He now takes over a position usually given to career diplomats.

But Joseph Cirincione, an arms control expert who knows McFaul and has worked with him, says that will not be a problem.

“Mike McFaul brings some very, very strong cards to the game. Number one - he’s a close adviser of President Obama," said Cirincione. "So the Russians know that they are getting someone in that post that knows how Obama thinks, his advice is valued and can speak for Obama - and speak directly to Obama anytime he wants. Two, he’s a Russia expert. He’s studied the country, knows its history and has been working these issues at a very high level in the Obama administration for the last two years.”

Experts say McFaul has also been a strong critic of Moscow’s policies - especially those dealing with cracking down on dissent.  Cirincione says that will continue.

“He is not someone to look the other way when Russia tries to lay a heavy hand on its neighbors or for that matter, its own citizens," said Cirincione. "So he’s a voice for democracy, for forging a new relationship with Russia and very much wants to see Russia integrated into a new European security arrangement.”

McFaul replaces John Beyrle, who experts say was a very popular U.S. ambassador, a post he has held since 2008. Also a Russian speaker, Beyrle was seen as a Russia expert. And his father, Joe, a World War Two paratrooper, was the only man to fight both for the United States and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. In 1994, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin presented Joe Beyrle with several medals for his service with the Soviet army.

Michael McFaul goes to Moscow at a time when relations between the two countries are good.

Experts say the highlight of the Obama administration’s Russia policy was the ratification (in December 2010) of the New START Treaty. That pact limits the number of U.S. and Russian operationally deployed long-range nuclear warheads and delivery systems such as missiles and heavy bombers.

But experts say future arms control negotiations - such as talks aimed at eliminating all nuclear weapons - may be tougher.

And, says Joseph Cirincione, there is still the thorny issue of the American missile defense system. He says Russia believes the United States is seeking advantage over Moscow, knowing that its nuclear forces are slowly declining.

“Basically, they are aging and Russia doesn’t have the money to replace them one-for-one. They are worried that the U.S. is going to seek some advantage by putting up a ring of anti-missile systems around Russia, supposedly aimed at Iran but the Russians believe secretly aimed at them - and then be able to take out Russia’s nuclear forces in a first strike, mopping up whatever is left by an anti-missile system that could shoot down Russian missiles," Cirincione said. "That is a complete fantasy - there is no truth to that whatsoever.”

But, says Cirincione, the Russians are genuinely fearful and suspicious of U.S. motives.

Experts say one area where there has been increasing U.S.-Russian cooperation is on the question of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

John Parker of the National Defense University (expressing his personal views) says over the years, Moscow has toughened its stance.

“When Obama came into office, the Russians began to back away from their contract to transfer S-300 long-range air defense systems to Iran. And then they joined us in a very tough United Nations Security Council resolution a year ago on Iran. And after that, President Medvedev issued an implementation decree that all but shut down arms transfers to Iran," Parker said. "And then he finished off the job by actually canceling the S-300 contract. So the Russians have come a long way on Iran.”

Experts predict Moscow will continue to remain engaged with Iran, given Tehran’s position in the Middle East and Russia’s interest in the Caucasus and central Asia. Analysts say Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program and how to stop it will be at the top of Michael McFaul’s agenda as new U.S. ambassador to Russia.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid