President Barack Obama will nominate Michael McFaul, the director of Russian and Eurasian affairs at the National Security Council, as the next U.S. ambassador to Russia, said an administration official who requested anonymity because the nomination hasn’t been formally announced.
If confirmed by the Senate, McFaul would succeed John Beyrle, a career Foreign Service officer who has been in Moscow since 2008. The decision to nominate McFaul was earlier reported by the New York Times.
The author of seven books on Russian politics, McFaul is co-head of a bilateral working group on civil society with the Kremlin’s chief political strategist, Vladislav Surkov. Before coming to Washington, he was a political science professor and the deputy director for the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
McFaul previously was a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, where he was the director of the Russian Domestic Politics Program from 1998 to 2001. He served in the same position in the Moscow Carnegie Center in 1994 and 1995.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia have improved since the George W. Bush administration, when ties were strained over an August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia and a planned missile shield in eastern Europe.
In February 2009 U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced plans to “reset” relations with Russia at the Munich Security Conference. Later that year, Obama and Medvedev brokered a new strategic arms reduction treaty, which took effect in February 2011. Biden said during a visit to Moscow in March that the countries would expand cooperation to economic issues, including U.S. support for Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization.
McFaul wasn’t discussed during the official part of talks between Medvedev and Obama in France, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing an unidentified Kremlin official. The Russian presidential administration has a “positive” opinion of McFaul, the news agency reported, citing the unidentified official.