For the first time since Barack Obama entered the White House, America finally has a competent and qualified ambassador to Russia in Mr. John Tefft, a tough and seasoned defender of American values in Eastern Europe. Obama’s first two choices for the job, John Beryl and Michael McFaul, left our Russia policy a smoking ruin, a horrific mess for Tefft to start cleaning up.
“Russia is part of the European culture. And I cannot imagine my own country in isolation from Europe and what we often call the civilised world. So it is hard for me to visualise NATO as an enemy. I think even posing the question this way will not do any good to Russia or the world.”
Those were the words of Russian “president” Vladimir Putin to BBC interviewer David Frost back in March 2000, just as Putin first took the formal reins of power. Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul recently tweeted them (sloppily without linking to the source material) as if for the purpose of showing that his “reset” policy towards Russia was not nearly as insane when it was implemented as it now appears.
The question Putin was referring to was: “Do you see NATO as a potential partner, or a rival or an enemy?” In order to believe that Putin might not see NATO as an enemy, one had to disregard Putin’s entire life history and all of his actions since joining the administration of Boris Yeltsin in Moscow precisely three years before the Frost interview.
And that, incredibly, was exactly what Michael McFaul was prepared to do when he assumed office in December 2011. It was one of the lowest moments in U.S. diplomatic history, following on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s humiliating use of a “reset button” physical prop to announce the policy that was incorrectly labeled in Russian.