When Michael McFaul steps down from his post as Washington’s ambassador to Moscow later this month, he will return to Stanford where he is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) and a former director of the institute’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).
Announcing his decision this week to leave Russia following the Winter Olympics, McFaul wrote on his blog that "it is time to come home."
"We are immensely proud of the service Michael McFaul has rendered in these past five years of steering U.S. policy toward Russia, first at the National Security Council and then for the past two years as U.S. Ambassador to Russia," said CDDRL Director Larry Diamond. "During this time, he has navigated skillfully through some of the toughest challenges in U.S. foreign policy, showing that it is possible for the United States to advance its strategic interests while also standing up for its values of freedom, democracy and an open society."
At Stanford, McFaul will resume his academic activities as a professor in the department of political science, a resident faculty member at CDDRL and the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.
"Ambassador McFaul's return is a sterling opportunity for Stanford and FSI," said FSI Director Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. "His unique experience as a diplomat and a leading scholar are enormous assets to our centers and educational programs, and to the entire university."
McFaul has worked in the Obama administration for the past five years, and was tapped as ambassador in 2011. He arrived in Russia with the mandate to reset relations with Moscow, which proved to be challenging in a political climate marked by increasing tensions between the two countries. From the ban on U.S. adoptions to the Edward Snowden affair, McFaul faced many setbacks as he embarked on his political mandate.
Nevertheless, McFaul leaves Moscow citing major gains in improving trade and tourism between the two countries, having worked to secure Russia's membership to the World Trade Organization and a new visa regime. He was also integral to negotiating the historic agreement with Russia to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised McFaul's service in a statement released by the U.S. State Department, "From the New START Treaty to securing Russian cooperation on Iran’s nuclear program, to resupplying our troops in Afghanistan and expanding our trade, there’s scarcely an issue in our bilateral agenda that didn’t benefit from Mike’s steady hand and good old fashioned willpower."
Kerry continued to commend McFaul's deep commitment and engagement with Russian civil society on human rights and the independent media, which often invoked tension with the Russian government.
McFaul was a trailblazer in public diplomacy, using the social media platforms Twitter and Facebook to connect to audiences in Russia and beyond. In his blog, McFaul admits to never having sent a tweet before his time as ambassador but now reaches over 60,000 followers through his Twitter account.
"He grasped the importance of social media in an information age, but he also grasped a much more essential truth: that all people everywhere should be able to express themselves and, ultimately, determine how they are governed," said Kerry. "That’s an enduring conviction, and Mike leaves behind an enduring legacy."