Monday, May 14, 2018

Michael McFaul

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul is currently a professor of political science at Stanford University, the director of Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His new book is From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.

From McFaul's Q&A with NPR's Rachel Martin:

MARTIN: So let's talk about what that ended up looking like [when you arrived in Moscow in 2012 as the U.S. ambassador] because you are almost immediately painted as someone trying to unseat the current political system and to bring some kind of American-style democracy to Russia. Explain what kind of pressure you and your family were under.

MCFAUL: Yeah, it was unpleasant. I don't want to sugarcoat it in any way. I loved being ambassador for so many different reasons. It was the honor of a lifetime, but Putin had a story he wanted to tell the Russians - that we were out to get them, that we were giving money to the opposition and that we were the enemy. And that was a way to mobilize his electoral base. Remember, he's running for president in the spring of 2012. And I, therefore, became a poster child of some of these attacks on the opposition. The night that a video went viral accusing me of being a pedophile - that was probably a low point in my time as ambassador. And to this day - if you Google my name and pedophile on a Russian search engine - Yandex - 4 million hits still come up. And I tell you that story because it's a story about disinformation, right? It's a story about distortion and using technology to frame debates in different ways. And I've got to say, honestly, we struggled with how to respond with it. We did not have a game plan for how to combat those kinds of very personal, horrible, ugly stories.

MARTIN: So setting aside the smear campaign against you, which I understand was a difficult thing to live through, but the substance of the critique that you were there as a representative of the American government which would prefer there to be some kind of democratic government in Russia - I mean, that's not crazy...


MARTIN: ...For Putin and Russian officials to think that you would prefer that, especially in light...


MARTIN: ...Of your activism in your younger years.

MCFAUL: I think that's...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue