Great. With the elevation of Susan Rice to national security advisor, my country’s ridiculous policy towards Russia has become even more embarrassing. That’s really saying something, considering how horrid the current administration’s policy has been for the past four years. In case you’ve forgotten, I shall remind you.
First, there was that reset button fiasco. Briefly: an Obama advisor, Stanford Professor Michael McFaul (who currently serves as the US ambassador to Russia) came up with this silly idea to “reset” relations with Russia. To demonstrate commitment to this idea, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her Russian counterpart a massive button with the word “reset” on it in English and Russian.
Even if you don’t speak Russian, you can see the problem immediately: Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, but there’s no Cyrillic on that button.
Russian speakers can recognize the main issue: that word on there does not translate to reset. The media reported that it means “overcharge,” as Lavrov said. (For the record, the word they were probably looking for was сброс [sbros], according to my Russian professor. Though I suppose перезагрузка [perezagruzka] works, too.)
Then there was that incident back in early 2012, when the newly appointed ambassador, the aforementioned Michael McFaul, freaked out at a journalist – in public. He accused the Russian media of aggressively following him around. Whether that was true or not is irrelevant. What remains true is he acted in a very inappropriate and undiplomatic manner. Here’s the video of his outburst, on the internet for all the world to see.
In the video, the red-haired journalist asks him what he and Lev Ponamaryov (a Russian human rights activist) will be discussing. The ambassador quickly becomes annoyed and says, “He’s my friend, I’ve known him twenty-five years. We’re going to meet…. This is normal.” The rant goes on for almost five minutes.
And if that video isn’t bad enough, there’s the fact that McFaul speaks terrible Russian. I really miss the prior ambassador, John Beyrle. He acted like an ambassador is supposed to act (and on top of that, he speaks absolutely beautiful Russian).
According to this article on Foreign Policy (which does say that John Kerry is doing a decent job in interacting with Sergei Lavrov and that former national security advisor Tom Donilon had decent relations with the Russians), things are going to get worse.
Together, Rice and [Samantha] Power [the US ambassador to the United Nations] stand for a more muscular policy of humanitarian interventionism, which the Kremlin sees as a means to promote U.S. global domination.
I know a president probably does not choose his nominees based on how they will affect relations with Russia,* but this Russia watcher and Russophile is still disappointed. I like Russia and I want the United States to have decent relations with it. Admittedly, at this point these are just predictions, but things aren’t looking so great for US-Russia relations right now.
*But you know I’d be different if I were president. I would choose advisors and appoint officials who held views similar to my own, including on Russia. I do recognize, though, that my love of all things Russia-related would probably eliminate me from running for president. Can you imagine how my opponents would castigate me? “She’s un-American because she speaks Russian!!!” is what they’d all scream.