U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said on Wednesday he was surprised with Russia’s official reaction to his statements at a meeting with Russian students last week.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday blasted McFaul’s speech delivered to students at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow saying that “his estimates of Russian-U.S. cooperation go far beyond diplomatic etiquette.”
“As a proponent of better U.S.-Russian relations, I was surprised by the official reaction to my talk at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. The central thesis of my presentation was how much U.S.-Russia officials have accomplished in the last 4 years with the “reset” in our relations,” McFaul wrote in his LiveJournal account.
Russian diplomats were particularly dismayed by McFaul’s statement about the Manas airport in Kyrgyzstan, when the American diplomat told students that Russia had “bribed” the Central Asian state in 2009 to prompt the country to shut down the U.S. military airbase there. He added that his country had also offered a bribe to Kyrgyzstan, but ten times smaller.
“The goal of my speech was to applaud how we now cooperate in Central Asia, avoid linking unrelated issues, and are relaxed about claims of internal interference. The point of my digressions into past historical practices was not to “spread blatant falsehoods”, but rather to illustrate precisely how much we have overcome by abandoning these outmoded ways of diplomacy from previous eras,” he continued in his LiveJournal account.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have spoken so colorfully and bluntly. On that, I agree and will work harder to speak more diplomatically,” McFaul added.
The U.S. ambassador has come under criticism from Russian officials and public a few times since his arrival in January. Critics accused him of supporting Russian opposition or even plotting a revolution in Russia, which McFaul fiercely denied.