EDITORIAL: McFaul Speaks?


McFaul Speaks?


Michael McFaul

Here’s something you don’t see every day, a classic bit of Internet adventure.  Someone claiming to be Michael McFaul, Barack Obama’s chief Russia advisor, has posted two comments to Oleg Kozlovsky’s Facebook page under a post which Oleg also blogged in which he discussed a report quoting McFaul in the Kommersant newspaper; Kommersant reported that McFaul had said the U.S. would back away from pressuring Russian on human rights.  On Facebook (screenshot after the jump for those without Facebook accounts) “Michael McFaul” wrote:

Kommersant grossly misquoted me. See Interfax transcript if you want to see what I really said. And anyone who knows anything about my thinking would be suspicious of such an assessment of my views.

LR founder and publisher Kim Zigfeld has intiated a little dialogue with “McFaul” using our Facebook account, for those who are Facebook members and wish to follow it, for what it is worth.  We’ve previously discussed McFaul’s alleged appeasing statements to Kommersant .  Obviously, they tended to seriously undermine the impetus to stand up to Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship, and although McFaul claims not to have made them there is scant evidence of either he or Barack Obama saying anything to the contrary, directly challenging Putin on human rights, since Obama came to power.  In other words, perhaps what’s most troubling about the McFaul quote was that it was credible, not whether it was actually true or not.

It’s pretty weird, to say the least, that Barack Obama’s top advisor on Russia would choose to disavow the Kommersant report for the first time in English on the blog of a Russian opposition activist rather than in the mainstream U.S. press, and even weirder that he would wait so long to do it.  Of course, Facebook being what it is anyone can impersonate anyone, although the person calling himself “Michael McFaul” has been on Facebook for some time now and apparently no action has been taken to silence him.

Now we’re the first ones to admit that McFaul could easily be feeling rather betrayed by the Obama administration, and certainly could not say so publicly.  His outburst on Facebook, if it was really him, would be consistent with such an attitude.  But we’re not prepared to accept that.  If McFaul doesn’t agree with the Obama administration’s craven silence on human rights and democracy issues, he should resign. And then he should say so, and challenge Obama to do better.

In any case, he has an absolute obligation to speak to the mainstream press and set the record straight on the Kommersant story, not sit around and hope somebody will notice a comment on Kozlovsky’s Facebook page.


The fact is, it shouldn’t be possible for anyone to believe McFaul or Obama would have said the things Kommersant reported. But they did. And they believed it beacause Obama’s positions on Russian human rights and democracy have been weak, craven, wishy-washy, uninformed and dangerous to both causes. They’ve given Putin the idea he can continue his crackdown with impunity, and he’s done so.

It’s McFaul’s fault, and it’s Obama’s. They have precious little time to change course before history marks them down as the Chamberlain regime of neo-Soviet times.

But Obama has little time to spare, of course. He’s busy with important things like Twittering. Yes, Twittering.

14 responses to “EDITORIAL: McFaul Speaks?

  1. As far as I know, this Facebook account does belong to Michael. It has been around for quite awhile (before McFaul was promoted to his current position) and a lot of our common friends have it in their friends lists.

    • Hi Oleg! It’s an honor for us to have a comment from you on our blog, especially one with your heroic face attached!

      We have no reason to think it’s not him either, and if it is it’s certainly a great indication of the fact that your message is reaching a very wide audience. Congratulations!

    • Oleg, when I say bad things about Russia. now that I mean “their” Russia. the one They are creating every day… the KGB, FSB, GRU and the rest of the mob! I do not mean good people. But I’m sorry that you have so few good people with a voice and bravery.

      I wish to see Russia a free, democratic, European country! One day!

  2. Gosh, fame at last.

    I’ve read a lot of McFaul’s work and I’ll certainly buy his new book. But the Obama administration certainly has gone out of their way to make it appear that, in countries like Russia, the promotion and defence of human rights is LESS important than strengthening ties at government level. I would love them to prove me wrong here.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in Moscow over the years, and was a student at Lumumba two years before the fires (where, as I New Zealander, I was sent instead of MGU because “we thought New Zealanders were black”.) I’ve got a group of good, worldly, educated, liberal Russian friends – people who maintain the legacies and heritage of the old intelligentsia. They’re Russia’s best and brightest, and they’re the ones suffering from this revolting Russian government. Several of them are trying to emigrate. One of them said to me a few months back that he doesn’t think Russia can stand another 10 years of Putinism, that it will collpase into anarchy, gangsterism, and civil wars. This may be overstating the case, but it’s hard to see how, in befriending Putler/Dima, the Obama administration is doing anything more than leaving the inevitable consequences of Putin’s rule for another US administration to have to deal with.

    • As a fellow New Zealander, right on Adrian.

      My concern (living in a nieghboring country to Russia, which they recently invaded) is how much damage the Putin/Medvedev MBLA group will do to Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, and other small and vulnerable states while they try and shore up an empire that is falling to pieces.

      History shows that when many “Imperial” societies are in collapse, their military efforts to maintain “greatness” actually increase right up to the point of total collapse.

      I fear that Obama has put the current Russian regime in the “too hard to change so lets make an accomodation” basket. Which is quite likely to have a very negative effect on the lives and freedoms of millions of people in Russia’s self proclaimed “sphere of influence”.

      What was it they said after WW2, never again?

      Unfortunately history usually does repeat.

    • Gee Adrian, from your post it seems they have a special college for blacks? Is this really true? We in the U.S., for the obvious reasons of our history, have some historic black universities, but I think even they admit without regard to race these days. But a black college in Russia?

  3. Obama is following Bush’s path of appeasement. We remember as Bush stayed and watched Olympics, Russian tanks rolled towards Tbilisi.

    Putin and Bush might have had an understanding between friends about Georgia.

  4. No, there’s not a special college for blacks, but the Russian University of People’s Friendship Named for Patrice Lumumba (Lumumba to everyone) was built to educate students from Soviet-friendly 3rd world countries. It’s largely Africans, Indians/Sri Lankans, and the occasional stray South Americans and Aussies/New Zealanders. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the non-white students have been routinely subjected to police extortion and assaults by members of the public. Most students don’t even travel to Yugo-Zapadnaya (the nearest, end-of the line metro station) by themselves. Even groups on “official outings” used to get hissed at, abused and assaulted. It would be all but intolerable to live in Moscow if you were black or obviously non-Slavic. People really do need to start speaking up about the degree and pervasiveness of racism in Russia.

    • Thanks Adrian. In view of your description of the situation, the name “University of People’s Friendship” sounds particularly mocking. Even George Orwell could not have invented a better name! I have no idea who this “Patrice Lumumba” is or was

  5. Andrew. If you have a face book account, send me a friend invite. I’d be interested to hear more about life in Georgia.

  6. RV If my memory serves me correct, P. Lumumba was the first President of Congo after it gained its independence from the colonial empire that ruled it (which was either France or the Netherlands).

    He was an outright communist who started to take his new nation on the road to the communistic fool’s paradise!

    A coup took place and in the overthrow he was killed. Consequently Nikita Krushev’s dictatorship turned him into a martyr and named one of its University’s after him.

  7. As an add on it most probably was the Belgian Congo.

    • Thanks Bohdan, I now vague recall this name from the 60’s. If Congo, then it must have been either French or Belgian. There was no Dutch Congo

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