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


The U.S. Needs A Russia Strategy Now More Than Ever

by Michael McFaulvia Foreign Affairs
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump shocked the world earlier this week when, standing side by side with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he refused to accept the basic facts of the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump appeared to back Putin over his own intelligence community, saying during a press conference in Helsinki, “I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that hacked into Democratic Party servers.

Analysis and Commentary

The Trump-Putin Summit In Helsinki Was A Historic Event — In The Worst Possible Way

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

As I touched down in Helsinki two days ago, I had one small hope — that the “summit” between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would not be a historic one. During my five years serving in the Obama administration, I attended many summits, meetings and talks with Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Putin. Almost all were memorable to me, enough that I’ve written about them in my book, “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.”


Why Trump’s Personalized Approach To Diplomacy Is Bad For America

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Thursday, June 28, 2018

Late last year, President Trump said he wasn't especially worried about making senior appointments at the State Department. Why? "I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that's what the policy is going to be," he declared. "You’ve seen that, you’ve seen it strongly."


Russia As It Is

by Michael McFaulvia Foreign Affairs
Friday, June 15, 2018

[Subscription Required] Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated to their most dangerous point in decades. The current situation is not, as many have dubbed it, a new Cold War.


Why Trump’s Plans For Regime Change In Iran Will Have The Opposite Effect

by Michael McFaul, Abbas Milanivia The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

After President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, many analysts wondered whether he was primarily motivated by the desire to undermine yet another of his predecessor’s foreign policy achievements. Among the rationales Trump gave for abandoning the deal were that "it didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will."


Putin Hazed Me: How I Was Stalked, Harassed And Surveilled By Kremlin Stooges

by Michael McFaulvia Politico
Saturday, May 19, 2018

In my first year in Moscow, I witnessed the unraveling of the U.S.-Russia Reset firsthand.


The Smear That Killed The ‘Reset’

by Michael McFaulvia The Washington Post
Friday, May 11, 2018

From the beginning of the Obama administration, we knew we wanted to reboot our relationship with Moscow. I coordinated Russia policy from the National Security Council, and Russia was one of the only other global powers, a crucial partner in world affairs.


The Cold War Is Over, But There’s ‘Hot Peace’ Between The U.S. And Russia

by Michael McFaulvia The Globe and Mail
Friday, May 4, 2018

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference two years ago, Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev shocked the hall when he argued, “Speaking bluntly, we are rapidly rolling into a period of a new cold war. … I am sometimes confused: Is this 2016 or 1962?” Today, Mr. Medvedev’s remarks seem unremarkable. Many now agree – it’s Cold War 2.0. U.S. President Donald Trump has gone a step further, tweeting last month that “Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.”

From Cold War to Hot Peace

by Michael McFaulvia Books by Hoover Fellows
Thursday, May 3, 2018

From one of America’s leading scholars of Russia who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration, a revelatory, inside account of U.S.-Russia relations from 1989 to the present.

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.