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

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. 

In the News

Russia Expert Tells Morning Forum Why U.S. Reset Didn't Last

featuring Michael McFaulvia Los Altos Town Crier (CA)
Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul’s Dec. 3 presentation at the Morning Forum of Los Altos, “An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia,” focused on the changing relationship between the U.S. and Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.


The Guy Benson Show Goes To Stanford University: Broadcasting LIVE From The Hoover Institution

interview with Michael McFaul, Victor Davis Hanson, Charles Blahous, Bill Whalen, Scott W. Atlas, Abbas Milani, John B. Taylorvia The Guy Benson Show
Saturday, December 7, 2019

Hoover Institution fellows Michael McFaul, Victor Davis Hanson, Charles Blahous, Bill Whalen, Scott Atlas, Abbas Milani, and John Taylor are interviewed on the Guy Benson Show.

In the News

Stanford Alumni Association Presents 2019 Lyman Award To Michael McFaul

featuring Michael McFaulvia Stanford News
Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, is the 2019 winner of the Richard W. Lyman Award.


Here’s How Russia Will Attack The 2020 Election. We’re Still Not Ready.

by Renee DiResta, Michael McFaul, Alex Stamosvia The Washington Post
Friday, November 15, 2019

In 1983, an anonymous letter from an author claiming to be an American scientist appeared in an Indian newspaper, asserting that the HIV virus raging across the world was a bioweapon released by the United States. Over the next several years, similar claims appeared in leftist and alternative newspapers around the world and ended up becoming widely believed among those predisposed to distrust the Reagan administration. As late as 2005, a study showed that 27 percent of African Americans still believed that HIV was created in a government lab.

The 30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

The 30th Anniversary Of The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

featuring Peter M. Robinson, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Kotkin, David Holloway, Timothy Garton Ash, Norman M. Naimark, Niall Ferguson, Robert Service, Victor Davis Hanson, Michael McFaul, Amir Weinervia Hoover Daily Report
Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson as well as many scholars and historians review the history of the Berlin Wall.

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.