20 years under Putin: a timeline

On October 12, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held the confirmation hearing for Michael McFaul, selected by President Obama for the position of U.S. ambassador to Russia. According to McFaul, his move to Moscow would not affect the “reset” policy.


Michael McFaul (L) is about to be relocated from Washington to Moscow as a new U.S. Ambassador to Russia


Michael McFaul was nominated for the position of U.S. Ambassador to Russia by President Obama on September 16. Before his appointment, he served as an advisor on Russian affairs to President Obama and was one of the architects of the "reset" policy in U.S.-Russia relations.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the chairman of the Subcommittee on European Affairs, and long-standing Foreign Relations Committee member Senator Richard Lugar opened the hearing by noting some improvements in U.S.-Russia relations. They then highlighted problematic issues, such as human rights violations and other undemocratic processes within Russia.

McFaul started his speech by listing the main accomplishments of the "reset" policy: the signing of the START nuclear arms treaty and Moscow's cancellation of the sale of air defense missiles to Iran. The future ambassador then turned his attention to actions taken by the U.S. government to combat human rights abuses in Russia, in particular referring to Senator Benjamin Cardin’s proposed list of Russian officials whose U.S. visa privileges should be cancelled in relation to the Sergei Magnitsky case. McFaul promised to work on all these issues while in Moscow.

Responding to questions from the Committee, McFaul ensured that the U.S. government keeps track of any antidemocratic processes and is working to ensure that problems and violations committed by the Russian government do not go unnoticed. He gave the example of Congress discussing the Magnitsky Act, which aims to impose visa and economic sanctions against the human rights abusers responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky.

Despite America’s strong commitments on these fronts, certain questions remain unresolved. An agreement still has not be reached on the problem of weapons of mass destruction and on Russian-Georgian relations (in 2008, a U.S.-backed Georgia accused Russia of illegally invading its territory).

None of these complications would impact the U.S.’s ongoing support of Russia’s accession to the WTO, insisted McFaul, who said he would cooperate with Russia as a strategically important partner. When asked about the future of the "reset" policy after Putin’s return as President, McFaul responded that he did not expect any radical changes because Putin was directly or indirectly involved throughout the ‘reset’ implementation and would most likely adhere to the same line of thinking.