To Russia with suspicion
Amb. Mike McFaul is sworn in by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on January 10, 2012
January 20th, 2012
03:14 PM ET

To Russia with suspicion

By Jill Dougherty

Just before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton swore in Mike McFaul on January 11 as the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, she told the audience packing the State Department's Benjamin Franklin Room that "Mike's reputation precedes him."

Yet it's that very reputation that has Russia eyeing McFaul with suspicion, wary that the ambassador, who arrived last Saturday, is looking to create a Russian version of the Arab Spring.

From the start, McFaul's mission to Moscow has been different. As Clinton explained to the audience that day, rather than send the Russian Foreign Ministry a diplomatic note announcing the appointment, the president took it upon himself to tell Russia's president, in person, about it.

"When President Obama saw President Medvedev at the G-8 summit in Deauville in May he simply said, 'I'm planning to nominate Mike to be the next ambassador to Russia,'" Clinton explained, "and President Medvedev responded immediately with a tone full of respect, 'Of course. He's a tough negotiator.' And that was that."

But it isn't his negotiation skill that has Russia nervous. FULL POST