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

In the News

FAQ: Is A Russia-U.S. Prisoner Swap Possible?

quoting Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Thursday, June 18, 2020

MOSCOW — For the year and a half that former Marine Paul Whelan was held in a Russian prison on espionage charges, there was speculation that securing his release would ultimately involve a prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow.


Michael McFaul: Russia Sentences Former U.S. Marine To 16 Years On Spying Charges In ‘Secret Conviction’

interview with Michael McFaulvia Yahoo News
Monday, June 15, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Michael McFaul discusses the sentencing of ex U.S. marine Paul Whelan, saying that the American's conviction for espionage was based on 'shaky' evidence after a closed trial in Russian court.


Larry Diamond: Our Democracy Depends On A Safe Election In November

interview with Larry Diamond, Michael McFaulvia Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Larry Diamond discusses what needs to be done to ensure a healthy election with Nathaniel Persily and Michael McFaul.


The Pandemic Shows That Putin Is Not A Strong Leader

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 20, 2020

When the novel coronavirus pandemic began, President Vladimir Putin tried to use the crisis to burnish his reputation as a stronger leader and Russia as an effective state. At first, the Russian leader boasted that his country had escaped the worst, implicitly citing this success as yet more evidence of his own forceful leadership. State-controlled media outlets trumpeted Russia’s success while gloating over American failures. 

Analysis and Commentary

We Need To Start Preparing For The November Election — Now

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The presidential election on Nov. 3 will be one the most consequential votes in the history of American democracy. Make no mistake: this is not just an election about differing policies. Nor is it only about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden. The very legitimacy of our system is at stake — with profound consequences for the future of global democracy and the United States’ place in the world.

Analysis and Commentary

It’s Imperative For The U.S. And China To Work Together On The Coronavirus Pandemic

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Thursday, March 26, 2020

The novel coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated already tense relations between the United States and China. Even before the coronavirus came along, many experts were already describing the relationship between the two countries as a “new Cold War” or “Cold War 2.0.” But now, the virus has added a new accelerant to the confrontation — with both sides now blaming each other for creating and spreading the disease.


Michael McFaul On Leaks And Russia Interference: "This Is Secret Information, These Are Supposed To Be Secret Briefings"

interview with Michael McFaulvia Real Clear Politics
Monday, February 24, 2020

Hoover Institution fellow Michael McFaul questions the intelligence community for evidence to back up their conclusion that Russians prefer President Trump as the Republican nominee and Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for president. McFaul also criticized the Obama administration for the lack of action after receiving intelligence in October 2016 about Russian interference on behalf of Trump.

Analysis and Commentary

Thanks For Defending Democracy, Mike Pompeo.

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Friday, February 21, 2020

The organizers of the Munich Security Conference this year gave everyone a prompt: “Westlessness. Discuss.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took the challenge seriously by forcefully rebutting the hypothesis of Western decline. In his speech at this annual gathering of foreign policy professionals from around the world, Pompeo argued that “the West is winning.” 


Be Prepared To Fight A Dangerous New Wave Of Disinformation During The Senate Trial

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Monday, January 13, 2020

During her testimony in the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings last year, former National Security Council senior director Fiona Hill scolded U.S. representatives for believing and sometimes echoing Russian-inspired disinformation about alleged Ukrainian interference in our 2016 presidential election. She stated bluntly: “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

FeaturedNational Security

Is Maximum Pressure On Iran Likely To Work?

by Michael McFaul, Abbas Milanivia The New York Review of Books
Wednesday, January 8, 2020

In a major speech in May 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined how the Trump administration sought to make Americans more secure from attack by Iran, deny that adversary a path to acquiring nuclear weapons, stop Iranian-backed terrorism, and reduce Iranian influence in the Middle East.