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 In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent — Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail 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.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More