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

From Cold War To Hot Peace

by Michael McFaulvia Medium
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

As Air Force One began its initial descent into Prague on a clear, sunny day in April 2010, President Obama asked Gary Samore and me to join him in his office at the front of the plane to run over the final talking points for his meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev later that day. The president was in an ebullient mood. In the same city a year earlier, Obama had given what may have been his most important foreign policy speech to date, calling for a nuclear-free world.


Ukraine’s Democracy Is Approaching ‘Make Or Break’ — And The West Is Missing In Action

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging a global ideological war against Western liberal, democratic values. It has been underway for many years, and it extends from his own immediate neighborhood to Western Europe and, of course, the United States, where he intervened in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.


The North Korea Talks Haven’t Even Started Yet, And Trump Is Already In Trouble

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Tuesday, March 13, 2018

So Rex Tillerson is gone. Yet amid the flurry of speculation and debate prompted by his departure, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that President Trump has already committed himself to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump now has to prepare for the biggest negotiation of his life — even if he doesn’t have his new chief diplomat in place to help.

Analysis and Commentary

Remembering A Russian Champion Of Freedom

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Today the city of Washington will rename a square in honor of Boris Nemtsov, the brilliant Russian reformer who was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in Moscow on this date in 2015. The naming ceremony is an amazing moment — so I deeply regret that I cannot attend this historic event to celebrate my former friend of some two decades. Nemtsov was one of the most principled, charismatic, engaging, smart and funny politicians whom I have ever met. 


Why I Will Be Attending Cardinal Conversations Tonight

by Michael McFaulvia Stanford Daily
Thursday, February 22, 2018

Before being asked to serve as a faculty advisor to Cardinal Conversations, I had never read anything written by Charles Murray. Life is short. I have over three-dozen books, stacked by my bedside and on my iPad, that I can’t find time to read. Of course, I was not opposed to having him speak on campus, and concurred with our organizational committee’s decision to invite him here. But I personally had never been interested enough in Murray to read his books or attend a talk.


The Right Way To Manage Nuclear Competition With Russia

by Michael McFaul, Jon Wolfsthalvia The Washington Post
Monday, February 5, 2018

Vladimir Putin is no friend of the United States. The Russian president seeks to undermine many core interests of the United States, our allies, and our partners. In 2014, Putin annexed territory in Europe, seizing control of Crimea, and then intervened in eastern Ukraine, sparking a war during which more than 10,000 people have died.

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Cyber Invaders

by Michael McFaulvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 26, 2018

We still don’t know how deeply Russia interfered in US elections, but we do know how to make it harder for the Russians to interfere next time.

Analysis and Commentary

Why Ignoring Trump’s Words Is A Luxury That Diplomats Can’t Afford

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Friday, January 19, 2018

On Inauguration Day last year, many predicted that President Trump would abandon his bombastic campaign rhetoric and start behaving like a more conventional leader, especially as far as national security issues were concerned. Conventional wisdom assumed that all presidents make the transition from candidate to commander-in-chief. One year later, this week’s barrage of scandals have made it clear yet again that he is not going to change.


Putin Is To Blame For The Tragedy Of Russia’s Olympics Ban

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a shocking decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, due to Russia’s “systematic manipulation of the anti-doping rules.” The public reaction to this decision – by government officials and public commentators, and on my Twitter feed — was very polarized.

Analysis and Commentary

Russian Ambassador Antonov Visits Stanford: Why That’s A Good Thing

by Michael McFaulvia Freeman Spogli Institute News
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Last week, I hosted the new Russian Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University. The previous year, I had hosted his predecessor, Sergey Kislyak, for a private discussion and public talk at Stanford as well. This time, however, the public reaction to my acknowledging this normal activity of our institute and our university generated all sorts of negative and suspicious commentary.