Kremlin berates ‘undiplomatic’ US envoy
A top Kremlin official told the United States ambassador to Moscow to behave more diplomatically on Tuesday as the envoy was slapped down over a controversial speech to Russian students.
President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters that Michael McFaul should not disrupt efforts by the two countries’ leaders to improve relations, accusing him of instead sowing “discord”.
“I was an ambassador in the US for almost 10 years,” Ushakov said. “The principle that I followed, it’s quite simple and is followed by practically all ambassadors: they should defend the interests of their country positively.”
“The leadership of both countries is aiming for constructive mutual work, and… ambassadors should act in the same spirit and not bring discord into the work of their own leadership.”
“One should not try to be undiplomatic, but try to be diplomatic,” Ushakov said. “This will help him.”
Ambassador McFaul was forced Monday evening to defend himself after Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed “utmost puzzlement” over his remarks Friday delivered to a group of students in Moscow Higher School of Economics.
State television reported that McFaul said that Russia offered former Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan a massive loan to shut the US military base there, a source of irritation, implying Moscow was trying to bribe its partner.
The ministry said his “unprofessional” remarks “go far beyond the boundary of diplomatic etiquette, in fact they deliberately distort several aspects of Russian-American dialogue.”
It also defended Russia’s English language channel Russia Today over which McFaul apparently “had cast a shadow”.
The speech itself was not available from either the Higher School of Economics or the embassy Tuesday.
McFaul, who is a prolific and frank Twitter blogger, wrote in defence that his speech “highlighted over 20 positive results of ‘reset’,” though admitted that he is “still learning the craft of speaking more diplomatically.”
He also posted the slides shown during his speech full of pictures from bilateral meetings and bullet points of various issues of cooperation such as the Afghan transit route through Russia, new missile reduction treaty and increased travel between the two countries.
One of the first US ambassadors to come from an academic background, McFaul has adopted a very active presence in Moscow, frequently having to deflect verbal attacks on Twitter or clashing with television reporters who trail him.
McFaul worked for the National Security Council when Obama had attempted to “reset” ties with Russia when the Kremlin was held by Dmitry Medvedev.
The keen Kremlinologist and fluent Russian speaker is known in Moscow as the man who promoted the pro-Western “colour revolutions” that swept ex-Soviet nations in the past 10 years.
His appointment by Obama had been controversial in Russia, even before he met leaders of protests against President Vladimir Putin less than 48 hours after stepping off his Moscow-bound plane.