In January, 2012, Michael McFaul, a tenured political scientist from Stanford and President Obama’s chief adviser on Russia through the first term, arrived in Moscow with his wife and two sons to begin work as the United States Ambassador. In Palo Alto and Washington, D.C., the McFauls had lived in modest houses. In Moscow they took up residence at Spaso House, a vast neoclassical mansion that was built by one of the wealthiest industrialists in imperial Russia. Spaso features a vaulted formal dining room and a chandeliered ballroom, where William C. Bullitt, the U.S. Ambassador in the thirties, used to throw parties complete with trained seals serving trays of champagne and, on one memorable occasion, a menagerie of white roosters, free-flying finches, grumpy mountain goats, and a rambunctious bear. One guest, Mikhail Bulgakov, wrote about the bash in his novel “The Master and Margarita.” Another, Karl Radek, a co-author of the 1936 Soviet constitution, got the bear drunk. The bear might have survived the decade. Radek, who fell out with Stalin, did not.
—David Remnick, who paints a fascinating picture of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and the failure of former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul to fit in there, and represent American interests properly and effectively. No offense to McFaul, who was–and I am sure continues to be–filled in with the best of intentions, and whose tenure was filled with attempts by the Putin regime to undermine him as a way of getting at the United States, but can future American ambassadors to Russia be professional diplomats/politicians who are realists and are fluent in Russian? It would help in the effort to push back against Putin’s anti-Americanism, and his attempts to advance the Novorossiya myth.