Michael McFaul

Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow

Michael A. McFaul is the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution as well as a professor of political science, director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He also currently works as a news analyst for NBC.  His areas of expertise include international relations, Russian politics, comparative democratization, and American foreign policy.  From January 2012 to February 2014, he served as the US ambassador to the Russian Federation.  Before becoming ambassador, he served for three years as a special assistant to the president and senior director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council. 

He has authored and edited several books including, From Cold War to Hot Peace (2018), with Kathryn Stoner, eds., Transitions to Democracy: A Comparative Perspective (2013); Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can (2009); with Valerie Bunce and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, eds., Democracy and Authoritarianism in the Postcommunist World (2009); with Anders Aslund, eds., Revolution in Orange: The Origins of Ukraine's Democratic Breakthrough (2006); with Nikolai Petrov and Andrei Ryabov, Between Dictatorship and Democracy: Russian Postcommunist Political Reform (2004); with James Goldgeier, Power and Purpose: American Policy toward Russia after the Cold War, (2003); with Timothy Colton, Popular Choice and Managed Democracy: The Russian Elections of 1999 and 2000 (Brookings Institution Press, 2003); Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin (2001); Russia's 1996 Presidential Election: The End of Bi-Polar Politics (1997); with Tova Perlmutter, eds., Privatization, Conversion and Enterprise Reform in Russia (1995); Post-Communist Politics: Democratic Prospects in Russia and Eastern Europe (1993); and, with Sergei Markov, The Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy: Political Parties, Programs and Profiles (1993). His articles have appeared in Constitutional Political Economy, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Organization, International Security, Journal of Democracy, Political Science Quarterly, Post-Soviet Affairs, and World Politics. His op-eds have appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Politico, Time, and the Weekly Standard.

Dr. McFaul was born and raised in Montana. He received his BA in international relations and Slavic languages and his MA in Soviet and East European studies from Stanford University in 1986.  He was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford where he completed his D.Phil in international relations in 1991.

His research papers are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

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Recent Commentary

Analysis and Commentary

The Deeply Dedicated State

by Michael McFaulvia The New York Review of Books
Thursday, October 31, 2019

The State Department does not have a reputation for producing heroes. On the contrary, the department is commonly maligned in both elite and popular stereotypes as the stomping ground of drab, cautious bureaucrats. American presidents frequently celebrate the brave service of our soldiers deployed abroad, and for good reason, but rarely do our diplomats receive similar recognition.

Alexander Vindman Should Be Celebrated, Not Smeared

by Michael McFaul
Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The polarization of American political life is worsening. Although I do research and commentary on U.S. national security issues — a topic that used to be more resistant to partisan divides than other issues — even this area is no longer always conducive to rational discourse. On social media platforms, in my email correspondence and occasionally even in my voice mail, I have become accustomed to fellow Americans calling me a “traitor,” a “criminal” and other words I don’t feel comfortable writing. Sometimes the attacks include physical threats. It’s disturbing, but it is one of the costs of engaging in policy discussions in the United States in 2019. Or so I tell myself, at least.


Michael McFaul: Trump's Foreign Policy Revealed From ISIS Leader's Death

interview with Michael McFaulvia MSNBC
Monday, October 28, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Michael McFaul joins a panel to discuss the secret military mission that killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and what it means for ISIS moving forward.

In the News

For Putin, All Conspiracy Theories Lead To The West

quoting Michael McFaulvia VOA News
Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Apparently persuaded by groundless conspiracy theories of foreign meddling, the Kremlin and Russia’s security agencies seem impervious to calls for them to adopt a more relaxed approach to their critics and opposition groups.


Michael McFaul: History Is Not On Putin’s Side, Says Former U.S. Ambassador

interview with Michael McFaulvia The Moscow Times
Friday, October 18, 2019

Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul believes President Vladimir Putin is fighting against the tide of history and that Russian society will not “tolerate disenfranchisement and oppression forever.”

In the News

The Not-So-Quiet American

featuring Michael McFaulvia Boise Weekly (Idaho)
Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Talking to Michael McFaul, it's easy to get the sense that he isn't sure if he should bite his tongue, but on Oct. 15, hours before speaking before a packed Jordan Ballroom at Boise State University, he opened up about the differences between his time serving President Barack Obama and what he sees the state of U.S.-Russian relations headed under President Donald Trump.

In the News

Former U.S. Ambassador To Russia: Congress Must Hold Public Foreign Policy Hearings

quoting Michael McFaulvia Idaho Statesman
Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told Treasure Valley reporters on Monday that all elected representatives, including those working closely on U.S. foreign policy, have a responsibility to communicate with the public.


How US Foreign Policy Toward Russia Has Changed With Former Ambassador Michael McFaul

interview with Michael McFaulvia Boise State Public Radio
Friday, October 11, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Michael McFaul discusses his book From Cold War to Hot Peace, which combines history and memoir to tell the story of US-Russia relations from the fall of the Soviet Union to the new rise of the Russian President Putin.

Former U.S. Ambassador To Russia Michael McFaul 'Shocked' By Ukraine Text Messages

interview with Michael McFaul
Saturday, October 5, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Michael McFaul talks about the text messages between American and Ukrainian officials that were released earlier this week.


Here’s What A Presidential Phone Call With A Foreign Leader Looks Like In A Normal White House

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Monday, September 30, 2019

The publication of the rough transcript of the phone call — known as a “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation,” or TelCon for short — between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky inspires nostalgic memories for me. I used to participate in similar calls for President Barack Obama during my days at the National Security Council. Between the 2008 election and my departure for Moscow in 2012 to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Russia, I arranged, prepped and listened to dozens of such calls. Yet in terms of logistics and tenor, the infamous Trump-Zelensky call appears to be unlike the calls I worked on between Obama and other world leaders.