I join President Obama in expressing my deep gratitude to one of our very best, Ambassador Mike McFaul, for his exemplary service as U.S. Ambassador to Russia. After five years promoting U.S.-Russian relations, and the past seven months separated from his family, I understand Mike’s desire to return home to California. We will all miss Mike at the State Department, but we know he’ll just be a phone call or a tweet away.
In my time as Foreign Relations Committee Chairman and now as Secretary, I’ve learned firsthand that Mike McFaul isn’t just exceptionally talented, fiercely conscientious, and whip-smart, he really understands the dynamics in Russia better than just about anybody. He’s worked creatively and tenaciously to enlist Moscow to act not just as a great power but also as a global partner. From the New START Treaty to securing Russian cooperation on Iran’s nuclear program, to resupplying our troops in Afghanistan and expanding our trade, there’s scarcely an issue in our bilateral agenda that didn’t benefit from Mike’s steady hand and good old fashioned willpower.
Mike has a clear-eyed understanding of the realities of diplomacy, but his realism is matched by an equally deep appreciation for enduring American values and their appeal across the globe. That’s why he engaged directly with Russian civil society. That’s why he stood up for the rights of LGBT individuals. And that’s why he was a relentless advocate for rule of law and an independent media.
Where our countries disagreed, Mike has spoken up clearly – privately and publicly. All you need to do is look at his Twitter account to know that he was truly a groundbreaking Ambassador in a groundbreaking era. He grasped the importance of social media in an information age, but he also grasped a much more essential truth: that all people everywhere should be able to express themselves and, ultimately, determine how they are governed. That’s an enduring conviction, and Mike leaves behind an enduring legacy.