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


Trump Has Given Putin The Best Gift He Could Ask For

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Certainly, the Russian government has a list of things it wants from the United States in a perfect world: lifting sanctions on Russian companies and individuals, recognition of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as an ally in the fight against terrorism in Syria, agreement to end all discussions of democracy and human rights, acquiescence to spheres of influence for our two countries, and, the granddaddy ask of them all, American recognition of Crimean “reunification.”


Is Trump Learning — Or Ad-Libbing — On Foreign Policy?

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Friday, April 28, 2017

In the month of April, I found myself saying “I agree with Trump” more than anytime ever. On China, Russia, NATO and Syria, President Trump signaled radical changes in policy, nearly the complete opposite of what he said as a candidate. All were changes for the good — that is, new policy positions that advance American security, prosperity and values.

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Break Up the Bromance

by Michael McFaulvia Hoover Digest
Monday, April 24, 2017

Just getting along with Russia isn’t going to be good enough. If the new administration wants a “reset” of its own, it will need to demonstrate clarity and strength. 


The Real Winner Of The House Intelligence Committee Hearing On Russia

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Thursday, March 23, 2017

After the vote results came in last November, many Russians close to the Kremlin celebrated. “Our Trump” — or #TrumpNash, as they tweeted — had been elected president of the United States. Few in Moscow expected Donald Trump to win, but many Russians wanted him to win, including Vladimir Putin.


We Can’t Let Trump Go Down Putin’s Path

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Monday, February 6, 2017

For reasons still mysterious to me, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to praise and defend Russian President Vladimir Putin. Just yesterday, in an interview with Bill O’Reilly on Fox, President Trump affirmed his respect for Putin.


A 'City On A Hill' As A Fortress In A Moat

by Abbas Milani, Larry Diamond, Michael McFaulvia The Atlantic
Friday, February 3, 2017

The notion that one form of prejudice can defeat another is an illusion.

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Allies First, Mr. President

by Michael McFaulvia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 27, 2017

Here’s how Donald Trump can reassure our allies that the United States won’t abandon its friends. 


Dear Trump: Defending Democracy Is No Vice

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

For decades, American presidents have used their inaugural addresses to celebrate the values of freedom. In his second inaugural address in 2005, President George W. Bush declared, “The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” 


How Trump Can Play Nice With Russia, Without Selling Out America

by Michael McFaulvia Foreign Policy
Friday, January 6, 2017

[Registration Required] There’s no one playbook for dealing with Moscow. But if Trump doesn’t figure out which his is, before shooting from the hip, it could be deadly.


America Needs To Play Both The Short And Long Game In Cybersecurity

by Michael McFaul, Amy Zegartvia The Washington Post
Monday, December 19, 2016

In his last news conference of the year (and maybe last ever as president) last week, President Obama squarely assigned blame to the Russian government for stealing data from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman, with the intent of disrupting our electoral process and helping one candidate, President-elect Donald Trump. Obama also promised to respond but left out details about how and when.