26 January 2012, 17:07

Barack Obama's man in Moscow

Barack Obama's man in Moscow
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The new US ambassador’s arrival in Moscow did not remain obscure, as Michael McFaul is a very ambiguous figure. On the one hand, he is a scholar, an expert on Russia, on the other, he is a well-known authority in colour revolutions.

The new US ambassador’s arrival in Moscow did not remain obscure, as Michael McFaul is a very ambiguous figure. On the one hand, he is a scholar, an expert on Russia, on the other, he is a well-known authority in colour revolutions. In his interviews with the Russian media he mostly stresses that he is an advocate of the ‘resetting’ in Russian-US relations and intends to establish a good partnership between our two countries.

McFaul is not a career diplomat but a political appointee. This happens for the first time in the history of Russian-US and previously Soviet-US diplomatic relations. McFaul was Barack Obama chief consultant on Russia for several years. In the autumn of 2008 it was his idea to call the new stage of Russian-US relations ‘resetting’.  Recall that relations between Washington and Moscow cooled off after the Russian-Georgian conflict in 2008. McFaul did a good job by proposing to focus on the issues in which the two countries could cooperate even without forgetting their contradictions. Another thing is that the new ambassador has a bee in his bonnet about promoting the American type of democracy, as he himself says. Hence, his interest in oppositional movements, which is not always regarded as a pure theory but is rather considered the implementation of some American projects or, if we call a spade a spade, interference in internal affairs. This is what Vilen Ivanov, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told us:

“If he were an ordinary scholar he would hardly be likely to have been sent to this difficult post. He is certainly an expert, first and foremost, and as such, he will perform certain functions under the cover of diplomatic rhetoric. We should not forget what he used to do in the past. There are thousands of scholars in the world and being a scholar is not enough to be appointed ambassador to Russia by the US president. I am inclined to think that his main feature which is to work here is that he is an expert in ‘orange’ revolutions.”

McFaul himself flatly denies this. He says directly that Russian society does not need changes initiated by the US, it exists and develops independently. Nevertheless, the first thing McFaul did upon arrival in Moscow was meeting with representatives of the opposition.

McFaul sees his mission in Russia as reducing the stereotypes which we inherited from the past and extending the range of our bilateral relations which used to be restricted to a military and political dialogue. The ambassador sees the agreement on the peaceful atom, the START treaty and Russia’s joining the WTO as achievements of the ‘resetting’. McFaul intends to be instrumental in the cancellation of the Jackson-Vanik amendment which impedes the development of normal trade relations between us and is a vestige of the cold war. Speaking about the forthcoming presidential elections in both countries, he expresses hope that the ‘resetting’ will survive and be continued.

McFaul also feels optimistic about the prospects for coming to an agreement on the national missile defence. He looks forward to the next Russian president’s arrival at the next NATO summit in Chicago in May to meet with the leaders of that bloc. On the other hand, such a visit just for the sake of shaking hands would hardly be useful, so everything depends on progress in the national missile defence. Russia is still concerned in this respect. However, Moscow believes that relations with the US have not become worse. President Dmitry Medvedev emphasized that he personally agreed to McFaul’s arrival in Russia. What the US ambassador should not forget is that he will be working in Russia and not the US, the president said.

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