Tweeting US Ambassador Michael McFaul To Leave Russia

Tweeting Ambassador

Michael McFaul announced on Twitter Tuesday that he would be leaving his post as U.S. Ambassador to Russia at the end of the month, after the Winter Olympics in Sochi have ended.

In his two years as the American envoy in Moscow, he’s been a pioneer in social media diplomacy, taking to Twitter and his personal blog to vent about issues of the day and connect with ordinary Russians alongside his formal contact with government officials.

That digital diplomacy was spotlighted by the Washington Post last month. As the paper noted then, tweeting, blogging, and status-updating helped McFaul skirt the official channels that can sometimes be detrimental to getting an American message out. The country, after all, has a fairly tight grip on its media, and Vladimir Putin’s government is well-known for its antagonistic stance toward journalists and anyone who departs from the party line.

The Post reported that McFaul’s tweeting was the result of a directive by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “Her message was that our diplomacy goes beyond meeting with our counterparts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

In the context of a less-than-open Russia and testy relations between the two countries, it’s no surprise that McFaul found himself in some hot water at times for his social postings.

For example, the ambassador sparked a row over comments he made at a Russian school.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called the first Twitter war.

McFaul, who served as a Russia adviser in the Obama administration prior to becoming ambassador, cited family reasons for his decision to return to California. As much as he loved Russia, seven months away from his wife and kids was just too much.

“All you need to do is look at his Twitter account to know that he was truly a groundbreaking Ambassador in a groundbreaking era,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “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.”


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