Articles and Essays

McFaul in the Quad

The following are selected academic articles and policy essays.

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

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. 

July 30, 2016

How to Counter the Putin Playbook

The New York Times

A quarter-century ago, at the end of the Cold War, it seemed that only democracies promoted their values abroad. Today, autocracies have entered the arena again, exporting their ideas and methods — even to the United States. Everywhere, autocrats are pushing back against democrats, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is the de facto leader of this global movement.

August 3, 2015

Who Lost Russia (This Time)? Vladimir Putin

The Washington Quarterly

With Kathryn Stoner | In the late 1990s, as Russia’s economy descended into a death spiral — eventually culminating in the August 1998 crash of the ruble and the government’s default on its international loan commitments — a series of books and articles appeared asking, “Who Lost Russia?” Fingers pointed in many directions, but almost all to the West: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), NATO, President Bill Clinton, and then later in the next decade, President George W. Bush.