The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that Russia will have to get used to U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul’s outspoken statements.
“He speaks plainly. He speaks clearly. He doesn’t mince words. He’s not a professional diplomat,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“I think that for the Russian government, the fact that he speaks clearly when things are going well and he speaks clearly when they’re going less well is something that they’re having to get used to,” Nuland told journalists.
When speaking on May 25 to students of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE), McFaul in particular said Russia had “bribed” Kyrgyzstan in 2009 to prompt the country to shut down the U.S. military airbase in Manas airport near the capital Bishkek. He added that his country had also offered a bribe to Kyrgyzstan, but ten times smaller.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday sharply criticized McFaul, the architect of a U.S.-Russian “reset” of relations, saying it was “extremely bewildered” at McFaul’s statements, which, it said, went “far beyond the boundaries of diplomatic etiquette” and were unprofessional.
McFaul responded on Monday to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s criticism by writing in his Twitter microblog that he is “still learning the craft of speaking more diplomatically.”
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.
The United States began operations at the Manas base in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to support military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It remains a key supply facility for the ongoing military campaign there.
When Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev assumed his post in December 2011, he stated that Kyrgyzstan would not prolong the lease contract with the United States, which expires in 2014, saying that he did not want a third country carrying out a retaliatory strike against the civilian airport. Pentagon officials have since been trying to persuade the Kyrgyz authorities to change their mind.