Michael McFaul: Not Exactly Russian Ambassador Material
The statement read by Michael McFaul to the U.S. Congress at the outset of his confirmation hearings to assume the post of U.S. ambassador to Russia was so full of misleading statements that it might as well have been made by a Russian spy -- or Vladimir Putin himself. If this man is confirmed as our next ambassador to the Putin dictatorship, it will be one of the great blunders in the history of the U.S. Congress.
McFaul begins his statement in the manner of a classic propagandist, talking about his charming family and his boyhood in Montana and his bright-eyed idealism. McFaul obviously felt he needed to distract the attention of the Congress from the total failure of American policy on Russia, a failure which has resulted in Vladimir Putin, a proud KGB spy who hates America like the plague, returning to power as president for life. McFaul chose to completely ignore this topic in his speech. In fact, McFaul did not say the word "Putin" even once -- not once -- in his entire presentation.
After that, McFaul simply deluged the Congress with a torrent of propaganda tricks, hoping the Congress would be so exhausted by the effort necessary to sort out the truth that it would simply stop trying.
Let's start with the biggest distraction of them all. McFaul stated: "U.S. government officials have spoken out publicly and consistently about democratic erosion and human rights abuses in Russia. We created a website to catalogue our public pronouncements, which now contains over 80 statements related to democracy and human rights issues in Russia."
The truth is substantially less flattering to McFaul and his boss, Barack H. Obama.
First of all, of course, publishing comments on an obscure website nobody ever reads is hardly something to brag about, hardly a substitute for real policy measures. What would be meaningful would be if high-ranking officials in the Obama administration, at the very least, spoke to the mainstream media and drove reporting about Russia's outrageous assault on American values. Maybe even a speech like Ronald Reagan gave in Berlin, demanding that Mr. Gorbachev "tear down this wall." McFaul didn't care to tell the Congress that the Obama administration has assiduously avoided doing anything remotely like that in order to keep from offending the Putin regime so that Obama's people could continue to put forth propaganda about foreign policy success in Russia.
Then, even on McFaul's own terms, the vast majority of the "pronouncements" consist of statements buried in press releases from obscure State Department bureaucrats that deal with a wide variety of topics other than Russian democracy and human rights. Very few of the "80 statement[s]" reflect pronouncements by high-level Obama officials focused on Russian democracy and human rights alone.
But even so, one might soften one's view if, at least, there was significant real content on the website McFaul referred to. Upon reading it, though, one has to assume that McFaul took the Congress for a bunch of fools who wouldn't take the time to click his link. Because the content is just not there.
The website shows that it has been nearly four months since a high-ranking official took Russia to task on a specific issue. Hillary Clinton did it on June 22, 2011, when she rebuked the Putin regime for refusing to register a new opposition political party for shamelessly political reasons. And although the rhetoric in the statement is quite tough, there is absolutely no hint of any policy response that the Obama administration would make to the Kremlin -- not even any reference to a direct communication expressing American opposition. Certainly, the Obama administration did nothing to reach out to the political leaders who had just been silenced in order to show those leaders American support, much less did it cut off any benefit to Russia or impose any sanction.
Nothing whatsoever was said about Russia between July 28 and October 6, 2011. No comment at all was made when Vladimir Putin announced his return to power as president for life, admitting that he had decided to do so, with Dmitri Medvedev's open consent, several years ago, having misrepresented to everyone at that time that the question had not been decided. No comment was made because, of course, the Obama government actively helped Putin maintain the pretense that he might not retake power, that Medvedev was a "real" president rather than a sham.
In May, the website reveals, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner met with (unnamed) "Russian human rights activists." Good luck trying to find out whom he met with, or indeed any reporting of any kind in the mainstream media about this meeting. Posner ended his remarks by stating: "As partners, we should work together to address these problems, while taking note of and supporting progress." Not only did he fail to offer any kind of tangible support, but he also urged the activists to focus as much on "progress" by the Putin regime as on problems.
In April, the U.S. representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe issued a formal protest against the arrest of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators all across Russia. It was one of only two statements all year that came anywhere close to being an actual policy announcement. But it merely states that the U.S. was "concerned" about the Russian crackdown, moderates its tone by pointing to some progress, and does not make any specific request for any type of tangible policy response by the OSCE.
In an April 2010 speech to the Center for American Progress defending the Obama "reset," Undersecretary for Political Affairs William Burns stated: "The United States will also continue to be plainspoken and unapologetic about our interest in universal human rights, and our conviction that democratic institutions and the rule of law are the keys to unlocking the enormous human potential of Russia, America and any other society in the 21st century." But he did not name one single specific American policy, or even one specific Russian rights abuse, to flesh out his self-serving propaganda.
Not one of the eighty statements comes from Obama or McFaul. The highest-level statement all year came from Vice President Joe Biden in March, when he delivered a speech at Moscow State University. Biden said virtually nothing to confront Russia's young generation about the rise of the neo-Soviet state. Instead, he spent most of his time hyping the success of the Obama "reset" with disturbing phrases like "Cooperation on each of these important issues has made America more secure -- and I would argue, presumptuous of me, but I believe it's made Russia more secure." It's indeed hard to argue that Obama and McFaul have not made Russia more secure. But for McFaul to cite evidence like this as proof that he and his boss have stood up for American values is pretty ridiculous.
Finally, in January of this year, another protest was made to the OSCE, this time regarding the arrest of former Russian first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov for participating in a peaceful public protest in support of democracy and the Russian constitution. Again, there was no request for any policy action and no effort whatsoever to publicize the challenge to the Kremlin in any manner.
The links to items from prior years are discouragingly similar. One of the few statements linked to on the web page that actually emanates from the White House was a December 2009 press release which read:
The United States expresses dismay at reports that authorities in Moscow prevented Russian citizens from exercising their right to assemble peacefully. In particular, the United States notes with concern the detention of protestors, including prominent human rights defender Lyudmila Alekseyeva, and reports of their mistreatment by authorities while in custody. Freedom of speech and assembly are universal rights that all governments should recognize and defend. The United States stands with those dedicated to promoting these human rights.
The rhetoric proved utterly hollow. The U.S. did nothing at all to support and defend these activists, and it is doubtful that Obama even knows their names. After meeting with him, one of them, Oleg Kozlovsky, expressed revulsion at Obama's cowardice and dismay at the hopeless position Russia faces without his leadership.
McFaul then points to eight alleged "results" of the Obama reset, totally ignoring Putin's return to power. All eight are totally fraudulent. He points to a nuclear arms treaty which calls upon only the U.S., not Russia, to cut nuclear weapons. In fact, three of the eight points he mentions involve alleged nuclear security, essentially admitting that the U.S. chose to sacrifice American values to Russian nuclear blackmail. McFaul points to Iran, where Russia continues to block U.S. sanctions, even in the wake of the recent attempt to assassinate a Saudi diplomat on our soil. He points to Libya, whose dictatorship Russia supported (attacking U.S. policy) to the very end. He points to Russian WTO membership, without seeming aware that it hasn't happened yet -- and won't happen while Russia continues to menace Georgia, something McFaul openly admits that the U.S. has totally failed to stop.
All the while, McFaul chooses to totally ignore all the other spectacular failures of the Obama reset as far as democracy and human rights are concerned. The killers of politicians and journalists like Galina Starovoitova and Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova have not been found. Press freedom has further tightened, and local politics are less democratic than ever. National elections are even more shamelessly rigged.
Russia continues to intentionally support dictatorship across the Middle East, contributing mightily to rising oil prices so that Russia can both line its pockets and spit in America's eye. It continues to aggressively seek to undermine all the nations in post-Soviet space, with the open goal of rehabilitating the Soviet empire. And Putin continues to issue poisonous anti-American statements, most recently declaring the United States to be a nation of parasites.
With an ambassasdor like McFaul in Moscow, Putin will feel no heat.