Michael A. McFaul, a Stanford political science professor and senior fellow at the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, was confirmed by the Senate to be the next ambassador to Russia.
McFaul, President Barack Obama’s top advisor on Russia and a Bing Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, will succeed John Beyrle.
"Mike will bring to his new posting in Moscow the same intensity, clarity of vision and imagination that he demonstrated as President Obama's point person on Russia at the White House," said Coit D. Blacker, FSI’s director and the Olivier Nomellini Professor in International Studies.
The Dec. 17 voice vote confirming McFaul came on the last day the Senate was in session before its winter break. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., had held up McFaul's approval over issues with U.S. policies toward Russia.
During confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October, McFaul discussed the overall status of U.S.-Russian relations, missile defense, arms reduction agreements and trade relations.
Since the beginning of the Obama administration, McFaul has been the special assistant to the president for national security affairs and senior director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Security Council.
He served as senior adviser on Russia and Eurasia to Obama during the presidential campaign and continued to advise on foreign policy issues during the transition.
The Obama administration has achieved new momentum in relations with Russia with McFaul's involvement.
The two countries have signed the New Start arms control treaty, which calls for significant cuts in nuclear arsenals; finalized a civilian nuclear cooperation pact; forged agreement on tougher sanctions on Iran; and expanded the supply route to Afghanistan through the territory of the former Soviet Union.
The two powers now turn to the efforts to forge cooperation on missile defense in Europe and to gain Russia's admission to the World Trade Organization, as well as the challenges posed by Iran and Libya.
"This is a complex and sensitive time in the ever-evolving relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation," Blacker said. "Having an ambassador in place who gets the relationship has never been more important. For this reason above all others, Mike is the perfect choice. We are all deeply proud of Mike and all that he has accomplished."
McFaul, who has served as FSI’s deputy director and director of the institute’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, received a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Slavic languages and an master’s in Slavic and East European studies from Stanford in 1986. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, where he completed his PhD in international relations in 1991.