The American Interest

An American Revolution

On January 17—less than 24 hours after presenting his credentials—the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, met with a group of Russian opposition figures, “civil-society activists,” and street-demonstration leaders at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.  It was a provocative first move, the equivalent of a new Russian ambassador in Washington ostentatiously hosting the leaders of Occupy Wall Street in the middle of the presidential campaign next October.

“I know I’m just going to go in full force, I’ve got nothing to hide, and we feel very confident in our policy and in selling our policy,” McFaul told the New York Times a week later, on January 23.  “I ain’t going nowhere else . . . And so I am here to do that in a very, very aggressive way.”

McFaul was true to his word.  Over the ensuing ten days he went on to address the Russian public on Moscow’s Echo Radio, a bastion of the opposition, and to give an interview to Kommersant, the most influential pro-Western newspaper.  He also posted a two-minute video on YouTube introducing himself to the people of Russia, in which he tactlessly announced that the United States would “help” or “assist” the people of Russia.  As one American diplomat has noted, “Of all things Russians dislike most about foreigners,...

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