WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama plans to nominate Michael McFaul, his top adviser on Russian policy, to be the next U.S. ambassador to Moscow, an administration official said on Sunday.
McFaul, 47, is the senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs on the White House’s National Security Council staff. He would replace John Beyrle, appointed in 2008 by George W. Bush assuming Senate confirmation.
McFaul advised Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and is said to have a strong rapport with him. He was a leading architect of the “reset” of U.S. relations with Moscow, one of Obama’s top foreign policy moves after taking office.
McFaul also took part in White House discussions about the popular uprisings in the Middle East. As an expert on the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, he saw parallels between the fall of communism there in the 1990s and uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen.
Obama advised Russian President Dmitri Medvedev of his choice of McFaul last week at a G-8 meeting in France, according to the New York Times, the first to report Obama’s choice.
The United States and Russia have signed the New Start arms treaty and completed a civilian nuclear cooperation deal during Obama’s presidency after years of tension between the two nations. Russia also has allowed the United States to use its airspace to supply U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
McFaul, a former Stanford University professor and Rhodes scholar, was a critic of Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on dissent in Russia during his presidency. He has no diplomatic experience but has written several books and papers about Russia.
Reporting by Caren Bohan; Writing by Jim Wolf; Editing by Bill Trott