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

Missouri Town Braces for Possible Racial Unrest

Situation in Ferguson hinges on whether white police officer will be indicted for August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of 1930s Deadly Famine

President Poroshenko compares Soviet-era ‘genocide’ to current tactics of pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine's east More

S. Philippines Convictions Elusive 5 Years After Election-related Killings

Officials vowed to deliver justice as the nation marked the anniversary of the country's worst political massacre that left 58 dead, more than half media 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid