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Michael McFaul
Michael McFaul.jpg
7th United States Ambassador to Russia
In office
February 22, 2012 – February 26, 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by John Beyrle
Succeeded by John F. Tefft
Personal details
Born Michael Anthony McFaul
(1963-10-01) October 1, 1963 (age 54)
Glasgow, Montana, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Donna Norton (m. 1993)
Education Stanford University (BA, MA)
St John's College, Oxford (DPhil)

Michael Anthony McFaul (born October 1, 1963)[1] is an American academic who served as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.

Prior to his nomination to the ambassadorial position, McFaul worked for the U.S. National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and senior director of Russian and Eurasian affairs. After his tenure as ambassador in Moscow, McFaul returned to Stanford University as a professor of political science.[2]


Early life and educationEdit

Born in Glasgow, Montana, McFaul was raised in Butte and Bozeman, where his father worked as a musician and music teacher.[3] During high school, McFaul participated in Policy Debate. His partner was current Montana Senator Steve Daines.

He earned a B.A. in international relations and Slavic languages and an M.A. in Slavic and East European Studies from Stanford University in 1986, and spent time in the Soviet Union as a student, first the summer of 1983 studying Russian at the Leningrad State University, now Saint Petersburg State University, and then a semester in 1985 at Pushkin Institute.[3] As a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a DPhil in international relations from St John's College, Oxford in 1991.[2] He wrote his thesis on U.S. and Soviet intervention in revolutionary movements in southern Africa.[3]

McFaul received an honorary doctorate from Montana State University during the university's fall commencement in 2015.[4][5]


In 1994, McFaul and one time close friend and colleague Sergey Markov helped found the Moscow Carnegie Center.[3]

McFaul's past engagement with Russian political figures included a denunciation of him in 1994 by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and a member of the State Duma (the Russian parliament),[6] and a subsequent shooting incident in which a shot was fired into McFaul's office window in Moscow.[6] Two years later, Alexander Korzhakov, a confidante of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, invited McFaul to the Kremlin during the 1996 Russian presidential election, because of McFaul's research on electoral politics.[6]

In his capacity as a professor of political science at Stanford University, McFaul was the director of the university's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.[2] A Hoover Institution Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, McFaul is a Democrat who was the architect of U.S. President Barack Obama's policy on Russia.[7]

In an interview to a news portal, McFaul described himself as "specialist on democracy, anti-dictator movements, revolutions".[8]

In 2009, McFaul joined the Barack Obama administration as a senior adviser in Washington, D.C., where he was the architect of the so-called "Russian reset" policy. In 2011, Obama nominated McFaul to be the 7th post-Soviet United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation. On December 17, 2011, the United States Senate confirmed McFaul by unanimous consent.[9] McFaul became the first non-career diplomat to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia.[7] McFaul announced his resignation from his posting to Russia on February 4, 2014, effective after the Sochi Olympics. In a blog post, he expressed his gratitude for the job and his sorrow at leaving Moscow, but explained that originally he had planned to spend only two years in the Obama administration, and after five years, his family desperately wanted to return to life in California.[10][11] John Tefft was confirmed as the next ambassador to Russia.[12]

After returning to academia, McFaul continued to be involved in geopolitics.[13] In October 2014, he stated that he believed the Russians continued to bug his and his wife's cell phones in the United States.[14]

Russian opposition visitEdit

On January 17, 2012, soon after McFaul was appointed the new United States Ambassador to Russia and arrived in Moscow to assume his post, a number of organizers and prominent participants of the 2011 Russian protests, as well as some prominent figures of the Russian opposition parties, visited the Embassy of the United States in Moscow. On the entrance to the embassy, they were encountered by TV journalists who asked them why they were visiting the new Ambassador.[15] On the video later released on YouTube[16] and titled "Получение инструкций в посольстве США" (Receiving instructions in the Embassy of the United States) opposition activists appear flustered by the unexpected media attention. Later, when upon leaving the embassy and once again being encircled by journalists, the activists responded by declaring the journalists spreaders of "Surkovian propaganda" and made no other statement.[15] The visitors to Michael McFaul included: Yevgeniya Chirikova (member of Strategy-31 and Khimki forest activist leader), Boris Nemtsov (leader of the People's Freedom Party), Lev Ponomarev (human rights activist of the Moscow Helsinki Group), Sergey Mitrokhin (leader of Yabloko party), Oksana Dmitriyeva (deputy head of A Just Russia), Lilia Shibanova (head of the GOLOS Association elections monitor group).[15] Leonid Kalashnikov from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation also attended. [17] Two weeks later, journalist Olga Romanova who managed the financial spending of the December protests, also visited the American Embassy. She said that they discussed Russian protests and the United States Presidential election campaign with McFaul.[18]

As aftermatch of these events McFaul called Russia "barbarian country" YouTube[19]

Reaction to the incident was mixed: President Dmitry Medvedev, in his public comments at Moscow State University, largely exonerated McFaul by saying that meeting with opposition figures was a routine occurrence, although he warned the new U.S. ambassador that he is on Russian soil and should respect Russian political sensibilities.[20] The incident sparked a highly negative reaction in the Russian media[which?] and blogs.[which?][15][20] but an article in The Daily Beast wrote that McFaul's stance won plaudits from pro-democracy activists and Web-savvy Russian youth and that, "in the tight-knit world of Moscow’s opposition, McFaul has become something of an Internet celebrity, making him a true 21st-century diplomat."[21][dead link]


Coit D. Blacker called McFaul "the leading scholar of his generation, maybe the leading scholar, on post-Communist Russia" and a Stanford news release said his knowledge of Russia "was an important resource to politicians. He advised President George W. Bush on his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin".[6][22]

An article in Russia Profile called McFaul one of the leading U.S. experts in democracy and democratic transitions.[20] An article in The Daily Beast described McFaul as "an earnest Stanford academic".[21]

Personal lifeEdit

McFaul and his wife, Donna Norton, married in 1993 and have two sons, Cole and Luke.[23]

See alsoEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ U.S. Public Records Index Vol 1 & 2 (Provo, UT: Operations, Inc.), 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Michael McFaul". Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Ioffe, Julia (May 30, 2012). "The Undiplomat". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Montanan who became ambassador to Russia to receive MSU honorary doctorate". Retrieved May 29, 2017. 
  5. ^ Kendall, Lewis. "Speaker charges MSU's graduating class with making world a better place". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved May 29, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d Meredith Alexander (November 27, 2001). "Stanford political scientist Michael McFaul takes a revolutionary new look at Russian politics" (Press release). Stanford University. Archived from the original on July 27, 2010. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Baker, Peter (May 29, 2011). "Policy Adviser to Become U.S. Ambassador to Russia". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 29, 2011. Retrieved June 3, 2011. 
  8. ^ Аналитическая программа "Однако" с Михаилом Леонтьевым (in Russian). Channel One. January 17, 2012. Archived from the original on January 20, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 27, 2011. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  10. ^ McFaul, Michael (February 4, 2014). "It's time, my friend, it's time". Russia Beyond The Headlines. Retrieved May 29, 2017. 
  11. ^ Andrew Roth (February 4, 2014). "U.S. Ambassador to Russia Resigns". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 4, 2014. Retrieved February 4, 2014. 
  12. ^ Andrew Siddons (August 1, 2014). "Ambassador to Russia Is Confirmed". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 2, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ Tamkin, Emily (July 28, 2016). "We Do Not Get to Blame Putin for This American Election". New America (organization). Retrieved July 31, 2016. Michael McFaul, former ambassador to Russia, tweeted, in the wake of the email leak, that he wanted Russia to stop meddling in U.S. elections. 
  14. ^ Baker, Peter (October 31, 2014). "Former U.S. Envoy to Moscow Says Russians Are Still Spying on Him". The New York Times. Retrieved May 29, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b c d Получение инструкций в посольстве США [Receiving instructions at the US Embassy]. Vzglyad (in Russian). January 17, 2012. Archived from the original on January 19, 2012. Retrieved February 4, 2012. 
  16. ^ Получение инструкций в посольстве США
  17. ^ "Opposition Leaders Brief McFaul". The Moscow Times. Retrieved May 29, 2017. 
  18. ^ Романова: С Макфолом обсудили «бунты рассерженных горожан» [Romanova: McFaul explained "riots by disgruntled citizens"]. Vzglyad (in Russian). January 30, 2012. Archived from the original on February 2, 2012. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  19. ^ Посол США Макфол о России: "Это дикая страна!"
  20. ^ a b c Russia Profile Weekly Experts Panel: United States Looms Large in Russian Elections Archived May 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ a b Nemtsova, Anna (June 18, 2012). "Michael McFaul: America's Man In Russia". The Daily Beast. 
  22. ^ McFaul, Michael A. (23 March 2014). "Confronting Putin's Russia". International New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 
  23. ^ "Nomination As Ambassador to the Russian Federation". U.S. Department of State. October 12, 2011. Retrieved May 29, 2017. 

Further readingEdit

  • Michael McFaul and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss (2008), "The Myth of the Authoritarian Model", Foreign Affairs, January-February 2008, pp. 68-84.

External linksEdit