The illustration by Jim Salvati of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel hovering over President Barack Obama’s desk for the New Republic’s June 10, 2010 cover was inspired by the comparative photograph shown below. The cover story by Jonathan Cohn is How They Did It (The Inside Account of Healthcare Reform’s Death-Defying Triumph).
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation Michael McFaul is the body-double for Rahm Emanuel. The photo hung in the White House. At the time he was Special Assistant to Obama and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council.
McFaul gave a talk called “Confronting Putin’s Russia: Long-Term Economic and Foreign Policy Implications” at the University of North Florida in September. I used a cropped version of the photo with a story I wrote for my JOU 3109 Multimedia Reporting class, How We Lost The Russian Reset. It’s more of a history lesson than it is news about McFaul’s ideas on long-term implications of Putin’s Russia. I can always go back to the recording at a future date to see if Obama followed McFaul’s advice.
The caption I used for the photo is “Michael McFaul in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama as he speaks on the phone with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Feb. 24, 2010. photo credit: White House photographer Peter Graves.”
It was taken during a testy phone call with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, who surprised Obama by demanding concessions on missile defense. But that’s not why we lost the Russian reset. The reset between the U.S. and Russia began to sour with the Arab Spring of 2011.
Russia abstained from voting on the United Nation Security Council resolution to authorize airstrikes by coalition forces in Libya in 2011. President Medvedev decided not to use a veto to block the resolution which infuriated Prime Minister Putin.
“I was in the White House at the time, actually worked quite a bit on the Arab Spring,” McFaul said. “For us, it was the people in their own countries trying to take fate into their hands. We had nothing to do with it except react to the people of Tunisia, the people of Egypt…”
Putin saw it differently. He thought the CIA was fomenting unrest in the Middle East. McFaul said he didn’t have any evidence “to back him up” but he thought the Libyan U.N. abstention was the reason Putin decided to run for president again.
The Parliamentary elections of 2011 were fraudulent. Tens of thousands of young, upwardly mobile and social-media savvy Russians protested against the results. Putin couldn’t understand as the country had grown wealthy under his presidency. Putin started to vilify the U.S.; McFaul was portrayed in the media as aiding the protesters.
McFaul planned to step down as ambassador after the Sochi Olympics. His term as ambassador from 2012 – 2014 was tumultuous after Vladimir Putin reclaimed the Russian presidency. The time period coincided the Ukrainian Parliament voting to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office, leading to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. All of this occurred as Putin sought the Ukraine to join his Eurasian Economic Union.
“Who would spend $50 billion on the Olympics only to see the good will it created gone in three days?”, McFaul asked.
NOTE: Kargardenia is the companion blog to JOU 3109 Multimedia Reporting. It is no longer a personal blog subtitled “Memorabilia and Airy Nothings” as announced on the Antique Fables post over the summer.