Articles and Essays

McFaul in the Quad

The following are selected academic articles and policy essays.

October 1, 2018

Is Putinism the Russian Norm or an Aberration?

Current History

Vladimir Putin has ruled Russia for so long that it’s hard to imagine Russia without him. He has been Russia’s central decision maker as president or prime minister for nearly two decades, with six more years left in his current presidential term and the possibility of amending the constitution to remain in power even longer. He is likely to go down in history as one of Russia’s longest-serving leaders—though he still has many years to go to match Ivan the Terrible, who was tsar for more than five decades.

July 18, 2018

The U.S. Needs a Russia Strategy Now More Than Ever | The Real Lesson From the Helsinki Summit

Foreign Affairs

U.S. President Donald Trump shocked the world earlier this week when, standing side by side with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he refused to accept the basic facts of the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump appeared to back Putin over his own intelligence community, saying during a press conference in Helsinki, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that hacked into Democratic Party servers. In that one answer, Trump guaranteed that the Helsinki summit would become a historic moment in U.S.-Russian relations. Although he later tried to reverse

July 13, 2018

What’s it like to meet Putin face to face?


Looking ahead to the Helsinki summit, FSI director Michael McFaul recalls President Obama’s first meeting with then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2009. Excerpt: From Cold War to Hot Peace, published with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

June 15, 2018

Russia as It Is: A Grand Strategy for Confronting Putin

Foreign Policy

Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated to their most dangerous point in decades. The current situation is not, as many have dubbed it, a new Cold War. But no one should draw much comfort from the ways in which today’s standoff differs from the earlier one. The quantitative nuclear arms race is over, but Russia and the United States have begun a new qualitative arms race in nuclear delivery vehicles, missile defenses, and digital weapons. The two countries are no longer engulfed in proxy wars, but over the last decade, Russia has demonstrated less and less restraint in

May 19, 2018

Putin Hazed Me: How I Was Stalked, Harassed and Surveilled by Kremlin Stooges


In the fall of 2012, for reasons that remain mysterious to me, it became clear that my family and I were being followed. I had been in Moscow as ambassador then for less than a year. As I wrote to the head of our security team on October 7, “My guards informed me that I was followed today while attending my son’s soccer game. And they then kept with us as we went to McDonald’s.” My head of security replied that if we saw them, it was because they wanted us to see them.

May 4, 2018

The Cold War is over, but there’s ‘Hot Peace’ between the U.S. and Russia

The Globe and Mail
April 1, 2018

Choosing Autocracy: Actors, Institutions, and Revolution in the Erosion of Russian Democracy

Comparative Politics

Russia's present system of government did not result inevitably from historical structures, that is from cultural, geographic, or socio-economic inheritances from the Soviet or tsarist past. Russia's hundreds of years of autocratic traditions made democratic consolidation in the 1990s harder, but not impossible. Rather, individual choices at pivotal moments in time pushed Russia towards a more autocratic path in the 2000s and then produced a reordering of preferences and power in favor of continuity with this new autocratic arrangement. Actors, not structures, were the drivers of these changes

February 3, 2017

A 'City on a Hill' as a Fortress in a Moat

The Atlantic

With Abbas Milani and Larry Diamond | America, born with the aspiration of becoming “a city on a hill,” faces the serious danger of becoming a fortress, deluded in the belief that walls and airport detention rooms will offer security and prosperity. Through hard work, entrepreneurship, and complete allegiance to their adopted country, generations of immigrants helped create the most prosperous, powerful, and open society in human history. Throughout American history, but especially in the last two decades, immigrants have risen to the forefront of the country’s business, technology, science

January 6, 2017

How Trump Can Play Nice With Russia, Without Selling Out America

Foreign Policy

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was a whirlwind of vagaries and contradictions when it came to foreign policy, making it difficult to predict how his new administration will approach dozens of international issues. On Russia, however, he was clear and consistent. He praised President Vladimir Putin often, defended many of Putin’s policies, and declared with enthusiasm, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia?” Since his election, Trump has persisted in defending Putin, questioning in multiple tweets and comments the intelligence community’s assessment

December 8, 2016

Reading Reagan in Tehran: A Strategy of Realistic Engagement

The Washington Quarterly

With Abbas Milani | On January 21, 2017, President Donald Trump and his new national security team will launch their foreign policy reviews. Along with China, Russia, and the Islamic State (IS), a review of U.S. policy toward Iran is sure to rank at the top of this list. (...) On the campaign trail, Trump repeatedly called that agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)1between the P5+1 and Iran,“one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history.” (...) Trump's promised course of action would be a serious mistake.