At the same time, he came under a scorching attack from state-run Channel One television, which Tuesday questioned his past efforts to promote democracy in the country and said he was “not an expert on Russia.”
McFaul is a well-known Russia scholar from Stanford University and, as a senior White House official, helped design the Obama administration’s efforts to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations. He said before leaving from Washington for his new post that he would work hard to strengthen the relationship.
But U.S.-Russian ties have been under increasing pressure, in part because approaching elections in both countries have sharpened nationalist rhetoric. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lambasted the Obama administration for its foreign policy on issues including Syria, Iran and foreign adoptions.
Victoria Nuland, the chief State Department spokeswoman, said that “as the Russian Federation knows very well … he is one of the government’s top experts on Russia.” She said McFaul will work to increase cooperation with the Russian government, but would also “speak out clearly” and continue to meet with Russians who want to make the country more democratic.
-- Paul Richter
Photo: U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul responds to a remark by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during his swearing-in ceremony at the State Department on Jan. 10. Credit: Astrid Riecken / Getty Images