Monthly Archives: May 2018

Ambassador Mike McFaul Speaks to Sold-out Seattle Crowd

The Jackson Foundation and the World Affairs Council featured former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and Stanford University political scientist Michael McFaul at a captivating discussion in Seattle. A leading expert on Russia, American foreign policy, and democratic development around the world, McFaul just published From Cold War to Hot Peace. This latest book – a historical analysis and memoir of his tenure as ambassador in Moscow during the Obama administration – describes McFaul’s development of the United States’ “reset” policy that fostered a new level of collaboration between the countries and explores the subsequent challenges that resulted from Putin’s return. Board President John Hempelmann provided the welcome for the event; board members and staff attended.

John Hempelmann, Foundation President, gives welcoming remarks.

Ambassador McFaul traced his initial interest in Russia to his time as a high school student when he debated the Jackson-Vanik amendment with his partner, Steve Daines, now a senator from Montana. He later lived in Russia and concluded that, “If we could just get to know these people, it would help relations tremendously.” That belief contributed to his eventual development of the reset policy.

Ambassador Michael McFaul

After some initial success with the reset, Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency and took a much more difficult stance with the U.S. Unfortunately, Russia’s relationship with the West became more acrimonious. McFaul noted, “You should never have a conflict with another country due to misinformation – engagement helps prevent that.” The Obama administration tried to establish a relationship with Putin but these attempts faltered amidst worsening relations.

Ambassador McFaul speaks to a sold-out crowd.

On the 2016 U.S. elections, McFaul said, “It was very rational for Putin to want Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and Putin clearly intervened. I would never have expected him to go to those lengths.” “Putin believes we were out to get him. In part, he’s right because an open society with free people by its nature is a threat to the way he governs.”

Jill Doherty, former CNN Moscow Bureau Chief, asks what can be done to improve our bilateral relationship.

In order to rescue the U.S. – Russia relationship, McFaul suggested, “We need some containment, some engagement, and some isolation.” He emphasized that in terms of engagement, we need to get back into arms control. Regarding sanctions, he explained that he supports sanctions against individuals and companies that were involved in the annexation of Crimea, but he does not agree with wholesale economic sanctions. “The private sector should be put in a different place. Independent economic activity should be encouraged.” As a further important step, he explained, “We need to enhance the connectivity between our societies. Closing consulates is a big mistake because we need the architecture for more cooperation between our societies.”

Addressing the challenges facing the U.S. in the next few years, McFaul offered, “I’m nervous about Poland, Hungary, and Europe. This is not the Cold War, but some elements are the same. Putin defines conservatism as nationalism and views this as a fight of anti-globalism against the decadent, liberal West. He is exporting that fight now trying to propagate these ideas around the world.”

Reflecting on Putin’s grip on Russia, McFaul concluded, “While Putin is president, he will hold onto power; it’s a sophisticated autocracy. But the period after him will be interesting – there will be a power struggle.”

We are proud to have partnered with the World Affairs Council to host this key expert on Russia here in Seattle.

Maura Sullivan

Program Officer

For Further information about Ambassador McFaul’s views, please see this Washington Post article: The Smear That Killed the ‘Reset’



20th Century Historian Tells Students “Be Alert to threats to Democracy”

The Jackson Foundation and the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies were fortunate to have brought major scholar and public intellectual Timothy Snyder, the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University, to Seattle to give a lecture. His recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, has resonated with a world-wide audience and has been published in a dozen countries. Along with this #1 New York Times Bestseller, he has written several other award-winning books on World War II and the Holocaust.

Snyder has become something of a rock star historian and activist with “On Tyranny,” since it speaks about the current threat to our democracy and the need to be aware, active, and on guard. Talking to an overflow crowd that had to be accommodated in a second large room at the University of Washington on a beautiful spring evening in late April, Snyder stressed that all of us share a duty to understand events and resist when warranted. Drawing lessons from Germany in 1933, he warned, “If we just react, it will be too late.” “People normalizing the new reality” is one of the hazards of today’s highly charged political environment.  “Politics involves consent,” Snyder cautioned. “If you decide this is just fine, it is hard to go back.”

Drawing on American history – and our founding fathers – he told the crowd to be wary of complacently assuming that our institutions can withstand any assault. He said, “Institutions won’t protect us on their own.” He encouraged the many students and community members present to ask themselves, “What can I do for institutions to make them stronger?”

As a historian steeped in European history, Snyder takes a broad view of what he sees as the diminution of democracy across the globe and the lapsing of democratic norms. “Swastikas on the wall matter today – even if they are on the Internet,” he reminded us. He voiced particular concerns about focusing on social media as opposed to true journalism, suggesting, “Find an investigative journalist and follow him or her. Subscribe to newspapers.”

Snyder riveted the crowd with his twenty lessons for today’s world and his description of the slide towards tyranny. He invited students to ask questions and they did. It was heartening to see the interaction and to witness the power of scholarship, activism, and this call to be awake and present in the real world rather than a virtual one.

We are proud to have partnered with the Jackson School to host this important scholar here in the Pacific Northwest.

Lara Iglitzin

Executive Director