The Cable

McFaul sworn in as ambassador to Russia: “The reset is not over”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton swore in Mike McFaul as the U.S. ambassador to Russia at a ceremony on Teusday at the State Department, where McFaul defended and pledged to continue the administration's U.S.-Russia reset policy.

"This is a good day for us all -- for the United States, which is sending an absolutely top-notch emissary to Moscow, and for our partners in Russia.... And for Mike and his family, it will be an adventure," Clinton said, standing in front of a packed audience of diplomats, officials, experts, and journalists in the State Department's elegant Benjamin Franklin ballroom.

"This administration has placed a particular emphasis on working together with Russia, one of the most complex and consequential relationships we have with any nation in the world.... And I think it's fair to say we have a lot to show for that effort," she said.

Clinton highlighted several achievements of the reset policy, including the New START agreement, the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement, the 1-2-3 Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation, expanding supply routes into Afghanistan, and working on Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization.

Clinton recounted the story of how the United States informed Russia that McFaul would be the ambassador, which was different from the usual diplomatic notification.

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

She also said she expects to hear stories about McFaul's jam sessions in Moscow when members of his band come to visit.

"And I'm even told there may be a few rock and roll sessions when Mike's band mates from The Pigs visit Moscow. And it's not an agricultural issue, ambassador. I don't think they'll need to be quarantined with their instruments," Clinton joked.

In his remarks, McFaul also defended the reset policy and thanked his family for moving with him to Moscow instead of returning to their home in Palo Alto, California, as had been planned.

"I was planning on going home and so were my sons, but Secretary Clinton and President Obama thought otherwise, because the reset was not completed last summer, nor is it over now, as some are saying. On the contrary, today we're on to the next, more complex phase, when the alignment of our interests and values is neither simple nor easy," McFaul said. "On to the next adventure. Russia, here we come!"

Several senior Obama administration officials from both the State Department and the National Security Council, where McFaul had been serving as senior director for Russia since 2009, attended the event. They included White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the NSC's Denis McDonough, Ben Rhodes, and Liz Sherwood-Randall, and the ambassadors of Russia, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Georgia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Romania, Poland, Kyrgyzstan, and many others.

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The Cable

Team Romney: The Obama White House is unstable and its policies are dangerous

The resignation of President Barack Obama's chief of staff shows that the White House is unstable and its national security policies remain dangerous, a top surrogate for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney told The Cable today.

"This unexpected move of Bill Daley out points to a lack of stability," said former Senator Jim Talent in a Tuesday interview.

Talent, who is one of Romney's closest advisors on national security, also harshly criticized Obama's decision to revamp U.S. military strategy, which he announced at the Pentagon on Jan. 5. The new strategy review, released only weeks ahead of Obama's fiscal 2013 budget request, calls for a "smaller and leaner" military and backs off from previous strategy documents that mandated the U.S. military maintain the capability to fight two major wars at the same time.

"I think it's going to encourage provocative actions around the world," said Talent. "It's a signal that America's not going to continue exercising a leadership role, it's very dangerous. And you know that one of the amazing things about it is that it's explicitly a budget-driven decision, in other words there's no pretense that this is a change based on strategic analysis."

When announcing the new defense strategy, Obama said, "The tide of war is receding" -- but the Romney team doesn't see it that way at all.

"That sends the wrong message, it encourages other countries to believe that they can provoke and challenge us, and it will end up costing us more money," said Talent. "It's so much an explicit confession of bankruptcy in terms of defense policy, I almost don't know how to respond to it."

In fact, Talent said that Obama's strategic review is more damaging than the military cuts made by President Bill Clinton's administration following the end of the Cold War.

"That two-war standard was continued in the post-Cold War era by the Clinton administration and was deemed necessary in the 1990s -- and that was before the 9/11 attacks, that was before the rise of Chinese power, and that was before Russia reassumed a more aggressive posture," said Talent. "So if it was necessary according to President Clinton in the 1990s before those additional risks ... how could it not be necessary now?"

Talent laid some of the top foreign policy priorities in a Romney administration, framing them as areas where it was necessary to fix Obama's missteps. These include a new policy to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, the importance of channeling China in a direction of peaceful competition rather than aggression, the need to reestablish the strength of traditional allies, the need for the United States to play a larger leadership role in the international community, and the need to reverse Obama-era defense cuts and restore military strength.

"Governor Romney believes that the Obama administration has pursued a policy of weakness across the spectrum of areas," Talent said.

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