Russia ‘reset’ architect to next president: Don’t try that again

Olivier Knox
·Chief Washington Correspondent
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Michael McFaul says the next president — whoever he or she is — should not try for another ‘reset’ in relations with Russia. (Photo: U.S. State Department)

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, a key architect of President Barack Obama’s attempt to “reset” relations with Moscow, has some advice for the next president: Don’t try that again.

“Don’t say, ‘We need another reset with Russia.’ And I’m the guy that said that to the president the last time around in the Oval Office,” McFaul told Yahoo News, describing his support for the effort to reboot relations with Russia in 2009.

“I think it was the right decision in terms of a policy pivot then. It would be the wrong policy pivot this time around,” he said.

The former diplomat, now a political science professor at Stanford University and fellow at its Hoover Institution, was speaking in an interview with Yahoo News on POTUS SiriusXM.

Before becoming the ambassador to Moscow, McFaul served as the top Russia advisor on Obama’s National Security Council. In that capacity, he was a key player in the decision to try to “reset” relations with Moscow, which had steadily deteriorated throughout George W. Bush’s time in office.

The effort — championed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who now hopes to succeed Obama — paid some early diplomatic dividends, notably Russian acceptance of a new START treaty to reduce nuclear arsenals, greater cooperation on sanctions against Iran, and the reopening of air routes to resupply American forces in Afghanistan.

But most experts agree that the policy now lies in tatters, with Russian President Vladimir Putin openly fueling anti-American sentiment at home and pursuing confrontational policies abroad, such as the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of its Crimea region.

But McFaul agreed that the tense relationship with Russia does not amount to a new Cold War.

And he delivered an assessment of Putin’s strategy in Ukraine, saying it has made even some of his allies nervous about Moscow’s “neoimperial turn.”