The Fall Of McFaul

I keep forgetting to post about this article I found several weeks ago. It’s from February 2014 and I missed it back then—I was probably having grad school angst or something like that—but it’s still an interesting read. It concerns everyone’s favorite ambassador to the Russian Federation, Michael McFaul. Back when McFaul was ambassador, I used to read about him a lot. Then I stopped because he had so many embarrassing gaffes that I started to despair after a while.

The announcement that the US Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Michael McFaul, will resign after the Olympic Games in Sochi comes just over two years after he assumed the post. At the time, his appointment was greeted with enthusiasm from his many admirers in the Washington foreign-policy establishment. The prevailing view was captured in a fawning profile in the pages of Foreign Policy in which he was described as a ‘brilliant scholar’; as ‘a man of profound intellectual and personal integrity’; and ‘with his shock of blond hair, Hollywood handsome.’

I wish I could say that last sentence was an exaggeration… but it’s not. I read the very article the author references. I believe it’s right here and unfortunately may be behind a paywall.

The reaction to the appointment among the professionals over at Foggy Bottom was somewhat less ecstatic. Those familiar with McFaul’s work as the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs noted with disdain that it was he who was responsible for the memorable ‘reset’ button flub which saw Secretary Clinton hand a ‘reset’ button to the Russian foreign minister that was instead labeled with the Russian word for ‘overcharge.’

It’s also important to note that the word they put on that fateful “reset button” can also be translated as “reload,” as in to reload a weapon. Back when that happened, I believed it to be an honest mistake. Now, I’m not so sure.

Worse was the perception among some career officers that McFaul out-maneuvered the sitting Ambassador to gain the post in Russia. As 2012 approached, the assumption at State was that the widely respected John Beyrle would be reappointed as Washington’s man in Moscow. By all accounts Beyrle had excellent relations with his counterparts in the Russian government and was widely admired by the Embassy staff. The speculation is that McFaul, as the 2012 elections approached, was uncertain of Obama’s reelection chances and persuaded the President to unceremoniously drop the experienced and long-serving Foreign Service officer Beyrle and appoint him in Beyrle’s stead.

If this is true, it’s a crying shame. Beyrle was an excellent ambassador. The Russians loved him, probably in part due to his open admiration of Russian language and culture, in addition to his excellent Russian language skills. They may not have always liked what the US government did, but they respected Beyrle for putting so much effort into mastering the Russian language.

There’s more to the article, but I’m not going to quote it here because it’s pretty much more of the same thing. It’s not long and I’d highly suggest reading the rest.


Russia Orders Snap Test of Nuclear Missiles

That awkward moment when Russia orders a snap test of its nuclear missiles… right after abruptly ending cooperation with the US that allowed for monitoring and securing of Russia’s military stockpile.

Russia has ordered a snap drill of its Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN), which control the country’s 305 land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads, according to a statement issued by the unit’s high command today [i.e. January 20, because I forgot to post about this article until today!].

“More than 1,200 servicemen have been drafted to take part in the test exercises,” Colonel Igor Yegorov from the RVSN said. “Throughout 2015, we have planned at least four similar such drills,” he added.

I’m not saying I have inside information or anything—because I most definitely do not—but I’m willing to bet that the intelligence community is still skimping on Russia analysts. (In 2011, a recruiter told me that there was basically no money to hire anyone specializing in Russia and that all the money was going towards those with Chinese or Arabic language skills.) Because, you know, in this post Cold War era, how could we possibly have competition with Russia, am I right or what?!?

No September 11 Post

I used to write a memorial post on September 11. You can read one here. I haven’t for the past two years, though, and I am not going to this year.

The reason why is that I’m disgusted. September 11, 2001 wasn’t that long ago in the whole scheme of things. Yet, everyone seems to have forgotten about it. It bothers me that in my generation, what should have been a turning point and seminal event is just viewed as history now, and something that can’t (and won’t) happen again.

So instead, I am going to work on my novel, then go read for a bit, then go to bed. I’m not going to spend time trying to convince people that the events of September 11, 2001 are more important today than ever before. (Have you read the news about the Middle East lately?) It’s not worth my time and honestly, I really don’t know if I care about persuading people anymore.

Murdered Journalists, Hypocritical Liberals, And Soviet Nuclear Threats

By now you’ve probably heard the horrible news that yet another American has died at the hands of the disgusting Islamic terrorists commonly known as the “Islamic State.” The BBC article I linked to seems to think that the murder of these journalists is proof that American airstrikes are hurting the Islamic State; I’m not sure I agree, but that isn’t the point of this post.

The first point is this: it’s amazing that for years, starting in 2003 or so, the liberals in the United States parroted the stupid rhyme that “Bush lied, people died.” People did die when Bush was president (but show me a president with a truly bloodless tenure and I’ll show you a cat with wings). People are also dying with Obama as president and I haven’t heard a peep out of these allegedly “humanitarian” liberals so concerned with human rights in the third world (and the occasional American soldier, when it suits them). (Realize I’m not just talking about Americans dying now: there are a ton of innocent people dying in Iraq from that stupid Islamic State. Somehow that doesn’t seem to bother the liberals much anymore, though.)

The second, and more important, point is: what the hell is the American government doing letting all this happen? The only duty a government has is to protect its people from external threats—and considering the taxes taken out of each of my paychecks, we Americans deserve a lot of protection! Instead of actually saying something of substance to the Islamic State—say, stop it or we’ll nuke you—all the president says (through his mouthpiece, the White House spokesman John Earnest, of course) that we are “thinking” of the murdered journalists. I’m sure all those thoughts are doing Steven Sotloff and James Foley a whole lot of good right now… not.

What, threats of nuclear annihilation don’t work, you say? I beg to differ: they can be quite effective. Observe the following passage from John R. Schindler’s Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qa’ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad, pages 135-36.

…Only rarely did Mughniyah slip up. One operation that didn’t go according to plan was the October 1985 kidnapping of four Soviet diplomats in Beirut—a political attaché, the embassy’s doctor, and two KGB officers. Mughniyah miscalculated as the Soviets weren’t inclined to use wait-and-see tactics when its representatives were taken hostage. After one Soviet was executed, the KGB retaliated in Beirut and reportedly threatened that a nuclear bomb would be dropped on the Iranian holy city of Qom if the remaining hostages weren’t at once. Israeli intelligence intercepted encrypted messages between Hizballah and Tehran that revealed Iranian control of the operation—and that Moscow’s threat worked. The Soviet officials were released without further harm.

I don’t like the Soviet Union one bit, but I can’t help but admire such an effective show of strength. (Note: this is one reason why I wish the US and Russia were close allies. I want such rhetoric from someone on my side, not an enemy.)

And I also want the government to stand up for all Americans, no matter where they are in the world. Is it really asking too much for my fellow citizens to elect someone who isn’t a spineless coward? I suppose it is, unfortunately.

A Bad Idea: Deploy Forces To The Baltics

This editorial in the Wall Street Journal is bad on so many levels:

We should reassure the Baltic States by deploying forces in those countries. A permanent deployment would contravene the NATO-Russia Founding Act, but a rotating force could be consistent with the Act while indicating to Russia how seriously we take their military actions.

And this is written by a former Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. They ought to know better. Deploying forces to the Baltic countries would only escalate events in Eastern Europe. And then there’s the whole issue of this technically not being legal in the first place. Nice to know that former government officials are advocating circumventing the law, right?

I’m sure some would disagree, but remember, I think NATO has been irrelevant since the end of the Cold War.

This Is Why I Won’t Join The CIA

From a post on John Schindler’s fabulous blog:

According to the report, the U.S. Government, with (unstated) IC support, in late 2009 began dispatching Venezuelan, Costa Rican, and Peruvian young people to Cuba to stir up trouble for Castro. Some posed as tourists, others as health care personnel, some of whom used an HIV prevention program as cover. But their mission, to “identify potential social-change actors,” never stood any chance of success.


What tough and realistic training did our operatives receive to fend off hard-charging Cuban CI before they were sent into the lion’s den? None. As the AP explains, “One said he got a paltry, 30-minute seminar on how to evade Cuban intelligence, and there appeared to be no safety net for the inexperienced workers if they were caught.” In other words: sayonara, sucker.

The emphasis is mine. I call your attention to it because I don’t like that idea one bit. I know being a spy in an enemy country is inherently risky, but abandoning people to their fate is something that doesn’t sit well with me.

Ultimately, it’s the CIA’s loss because I have some mad Russian skillz over here, you know? But in all seriousness, there’s a special place in Hell for whomever made the decision not to at least train those agents properly.

Russia’s (Ignored) Militarization

This graphic, found on this diplomat’s Twitter account, is interesting yet infuriating. Let’s see how well you all know me: what do I find most infuriating about it?

Click to see larger
Click to see larger

No, it’s not that Russian military expenditures rose and the United States’ dropped (though that is annoying—I want my country to spend properly on defense, too). It’s the headline of the graphic: “The world missed Russia’s militarization!” I’ve been calling Russia a strong, rising power for, oh, just about six years now. (Cut me some slack: back in 2003 I was in middle school and didn’t know anything about current events. No one knew back then that I was a future Russia specialist, least of all me!)

For years, people scoffed and didn’t listen to me when I told them that Russia is a once and future world power and should be respected as such. “It’s demographically in the toilet!” they told me. “Why are you bothering to learn Russian? Study Arabic or Chinese instead!” Then suddenly all this stuff in Ukraine erupts and the whole world wakes up to a rising Russia.

The curse of being ahead of one’s time is watching one’s predictions come true while getting none of the credit for predicting it.

Russian Bombers Fly Off Of California Coast

Last week, four Russian strategic bombers flew within fifty miles of the California coast.

A plane like this can carry nuclear missiles. It was within 50 miles of the coast of California last week.
A plane like this can carry nuclear missiles. It was within 50 miles of the coast of California last week.

Four Russian strategic bombers triggered U.S. air defense systems while conducting practice bombing runs near Alaska this week, with two of the Tu-95 Bear H aircraft coming within 50 miles of the California coast, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) confirmed Wednesday.

“The last time we saw anything similar was two years ago on the Fourth of July,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Norad spokesman, told the Free Beacon.

Davis said the latest Bear H incursions began Monday around 4:30 p.m. Pacific time when radar detected the four turbo-prop powered bombers approaching the U.S. air defense zone near the far western Aleutian Islands.

Two U.S. Air Force F-22 jets were scrambled and intercepted the bombers over the Aleutians.

After tracking the bombers as they flew eastward, two of the four Bears turned around and headed west toward the Russian Far East. The bombers are believed to be based at the Russian strategic base near Anadyr, Russia.

The remaining two nuclear-capable bombers then flew southeast and around 9:30 P.M. entered the U.S. northern air defense zone off the coast of Northern California.

Two U.S. F-15 jets were deployed and intercepted the bombers as they eventually flew within 50 miles of the coast before turning around and heading west.


Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a former Alaska commander for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said he does not remember a case of Russian strategic bombers coming that close to the U.S. coast.

“Again we see the Obama administration through their covert—but overt to Mr. Putin—unilateral disarmament, inviting adventurism by the Russians,” McInerney said in an email.

“At the height of the Cold War I do not remember them getting this close. Mr. Putin had to approve this mission and he is just showing his personal contempt for President Obama right after meeting him in Normandy less than a week ago,” McInerney said.

McInerney said no American president has been treated with such disrespect in U.S. history.

So, US government, still think it was a good idea to cut all those Russian studies programs after the end of the Cold War?

(I meant for that question to be rhetorical, but the sad thing is the government probably still doesn’t see the error of its ways.)

About That Russian Fighter Jet

This story is too priceless not to blog about. Apparently a Russian fighter jet flew within 100 feet of an American fighter jet over international waters off the coast of Japan. This paragraph is just too funny:

The Russian aircraft manoeuvred aggressively and exposed its belly to the American pilots to demonstrate it was armed with air-to-air missiles, Defense News and CNN reported.

How’s that reset working out for you, US government??