Stanford prof nominated to Russian ambassadorship

May 30, 2011, 3:12 a.m.

White House officials said President Barack Obama plans to nominate political science professor Michael McFaul ’86 M.A. ‘86 to the post of U.S. ambassador to Russia. Pending confirmation by the Senate, McFaul will succeed John Beyrle, who assumed the role of ambassador in 2008.

Officials said Obama informed the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, of his selection last week at a G-8 meeting in France. The decision broke a longstanding tradition of bringing career diplomats to serve as envoys to Russia; in the last three decades, seven out of eight ambassadors have been career diplomats.

McFaul, 47, is a leading expert on U.S.-Russian relations and currently serves on the National Security Council as the president’s top advisor in this capacity. He was one of several Stanford professors chosen for Obama’s transition team in the months after the 2008 presidential election.

At present, the scholar-advisor is a key player in the president’s “reset” policy for U.S.-Russian relations, which, among other things, aims to promote shared economic interests and mutual understanding between the two nations.

Before rising to international prominence, McFaul was formerly the director of the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and deputy director of the Freeman Spogli Institute (FSI) for International Studies. He was named the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, but is currently on leave from this position.

McFaul’s roots on the Farm, however, stretch back to his days as an undergraduate. McFaul received his bachelor’s international relations and Slavic languages and his master’s in Slavic and East European studies in 1986. He resided in Phi Psi from 1983 to 1984. A recipient of the Rhodes scholarship, he pursued his doctoral studies in international relations at Oxford University.

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