Foreign Ministry Blasts American Ambassador
The ministry criticized McFaul for ‘distorting’ several key issues involving Russia and the U.S.
Published: May 30, 2012 (Issue # 1710)
MOSCOW — The Foreign Ministry assailed U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul for comments he made to students last week, saying the ministry was “utterly shocked” and that McFaul’s remarks went “far beyond the bounds of diplomatic etiquette.”
“[The] Ambassador’s job, as we understand it, is to improve bilateral ties, not to spread blatant falsehoods through the media,” the Foreign Ministry said on its English-language Twitter account late Monday.
In a statement on its site, the ministry said McFaul’s remarks to students at the Higher School of Economics represent a “deliberate distortion” of a number of key issues, notably the U.S. military airbase in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. The ministry said it took issue in particular with McFaul’s remarks that Russia “bribed” the Kyrgyzstan government to close the base, which the U.S. has used since late 2001 to support military operations in nearby Afghanistan.
McFaul reacted to the ministry’s statements on his Twitter account, saying his talk “highlighted over 20 positive results of the ‘reset’ that our governments worked together to achieve.” McFaul is credited as the main architect of the reset policy, which has seen an improvement in relations since a low after Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia.
McFaul, who in contrast with previous ambassadors has had a career focused in academia, also said he was “still learning the craft of speaking more diplomatically.”
Questions about Kremlin-funded English-language channel Russia Today flared up as well.
“It is difficult to understand why such a supporter of freedom of speech as McFaul decided to cast a shadow on the highly professional activity of Russia Today in the U.S. It would seem that he should be pleased with the appearance of additional sources of information for American citizens,” the ministry said in the statement.
McFaul denied that he opposed the channel, pointing to comments on Twitter days earlier in which he expressed support for the channel.
“Glad RT is on in U.S. Hope Russians have same attitude about U.S. activities here. We should all be for open societies,” he wrote.
But this was not the first time tensions have risen between McFaul and the channel. McFaul called out Russia Today in February for an op-ed in which an analyst claimed that the U.S. paid for prominent opposition activist Alexei Navalny to attend Yale, writing to Russia Today’s editor via Twitter and calling the claim a “lie.”
The statements by the ministry Tuesday mirror the highly critical coverage of the ambassador by Russian media since his arrival in January.
State-run television has repeatedly alleged that McFaul, an expert on democracy promotion and the author of several books about Russian democracy, was sent by the U.S. to foment revolution.