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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid