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Vzglyad, Russia

He’s Such a Dashing Young Man”


By Anna Analbayeva, Olga Gritsenko

Translated By Rina Hay

8 February 2013

Edited by Kyrstie Lane


Russia - Vzglyad - Original Article (Russian)

The U.S. Ambassador to Moscow has admitted the difficulty of communicating in the language of diplomats, and boasted of his popularity on social networking sites.

The U.S. Ambassador, Michael McFaul, has summed up the first year of his diplomatic work in Russia. Washington's representative has recalled his role in Moscow and has admitted that he found an excellent way to communicate with Russians. However, observers have suggested that McFaul's diplomatic fate was, more likely, unsuccessful.

“I cannot tell you exactly what I did in 1997 or 1999 or 2003, but my family and I will always remember 2012! I learned a tremendous amount about diplomacy, Russia, and Russians. My family also has learned a great deal,” said the diplomat.

In His Interests

“The day after President Obama’s first inauguration was my first working day as a U.S. government official, when I assumed my new job at the White House as Special Assistant to the President. Developing our new policy towards Russia was the central focus of my work.

Our new approach produced security and economic benefits for the American people. (We believe that the reset also produced tangible benefits for the Russian people, but that is for Russian citizens to assess, not me.)….

In coming to Moscow a year ago, my instructions were to maintain momentum on many of these issues as well as pursue new areas of cooperation,” wrote the diplomat in his blog.

As for achievements in bilateral relations over the past year, the ambassador said that cooperation between Russia and the U.S. was important for “American national interests” in areas such as Iran and North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, and also the opening of transit from Afghanistan.

“We also deepened our economic relationship in 2012….2012 was also a fantastic year for cultural cooperation….As we continued to cooperate on many security, economic and cultural issues in 2012, we failed to make progress in some other areas,” continued the ambassador.

“A series of new Russian government decisions and laws as well as an uptick in anti-American themes in the mass media made 2012 a more challenging time to develop a more positive agenda of cooperation between Russian and American societies,” wrote McFaul, explaining that he was talking about the closing down of USAID, law on “foreign agents” and disagreements on adoption.

However, the diplomat assured that the Obama administration would continue to cooperate with Russian authorities, including on overcoming their differences. “It is the job of the diplomat to prevent disagreements based on misconceptions and misinformation. I am honored to recommit to this mission after President Obama’s re-election,” announced the ambassador.

Diplomatic Language

The ambassador recalled that after his arrival in Moscow he actively began to experiment with social networking, and although he claimed that “it is sometimes hard to communicate in proper diplomatic language in 140 characters” and that his “spelling in Russian still needs improvement,” he found “interaction on these social media platforms an excellent way to connect directly with Russians from all over this vast country.”

Problems with diplomatic language have earlier put the ambassador into uncomfortable situations.

Even in the first month of his time in Moscow the diplomat accidentally called Russia a “wild country.” As a result he was forced to explain that he was trying to call journalists “wild,” and not the state itself.

The American diplomat caused even more noise when he said that Moscow allegedly “paid off Kyrgyzstan,” so that the leaders of the Central Asian republic would “kick out” American military personnel from the Manas air base.

“I won’t be diplomatic, I’ll say openly that your country paid off Kyrgyzstan to kick the Americans out of Manas.” “Back in 2009 Russia put a big bribe on the table to basically pay Mr. Bakiev to kick us out of Kyrgyzstan. And guess what? We tried to put on a bribe too, about ten times smaller than the bribe that your government offered. And it didn’t work out very well,” he said in a speech at the Higher School of Economics last year.

In answer, the American ambassador was told of his breaking of diplomatic ethics and open lies with just as much straightforwardness. “McFaul knows best which bribes Washington gave to whom. We can only say that, 10 years ago, the Bush administration assured us of the need to use the Manas air base for a year or two. This is not the first time that the statements and actions of Mr. McFaul, who is located in such a responsible position, have caused confusion. The ambassador's task is to promote bilateral relations, not to create irritating fabrications to the media,” the Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized.

A more curious event also happened to the American diplomat. Just before his journey to Ekaterinburg, McFaul used in his Twitter jargon a shortening of the name of this city, Yoburg [which sounds similar to a Russian swear word].

As a result, the ambassador was forced to justify himself, explaining that he had only copied this word from a post that was published by one of his followers. “I will never cut and paste again from another follower. The richness of the Russian language on Twitter continues to amaze me,” the diplomat then wrote.

Summing up McFaul's first year in Moscow, Victor Kremenyuk, Deputy Director of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies [of the Russian Academy of Sciences], said that his “diplomatic fate was unsuccessful.” “Of course, he was the same person who managed to convince President Obama of the necessity of a “reset” in relations with Russia. That is, to avoid or stop the deterioration of relations, to try to go back to a different point in time and from there to go in a different direction. That is to his credit,” Kremenyuk explained to Vzglyad. “But after his appointment, this reset began to slow down. After half a year it became clear that something was not going quite right.”

According to the expert, the ambassador came to Russia with “an interesting mood, to prove that he was such a dashing young man that he could change everything.” However, “something didn't quite go right.” “That is, I cannot say that he has had a wonderful parade of successes. Nevertheless, he remained in place, and apparently the idea of the reset also survived — that is, survived the elections and into Obama's second term as president. It seems that some of its elements and ideas will still be used to build some other kind of relations between the U.S. and Russia in the next four years,” he concluded.



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