Michael A. McFaul

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When the novel coronavirus pandemic began, President Vladimir Putin tried to use the crisis to burnish his reputation as a stronger leader and Russia as an effective state. At first, the Russian leader boasted that his country had escaped the worst, implicitly citing this success as yet more evidence of his own forceful leadership. State-controlled media outlets trumpeted Russia’s success while gloating over American failures. With great fanfare, including media coverage of Russian planes landing in the United States, the Kremlin declared that it had more than enough excess capacity to provide humanitarian assistance to the struggling American state. (We learned later that Putin did not give, but rather sold, this “humanitarian assistance” to American recipients.…  Seguir leyendo »

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. By affirming these objectives, Secretary Pompeo was broadly adhering to the bipartisan consensus on US–Iranian policy that has prevailed for the last half-century. But to achieve these goals, President Trump and his administration adopted a radically different strategy from the previous administration’s.

President Obama and his administration made denying Iran a nuclear weapon their highest priority, and then deployed a mix of coercive and engagement policies—economic sanctions, cyber-attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, as well as direct bilateral diplomacy—to persuade the Iranian government to negotiate an agreement to constrain Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which came to be known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).…  Seguir leyendo »

La decisión del presidente Vladimir Putin de intervenir en Siria marcó un importante punto de inflexión en la política exterior rusa en 2015. En los últimos 15 años, Putin se ha basado cada vez más en el uso del poderío militar para alcanzar sus objetivos domésticos y de política exterior, empezando con la invasión de Chechenia en 1999, luego la de Georgia en 2008 y finalmente la de Ucrania en 2014. La estrategia de Putin en Siria era el próximo paso lógico, aunque dramático, en la política exterior cada vez más agresiva de Rusia.

Sin embargo, se supone que Siria es diferente de estas intervenciones anteriores.…  Seguir leyendo »

To Beat Putin, Support Ukraine

In response to Russian support for Ukrainian rebels, and in coordination with European leaders, President Obama has instituted the most comprehensive set of economic sanctions ever against Russian officials and companies. Europe is considering alternate energy policies to reduce Russia’s economic leverage. NATO is re-energized. And moral, unified condemnation of Russia’s actions has damaged Russia’s international reputation.

In time, these steps will be likely to make Russian officials, business leaders and citizens question the strategy of their president, Vladimir V. Putin, in Ukraine. In the short run, however, Mr. Putin is unlikely to change his mind. These steps alone will only make him more defiant.…  Seguir leyendo »

The decision by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to annex Crimea ended the post-Cold War era in Europe. Since the late Gorbachev-Reagan years, the era was defined by zigzags of cooperation and disputes between Russia and the West, but always with an underlying sense that Russia was gradually joining the international order. No more.

Our new era is one defined by ideological clashes, nationalistic resurgence and territorial occupation — an era in some ways similar to the tragic periods of confrontation in 20th-century Europe. And yet there are important differences, and understanding the distinction will be critical to a successful American foreign policy in the coming decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the year draws to a close, it's important to note that the U.S. debate on Iran is stalled, trapped between "regime changers" vs. "arms controllers," "hawks" vs. "doves," and "idealists" vs. "realists." The National Intelligence Estimate released this month offers an opportunity to escape this straitjacketed debate by embracing a new strategy that would pursue both the short-term goal of arms control and the long-term goal of democracy in Iran.

The NIE's "key judgment" that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program has thrust the arms controllers onto center stage. Because the nuclear threat is no longer immediate, the arms controllers insist that the time is ripe for the United States to engage in direct diplomacy with Tehran as a way to change the regime's behavior, but not the regime itself -- specifically, to persuade the mullahs to suspend their nuclear enrichment program.…  Seguir leyendo »