Michael McFaul (@McFaul) is a former US ambassador to Russia, a professor of political science at Stanford University, and author of New York Times Best Seller From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.
What We Discuss with Michael McFaul:
- What the role of an ambassador in the 21st century entails, how it differs from being a diplomat, and how it changes between administrations.
- Ambassador McFaul’s creative approach to problem-solving when confronted with relentless obstruction by Putin, and how he developed relationships and recruited allies in this hostile environment.
- How ambassadors, government officials, and spies conduct their business and keep secrets overseas.
- The exhaustive preparations and precautions that precede a meeting between two world leaders.
- How to get inside the mind of another culture when doing business cross-culturally so you can be effective when you need to be.
- And much more…
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When you’re an ambassador to a nation whose government works to undermine your credibility from day one, you’d better be good at developing relationships, creating allies while under fire, and building trust and rapport in uncomfortable situations.
Michael McFaul, former US ambassador to Russia and author of From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia, found himself in exactly this position when facing off with none other than Vladimir Putin. He joins us for this episode to share how he kept his cool under such daunting circumstances and the details such a job entails — from keeping state secrets to preparing for conversations with world leaders when the stakes are high. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
If you’ve ever wondered what it is an ambassador actually does, From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia author Michael McFaul is the guy to ask. Under the Obama administration, he served as the ambassador to Russia — and learned to deal with resistance by Vladimir Putin’s government from his first day there.
“I think the roles of ambassadors have changed over time,” says Michael. “A hundred years ago, two-hundred years ago, they did a lot of diplomacy and they would get messages from the Capitol and they would negotiate with the government. I still did that; [my] main job [was] to interact with the Russian government on issues about US-Russian relations. I worked a lot on Syria when I was ambassador — mostly arguing with the Russians because we disagreed about it. But you’ve got to remember in this day and age in the 21st century, I could do that with the deputy foreign minister who was in charge of the Middle East, but Secretary Kerry — he was one of my bosses — he could also just pick up the cell phone and call the foreign minister. So that makes things a little more difficult.
“The president — President Trump — he calls President Putin all the time now, so what is Ambassador Huntsman doing when you have that kind of direct communication? So I think that means — and most certainly that’s the way I saw my job — that you have to change the role of the ambassador. And what I did a lot of was to engage with Russian society — not just the government. So that meant engaging with the Russian business community, with the cultural community, with civil society, sports figures…that was part of my job as well. And then the other part was helping Americans interact with Russian society — so helping American business interact. Helping American civil society people, religious people, sports people, too — we hosted the NBA one day at my house! So that’s another part of the job that I think people don’t think of. That’s a big part of being an ambassador in the 21st century.”
But such a job is made especially difficult when the country you’re trying to build a bridge toward rejects your efforts and denounces you as a revolutionary and a spy — as Michael encountered almost as soon as his plane landed in Russia.
“The first hit job they did on me was even before I had showed up,” says Michael. “It was Martin Luther King Day, so it was Monday. I remember it. My first day on the job was Tuesday. So they were ready for me. They had done their homework. But you get into a tricky set of questions. Our policy as the Obama administration, and I would say it’s been shared by most administrations — I don’t know about Trump these days — but Democrats and Republicans had this idea that we meet with the government, but we also meet with society, including political opposition figures.
“So when I first traveled to Russia as a government official with President Obama…we met with President Medvedev, we then had breakfast with Prime Minister Putin, and then the rest of the second day, he met with business leaders, students, civil society leaders, and opposition political figures. That was kind of normal. That’s what you did. But when I showed up, things had changed…there were demonstrations against the Russian government. There had been a falsified election in December 2011 and they were protesting that and it felt very…they were uncertain times. So when we met with the opposition leaders — and by the way, just a footnote to history, it was not my meeting, it was actually the Deputy Secretary of State visiting Moscow, and your job as ambassador is to accompany people when they meet with government officials. So I was just a potted plant! I wasn’t doing anything! I was just going along for the ride.
“But the context had changed. And so what would normally be just a standard meeting that nobody would pay any attention to, because there were these massive demonstrations, it became this explosive issue that the Russian government deliberately used. And that was my fate. I was known as The Revolutionary for the rest of my time as the ambassador. There was nothing I could do to change that. We tried on Twitter and different places to push back, but we were dealing with the Russian media telling a different story.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about the differences between ambassadors and diplomats, how ambassadors can get tangled up in the blurred lines that exist when every country is spying on every other country (without technically being spies themselves), Michael’s youthful foray into the Soviet black market book trade during the ‘80s, how Michael navigated around the Russian disinformation campaign that falsely outed him as — among other things — a pedophile, how high-profile Americans travel and communicate secretly in Russia, and much more.
THANKS, MICHAEL MCFAUL!
If you enjoyed this session with Michael McFaul, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Michael McFaul at Twitter!
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And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia by Michael McFaul
- Other Books by Michael McFaul
- Michael McFaul’s Website
- Michael McFaul at Facebook
- Michael McFaul at Instagram
- Michael McFaul at Twitter
- TJHS 3: Bill Browder | Hunted by Putin
- Ambassador Huntsman Joins the List of Officials Who Deny Writing the Anonymous Op-ed Slamming Trump by Thomas Burr, The Salt Lake Tribune
- Alex Ovechkin Is One of Putin’s Biggest Fans. The Question Is, Why? by Rick Maese, Isabelle Khurshudyan, and Andrew Roth, The Washington Post
- Andrei Kirilenko Looks like a Bond Villain Now by Dan Gartland and Extra Mustard, Sports Illustrated
- Putin Wanted to Interrogate Me. Trump Called It ‘An Incredible Offer.’ Why? by Michael McFaul, The Washington Post
- Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak Says He Won’t Name All the Trump Officials He’s Met with Because ‘The List Is so Long’ by Tucker Higgins, CNBC
- Vladimir Putin’s Early Career as a KGB Spy by Aine Cain, Business Insider
- 5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Soviet Economy by Mart Virkus, Traveller Tours
- Of Russian Origin: Fartsovshchik by Oleg Dmitriev, Russiapedia
- Spaso House: An Architectural Gem of Moscow
- The Ritz-Carlton, Moscow
- Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America by Jack Barsky and Cindy Coloma
Transcript for Michael McFaul | What It's Like to Stand Up to Putin (Episode 114)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. If you've been a fan of the Jordan Harbinger Show for a while now, you probably know that I'm obsessed with Russia. I'm obsessed with the former Soviet bloc, oligarchs, international intrigue, mafia and anything having to do with Vladimir Putin. Well, not wanting to miss a front row seat to the action. I headed to Stanford University and sat down with Michael McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia and recorded this episode live on campus, aside from some minor construction noise. You're going to hear a lot of fascinating stuff today because McFaul weaves quite the tale. The day he arrived in Russia. He faced challenges from the regime and it was like the Cold War all over again. We'll discover how he was able to develop relationships, create allies all while under fire and we'll garner lots of lessons on building trust and rapport in uncomfortable situations.
[00:00:51] We'll also learn how ambassadors, government officials, and spies conduct their business overseas, keep things secret when needed and prepare for conversations with world leaders when the stakes are through the roof. And we'll learn how cultural angles have to be considered and adapted to when doing business cross-culturally, how to get inside the mind of another culture so you can be effective when you need to be. This was a fascinating conversation, and I hope you'll enjoy some of the geeky details and stories we got into from the KGB selling illegal blue jeans to Obama dropping an F bomb in a meeting with top level officials. And if you want to know how I find all these great guests and manage my relationships with them, well I use systems, I use tiny habits and just a few minutes a day, check out our Six-Minute Networking Course. If you want to learn those, I want to teach them to you and that course is free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course, and don't forget we've got a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure that you understand all the key takeaways here from Michael McFaul. You can put them into action, that link to that worksheet, it's in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. All right, here's Michael McFaul.
[00:01:59] My wife brought this up though. Most people don't necessarily know what an ambassador does. And so we'll just explain like I'm five. What does the ambassador do? When your kids friends say, what does your dad do? Unless they don't want to talk about it, they probably explained to in some respect what your job actually was.
Michael McFaul: [00:02:17] Well, it's a great question actually, because I think the role of ambassadors have changed over time. A hundred years ago, 200 years ago, they did a lot of diplomacy and they would get messages from the Capitol and then they would negotiate with the government. And we, I still did that so that your main job is to interact with the Russian government on issues about us Russian relations. So Syria, I worked a lot on Syria when I was ambassador. Mostly that was arguing with the Russians because we disagreed about it. But you’ve got to remember in this day and age in the 21st century, I could do that with the deputy foreign minister who was in charge of the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, I used to deal with him all the time. But Secretary Kerry, he was one of my bosses. He could also just pick up the cell phone and call Lavrov, the Foreign Minister.
[00:03:09] So that makes things a little more difficult to president. President Trump, he calls President Putin all the time now. So what is Ambassador Huntsman doing? When you have that kind of direct communication? So I think that means that most certainly that's the way I saw my job, that you have to change the role of the ambassador, and what I did a lot of was to engage with Russian society, not just the government. So that meant engaging with the Russian business community, with the cultural community, with civil society, sports figures. Ovechkin, if you know who he is. I used to meet with him, and I used to meet with Kirilenko, basketball player from Russia, used to play for Utah. That was part of my job as well, and then the other part was helping Americans interact with Russian society.
[00:04:04] So helping American business interact, helping American civil society, people, religious people. Sports people too, we hosted the MBA one day at my house, a fantastic event by the way. I haven't hosted the MBA here at my house in Palo Alto. So that's another part of the job that I think people don't think of. That's a big part of being an ambassador in the 21st century.
Jordan Harbinger: [0:04:28] So what is the difference then between the ambassadors and/or an ambassador and the diplomats? Because I think a lot of us civilians, we think, “Oh yeah, the ambassador is the person that visits you in jail when you get arrested.
Michael McFaul: [00:04:39] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:39] Well, that's more of counselor services, et cetera.
Michael McFaul: [00:04:42] That's right. Well, that's a good point. The ambassador, I never went to any jails, when I was ambassador. I had other staff that did that. Other diplomats, so Russia, when I was there, it was a huge embassy. It's been because of sanctions and stuff, it's shrunk. But we, I think we had 14 or 1500 people on the staff throughout the country. Most of those people by the way were Russians, citizens of Russia that worked for the United States. But the diplomats, the hundreds of American diplomats were there. They will also would do the diplomacy I just talked about. You get something called a démarche, that's a French word, comes from Washington. You then deliver the demarche to your counterpart in the Russian government and that's part of diplomacy.
[00:05:29] But another big thing they do, and I think a lot of people don't understand this, and I was included in it mostly just signing off, is they report on the country where they're based. So in Moscow, we did a lot of reporting about what's going on in the country. So we had a political section, we had an economic section, we had consular affairs, like you mentioned, we had a security team. We had a lot of military, and one of their primary jobs was to write cables to explain this policy or that economic development or this military thing that they're doing. So helping Washington understand what was going on in Russia. That's another big part of the job of the diplomat.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:15] And that kind of got you into, I wouldn't say trouble, but that was the beginning of the trouble for, not just for you, but for diplomats in Russia for the last, I don't know, hundreds and hundreds of years, which is your first day, you show up and they immediately, state media says, “You're a revolutionary Euro spy, you were sent by Obama to help destroy Russia.”
Michael McFaul: [00:06:34] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:35] So those cables kind of got spun into now you're delivering intelligence to the enemy.
Michael McFaul: [00:06:41] Well, that's right. By the way, they wrote the first hit job they did on me was even before I had showed up to work.
Jordan Harbinger: [0:06:46] Oh, wow!
Michael McFaul: [00:06:46] It was on Martin Luther King Day, so it was a Monday. I remember it. My first day on the job was Tuesday. So they were ready for me. They were loaded for bear. They had done their homework. But you get into a tricky set of questions, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:01] Yeah.
Michael McFaul: [00:07:02] So our policy as the Obama Administration, and I would say it's been shared by most administrations. I don't know about Trump these days, but Democrats and Republicans had this idea that we meet with the government, but we also meet with society, including political opposition figures. So when I first traveled to Russia as a government official with the president, July 2009, I was there with President Obama. We met with President Medvedev. We then had breakfast with Prime Minister Putin. And then the rest of the second day, he met with business leaders, students, civil society leaders, and opposition political figures. That was kind of normal. That’s what you did. But when I showed up, things had changed. When I showed up, there were demonstrations against the Russian government. There had been a falsified election in December 2011 and they were protesting that and it felt very -- they were uncertain times. So when we met with the opposition leaders -- and by the way, just a footnote to history, it was not my meeting, it was actually the Deputy Secretary of State visiting Moscow, and your job as ambassador is to accompany people when they meet with government officials. So I was just a potted plant! I wasn’t doing anything! I was just going along for the ride.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:25] Just doing your normal spy duties as.
Michael McFaul: [00:08:28] I'm going to get to the spy part because that's a really important thing you raise, but the context did change. And so what normally would be just a standard meeting that nobody would pay any attention to because there were these massive demonstrations. It became this explosive issue that the Russian government deliberately used, and that was my fate. Like I was known as the revolutionary for the rest of my time as the ambassadors. There was nothing I could do to change that. We tried on Twitter and different places to push back. But we were dealing with the Russian media telling a different story.
[00:09:04] The spy thing is an important thing that you raised. I want to talk about it because all governments that have the capacity to gather intelligence through intelligence organizations do so. Russia does, the United States does, China does, Iran does. Not all countries have the capacity, but the big countries do, and we do that. We separate out what the intelligence organizations are doing in countries and what everybody else is doing. But sometimes the lines get blurred, because at the end of the day, writing a cable as a first secretary in the political section, how that much different from gathering that intelligence through other means? And by the way, I'm very cryptically referring to the other side because I'm not at Liberty to talk about what we do, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:56] Sure.
Michael McFaul: [0:09:56] But it does create confusion about what people are doing. So most recently here in our country, we've had these scandals about Sergey Kislyak, the former Russian ambassador to the United States. Somebody I know very well used to do a lot of work with hi, and he's been talked about as a KGB guy, meeting with various government officials. And I would just say, I don't you know -- Sergey Kislyak has been a member of the Diplomatic Corps for Russia for decades. Does he gather information on the United States and then report it back? Yes, he does, just like I did as ambassador. Does that make him an intelligence offer? The answer is not necessarily so.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:44] Sure. So the line is a little bit blurred. When I lived in Serbia, everyone thought I was a spy.
Michael McFaul: [00:10:50] Oh.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:50] And I said, wouldn't it be a bad cover to be, “Hi, I'm an American guy living here, teaching.”
Michael McFaul: [00:10:56] You’re teaching living there? Okay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:55] That’s like the crappiest living cliché. And I worked for some other organizations, but it was like the dumbest, the worst cover.
Michael McFaul: [00:11:02] Bad cover.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:02] I always had to go to this office because I had a scholarship or a fellowship really. And the sponsor for the fellowship was the Department of Defense. And it's like, “Look, we are a little more clever than that.” If I was actually a spy. I’d be here --
Michael McFaul: [00:11:15] Cover that up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:16] From you know -- I'd be important coffee beans or something. Give me a break, give me a little credit, but they didn't care. That was like there.
Michael McFaul: [00:11:23] Then you know these dramas well?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:24] Yeah, that was like typical -- I was wondering if this is just specifically Eastern European suspicion because it was a lot like every foreigner is a spy. I'm thinking when you go to Mexico or Germany, yes, we're friendlier with those countries than we are with Serbia, but there's just something, even in China, they're like, you're a tourist. Got it. Other Eastern Europe, the coding of paranoia is just kind of always there.
Michael McFaul: [00:11:53] Yeah, probably came from -- it's probably a legacy of the cold war, and then in Russia of course, because the intelligence officers now run the country. I mean Vladimir Putin's a former KGB officer. Those guys are more paranoid than your average political leader, and he himself is incredibly paranoid. I write about it in my book the kind of just overreaction to challenges to his regime and overreaction to actions that we took, I think that comes from being trained in the KGB.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:25] Yeah. And Vladimir Putin was of course in East Germany, which had this STACI, which was, if you were in the know on all of those goings on, you probably don't trust anybody.
Michael McFaul: [00:12:34] That's a good point.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:34] Because you engineered a system in which you're not supposed to trust anybody.
Michael McFaul: [00:12:37] Right, yep.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:39] Breaking out of that is probably not that easy.
Michael McFaul: [00:12:42] I agree.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:43] Yeah. Now the book was interesting because you write about going to Russia during the cold war where everybody's kind of -- the people that you're meeting are either regular folk, which were harder to meet for you, and then there was kind of like these spoiled the communist party. I don't know what you'd call them, the sons and daughters of these rich, well, they weren't oligarchs then. What they were called?
Michael McFaul: [00:13:03] They’re called senior communist party officials.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:06] Is apparatchik the right word or who? Who are those?
Michael McFaul: [00:13:08] Apparatchik, that’s a good word.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:10] Yeah, I don't know if people still use that word.
Michael McFaul: [00:13:11] Yeah, I do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:13] Yeah, sure, of course. Why not? And tell us about what Russia was like back then. Because you write in the book, there's stories where you're trying to find something to eat and you can't. And it just seems like that to an American who can go three blocks that way and decide between 16 different chain restaurants, it's kind of mind blowing.
Michael McFaul: [00:13:33] Well, yeah, the Soviet Union back then was very different. I lived there in ‘83, ‘85, ‘88, ‘89, ‘90, ‘91. So I lived a good chunk of time in the Soviet Union right before Russia emerged from the Soviet Union. And it was a command economy, communist economy that led to -- so prices were determined by the state and there was no private property. And so the combination of those two things meant there was lots of scarcity, and that to get basic goods, you had to do it oftentimes on the black market. And so if you're like me, as was a kid from Stanford, you don't have access to those connections. It meant, especially in ‘85, I had to spend a lot of time just acquiring food. I had this neighbor in my dorm from Ghana who had been there for several years, Adam was his name, and thankfully he befriended me because he knew his way around Moscow at the time and he would make these fantastic Ghanaian stews and offer me food at night. So without Adam, I would have been in trouble, but it was tough and that's the way you know of people lived in that country. I had some privileges, most Soviet citizens did.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:14:58] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Michael McFaul. We'll be right back.
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[00:18:49] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals, and if you'd be so kind, please drop us a nice rating and review in iTunes or your podcast player of choice. It really helps us out and helps build the show family. If you want some tips on how to do that, just head on over to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Now back to our show with Michael McFaul.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:10] It seems like a place where there's a lack of food. I think he made some money importing books,aka having books mailed or bringing them in a suitcase and selling them.
Michael McFaul: [00:19:23] Why I was involved in that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:24] A John little black market racket going.
Michael McFaul: [00:19:27] I did actually, I mean I'll tell you the story. I was living there in ‘85. My then girlfriend now wife lived in Italy. We just met right before I went to the Soviet Union. So I wanted to try to call her from time to time.
Michael McFaul: [00:19:42] Oh man. The call was a 6 dollars a minute, and you had to go to a special place by the way, you couldn't just place a call from your room. You had to go to a place, file out the paperwork, fill out the paperwork, and then wait two hours to place the call.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:58] It's like a post office usually, right?
Michael McFaul: [00:19:59] It was a post office.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:00] In Ukraine, I used to have to go to the post office to call home it was 2001.
Michael McFaul: [00:20:05] Okay. Even then.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:05] I didn't have a mobile phone.
Michael McFaul: [00:20:06] Okay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:07] Yeah. I mean, you probably could place the call from your house, but it would have been 20 dollars a minute or your phone just wouldn't even -- I didn't have a landline either. I mean, why bother?
Michael McFaul: [00:20:15] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:15] Yeah.
Michael McFaul: [00:20:16] Well, and so to finance those phone calls I did, I hooked up with some black marketeers. They were called [indiscernible][00:20:23]back then. That was the slang for them, and it was a pretty complicated operation that's exposed how the Soviet system worked and how corrupt it was. So they had their territory, which was near the Bolshoi Theatre, and that was kind of their territory to work the tourist. And I would help them meet the tourists because I was a friendly American and Soviets coming up and asking you to trade their jeans and trade money. You're afraid it's the Soviet union after all. And I would help to kind of make them relaxed, and then we had very various schemes that we did, but our goal was to obtain dollars. The easiest way was just to exchange dollars. The exchange rate was 60 kopeks to the dollar. We would give them three rubles to the dollar. So they would buy a factor of five, six, depending on the exchange rate. They would make better their money, but it was illegal, and let's just be clear. It was illegal, and so you had to have some risk was involved. Other times, we would buy American goods or Western goods from them. The classic was jeans or best yet, we would do it a swap. We would trade your jeans for a Soviet flag and we would sell those jeans, I don't know, for a couple hundred rubles. And we bought the Soviet flag for 50 kopeks.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:51] Sure.
Michael McFaul: [00:21:52] But we were in the hard currency business, so we would then have to exchange those rubles for the jeans and then my job, my second part of the job was to go to the hard currency bookstore. So back in the Soviet system, they had these stores called Beriozkas that only foreigners could go to and everything was sold in hard currency.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:15] Why only foreigners, because they wanted only foreign money in the till?
Michael McFaul: [00:22:18] Yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:19] Okay.
Michael McFaul: [00:22:20] That's a good question. I mean, why couldn't just other Soviet citizens go there? I don't know the answer to that, but I do remember you had to show your passport to go in and most of these stores were souvenir stores around, they were like in hotels, but there were these weird stores like the one that I used to go to all the time, because they sold books in Russian and some of it were kind of books that you didn't want in the system kind of solzenitzen. But most of it were -- the one we marketed in was The Three Musketeers. Like it's not some samizdat anti-Soviet book at all.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:58] Sure.
Michael McFaul: [00:22:59] So why is The Three Musketeers being sold in Russian in this hardcore currency bookstore is because they wanted to sell it, and we would go in there, I would buy a dozen, The Three Musketeer books, and then my Russian colleagues would go over to the black market book market. It was out in the street and sell it there. And the basic, as I remember it, for every 3 dollars we spent in that store, we gained the equivalent of 6 dollars when we sold on the black market, and so that was my job. So look at what's going on. First of all, we have an area in downtown Moscow that is okay for us to work at. police are not hassling us. The KGB is not hassling us because they're all on the take there too.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:47] And they must have it -- because they must've known, nobody likes The Three Musketeers well enough to buy a dozen copies a week and walk out in a language.
Michael McFaul: [00:23:54] Right. And so nobody was harassing me to do that too and they were actually having the black market help them acquire hard currency because remember the store I'm buying these in, that's the Soviet government. So we're actually helping to give them hard currency as well. So it was all a very complex scheme, a corrupt scheme that was not very fair to go back to the kind of principles of the Soviet system.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:21] Sure. So I show up as a tourist in jeans. Somebody comes up to me and says, “Hey, I'm a student at Stanford.” You could totally trade those jeans for some awesome stuff, maybe a watch and a flag. And I go, “Great, I have another pair in my luggage.” And you gave me a pair of cheap, I don't know communist scrubs or something to wear home, because otherwise I'm walking around with out pants on.
Michael McFaul: [00:24:21] While we had that, we're getting into the nitty gritty here, that’s interesting, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:43] I’m just curious.
Michael McFaul: [00:24:44] So we had an apartment not too far from where we did this work that we use solely for transactions, and you're exactly right. We would go there and they recalled a Montana jeans. They were made in East German.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:57] Oh man.
Michael McFaul: [00:24:58] They had Montana on the back of them, and so typically like you said, people would bring them, but that happened. There was another part of it. There's this -- I'm telling you that nuts and bolts about the money, there was this other part that people did want to meet Soviets, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:17] Yeah, sure. It's hard to do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:19] Why was it hard to do?
Michael McFaul: [00:25:20] Well, because it was illegal. It was illegal --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:23] It was illegal.
Michael McFaul: [00:25:23] To meet with foreigners.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:25] So I couldn't just go to a bar and be like, “Hey, let's have it beer,” or well I can maybe do that, but I couldn't be like, “Come over to my hotel and we'll like watch TV,” or “We'll watch the world cup in my room.”
Michael McFaul: [00:25:35] No, a lot of things were not true there. First of all, there was hardly any bars to go to in the Soviet union.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:42] Really? That's kind of shocking because that totally -- there goes that stereotype.
Michael McFaul: [00:25:47] Exactly, the way you got vodka. A vodka was also scarce. You would have to buy especially in the -- there was this period where they're trying to cut down on drinking. So you'd have to buy vodka on the black market.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:00] Meet some guys bathtub.
Michael McFaul: [00:26:03] Well, usually it was real that that's called Samogon. You're talking about -- that's homemade vodka that also happened. But the way it would work is you would actually stop a taxi and a lot of taxi drivers had a vodka that they would sell on the black market and then most of the drinking in Russia back then, it's changed now obviously, but most of the drinking back then would take place in apartments not at bars.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:27] I thought you’re going to say in the taxi, I was like “Oh my God!”
Michael McFaul: [00:26:29] Well, in the taxi too. But the bars that were available were also, a lot of them were hard currency places. Another kind of corrupt scene where generally were in hotels for foreigners and some Russians were there, so obviously some deals were cut. But yeah, I mean it was a pretty weird economic and political system. But the point I was trying to make is there was this desire to meet Soviets and there was a -- they would have these parties where they would interact and talk now. It was somewhat superficial because the Russians were there to do business. The tourists were there to meet Soviets, but I remember some of those exchanges being genuine as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:12] That's interesting. Yeah, it sounds like when I went to North Korea, they had the bookstore, they turn on the lights when you walk in.
Michael McFaul: [00:27:18] You went to North Korea.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:18] Yeah. I used to run tours there for Westerners before it was illegal, and for me to even go there, but there's the bookstore, you walk in, there's no heat, it's the dead of winter. The woman comes out and is kind of, you can tell she just woke up or something. Turns on the lights wearing a jacket. You shop for posters, books, all written by one or two guys as you might imagine in North Korea. And then you leave, lights turn off, shade goes back down. There's no other customers in there, you know she's going back upstairs to her apartment or whatever. And that's all the customers for the entire week, month, whatever. And the rest of the stores are in the hotel and there's no locals there shopping there at all. And the one story you went to, I remember early on one of my tours. I complained that there was nobody else was shopping in the store and I thought that was really strange, and then a few days later we just happened to pop by that same store again and we just happened to go back in, which you never do on an organized tour like that. You don't have any free time where you drive across town, and look, there were a bunch of people in there buying stuff. It was really unusual, and then I went there for other times and never saw anyone there, separate tours. And I thought, did they just grab random people so that they could show us that there were people also shopping in the store.
Michael McFaul: [00:28:29] Interesting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:30] And they were all getting socks, every single person. They were all buying socks, which I thought was kind of weird.
Michael McFaul: [00:28:35] Well, so you know a thing or two about communist command economy.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:38] Yeah, a little bit. It's just -- I was wondering if it was that was uniquely strange for North Korea, or if that was just kind of a Soviet thing that had been exported all over the place.
Michael McFaul: [00:28:47] Well, that sounds like the Soviet command economy where there's shortages, stores don't have a lot of stuff. Every now and then something showed up and then a giant line would form. So I remember when I live there, giant lines would form when bananas would become available and they would literally sell them on the street and it would last for an hour or two, and then they'd be gone. So that's what shortage economies do, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:12] So people think you work for the CIA, you're the ambassador. You're supposed to build trust and relationships. How do you build trust when everyone thinks you're a spy?
Michael McFaul: [00:29:21] Well, not everybody thinks I'm a spy. They thought I was spy. And I mean the thing about my time as ambassador, I was there at a very tense time in us Russia relations because Putin thinks we're trying to overthrow him and things are tense, and then he invades Ukraine. Actually the day I left he invaded Ukraine, so I wasn't there for that trauma. But we been in this confrontation ever since. But remember because I've been living in the Soviet Union in Russia off and on for a long time. I actually knew a lot of people in the Russian government well before I showed up as ambassador including people that work closely with Putin. So superficially, they had a public reason to call me this revolutionary youth super, the kind of propaganda that they ran against me. But privately, there were some people that I did a lot of business with in the government, number one. And then number two within Russian society more generally, again, I've known some of those people for 25, 30 years. To be honest, I don't know if they thought I was a spy, but they most certainly weren't afraid to meet with me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:33] Yeah, I think I thought that was interesting because in the book there's sort of this tone of -- it seems like everyone thinks you're a spy except for your kind of old contacts, that you'd met earlier. And I wondered if there was anything specific that you had to do to kind of either build trust with new people or shake off the reputation that preceded you even before you arrived?
Michael McFaul: [00:30:54] Yeah, that's a hard question. I don't know the answer to that because there's a lot of variation. So I always assumed that the highest level officials, because they have a really good intelligence too. I always assumed that they knew the truth. So they would know that I'm not a spot, in the same way that our highest government officials knows who works for the SVR, or the FSB, their intelligence agencies, and those that are in the government that don't. I mean, I most certainly was privy to that information. When I worked at the White House, so I assume those at the Kremlin knew that. With respect to the propaganda against me, that was harder because it wasn't just that I was a spy. I was a revolutionary. I was a pedophile. That's when it really got bad.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:43] Oh, man.
Michael McFaul: [00:31:44]. You know, that was a kind of disinformation that was out there against me. And we struggle with how to respond to that, I don't want to trivialize it. I mean, both in the content and then on the platform. So the content, my attitude was, we should always call out lies as lies and just put it on the record, because not responding makes it sound like you're trying to hide something. So we did that, but our ability to reach Russians was way limited compared to Russian media. And at the end of the day, I'm not sure if we made a big dent in that or not. I don't know. I was very open all the time. I speak Russian or used to speak Russian. So I would do town halls, I would go to a lots of events. I was not afraid to be out there and engaging universities until I got banned. I got banned from universities.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:46] All of them?
Michael McFaul: [00:32:48] Well, I became too popular. When I would speak at universities, I was very popular, and the Russian government didn't like that. So they shut that down.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:56] You are popular because students would come in and say, “This is an alternate voice or we want to hear it straight from the horse's mouth.”
Michael McFaul: [00:33:02] Yeah. And they were just curious and they, you know, I was an engaging guy and students all over the world are kind of counterculture. You right, they're not just listening to authorities and I don't want to say that everybody who came to my lectures believe everything I said, but yeah, it was always standing remotely. I mean I would get out of my car and I would start signing autographs at university.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:29] How many ambassadors do that?
Michael McFaul: [00:33:31] Not very many. And so that's part of the reason they shut it down. They didn't like that. By the way, what are we going to do with that? So we started having lectures at my house.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:43] Oh wow.
Michael McFaul: [00:33:44] Because I had a ballroom that seated 600, 700 people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:47] In your house?
Michael McFaul: [00:33:48] In my house.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:49] Not bad.
Michael McFaul: [00:33:49] Yeah, check it out, Spaso House. For your listeners--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:52] We’ll link to that.
Michael McFaul: [00:33:53] You can do a virtual tour of it. It's pretty nice house. So where is the truth and how they thought about me. Hard to say. But a lot of people were most certainly intrigued to interact with me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:08] There's a lot of details in the book about diplomats traveling and staying at hotels. I actually just, I know you can't say too many details about this, but I'm so curious. When you travel, when you've got Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama with you, how do you stay in a hotel? Even if figure out that Ritz Carlton, you're still in Moscow, you're out of Russian, or you're in a hotel in Russian. So how do you keep things a secret? Of course, the KGB and the FSB went let's bug every single room just for safe measure and listen on every channel 24/7.
Michael McFaul: [00:34:37] Yep. Well, we went to extraordinary measures to have the ability to have private conversations. So you mentioned the Ritz Carlton. I've stayed at the Ritz Carlton with President Obama, with Secretary of State Clinton and with Vice President Biden, all three of those people. And we stayed at the Ritz Carlton. But here's what we did that maybe others didn't do, when we stayed at the Ritz -- actually is interesting for President Obama and Vice President Biden, we did more measures than we did for Secretary Clinton, and I don't know why. I'm going to come back to that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:15] Okay.
Michael McFaul: [00:35:15]But for Barack Obama, and there's some photos in the book of that trip, July 2009. We built a submarine like structure in the Ritz Carlton, every single piece of that submarine like entity thing, we shipped from the United States through diplomatic pouch, including like the batteries. I don't think we even plugged it in.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:39] Wow!
Michael McFaul: [00:35:40] So that we could go in there and read classified data from the United States and also talk to the president in a classified set up. That's what we did. I remember looking at this thing when I first walked in, I was like, “What? What is this?” And it's like, this really weird thing. And we did that for Biden as well. For Clinton, we did -- and I think I write about it in other trips because we did this with the president in less hostile places. The normal procedure was with Obama when -- I traveled with him around the world. We would go to a hotel, we would set up a secure space. We would put these blue tents. I remember they were always blue, inside a hotel room so that would mean cameras could not record what we're doing. Then we would have this weird music playing, sometimes like really bad rock and roll by the way.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:35] Oh my gosh.
Michael McFaul: [00:36:35] That then that would spin around, and then you would check all your phones and stuff with those with the Marines guarding the place. And then we would build terminals ourselves, so that we could read classified information, whether we are in Singapore or Copenhagen or somewhere like that when we were traveling abroad. And that's the precautions we did in order to try to that in the cat and mouse game of the Russian intelligence.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:01] So you rent the most comfortable, luxurious hotel you can find in this city. And then you make it the most uncomfortable place that you can.
Michael McFaul: [00:37:08] Yes. And it was horrible, and I spent many, many hours in those rooms and very unpleasant, but that's what we did.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:16] Yeah, I guess you have to do that. I’m so interested in that. I don't know why that was so fascinating because I just thought, all right, you can't just go, “Hey President Obama, are we going to do that whole thing with Syria tomorrow when you're in some taxi or you're in like that?”
Michael McFaul: [00:37:28] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:29] Even if it's your own driver, they've got listening devices all over the place. You can't just yell across the suite. “Hey what was that thing we were going to run by a” -- I mean, because even if you're not worried about the Russians listening, you've got probably other intelligence agencies that are interested in what you guys are going to disclose.
Michael McFaul: [00:37:43] Well, that's right. We don't have to worry just about the Russians. But we went to extraordinary measures. I mean there's another photo in my book where we're sitting in the meeting with president. It'd be out of the first meeting in the Kremlin. It's this incredibly ornate room, I remember, and I'm carrying what's called a Lock Bag. It's this really ugly bag that has a key to it, that you're allowed to carry classified information in outside of classified set. And then you can all always -- you could go to the embassy as well, when we're traveling, And obviously I did, to read classified information in the embassy, we had very secure rooms there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:23] Yeah, so you're not bringing that stuff back to Spaso House and hanging out with it? No?
Michael McFaul: [00:38:28] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:29] That's interesting.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:38:32] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Michael McFaul. We'll be right back after this.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:27] How do you prepare for a conversation with a world leader when you only get presumably one shot at it? People go, “Ooh yeah, you don't have to research for this job interview or this conversation.” By way of practicality, what kind of prep are you doing for these conversations? Because I think there's a lot to learn here, even from people who are never going to meet with Vladimir Putin.
Michael McFaul: [00:41:47] Right. Well, let's distinguish between two different ones, because they're related but different. So one is the prep that goes into Obama's meeting with Putin. Say Prime Minister Putin, President Putin. And when I worked at the White House, that was one of my primary jobs and it was a huge, or even a 45 minute phone call, a ton of work went into that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:11] How many hours roughly? I'm sure it varies.
Michael McFaul: [00:42:14] Several hours, but I'll tell you that the mechanics of it. So there's something -- I worked at the National Security Council, so if it was a call to Putin or Medvedev, I would be in charge of what's called the package for that call, and we would write a set of talking points and I mean, detailed talking points. The president often just read the talking points that I wrote, and it would be in his voice and his cadence, and it took a while to get used to it, but we kind of figured it out. And then we would also write the briefing paragraphs behind each talking point, so there would be Iran sanctions, here's the eight things we want you to say, and then here's the briefing points behind it. And we would do that within the National Security Council. So the people that worked on Iran would want to weigh in and the people that worked on Sanctions would weigh in and sometimes those would be contentious debates about what went in. And at the end of the day, I got the last word, and then we would kick it up the chain to the Deputy National Security Advisor and then the National Security, Advisor and then finally get the sign off on the call package. And then there's always, at least in the Obama era, I don't know how they do it today. It seems like the procedures are a little different from President Trump.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:34] Maybe, yeah.
Michael McFaul: [00:43:35] But then there was always the pre-brief, and so right before the call I would go into the Oval Office and would brief the president about kind of the objectives we're trying to do for that call. Or if we were overseas, there would be a pre-brief sometimes in one of these places we were just talking about, sometimes it would be on the ride in, the Beast, his car.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:57] Sure.
Michael McFaul: [00:43:58] I remember in France, we had a pretty intense pre-brief in the car ride in, because we didn't have much time. Sometimes it would be on the Air Force One. So I have this great photo of me doing the pre-brief before the Medvedev meeting, before we land in Moscow, in his conference room there. And Obama was very thorough about these things, right? He would go over things and we would kind of -- he always wanted there to be an outcome in mind for every single issue that we're talking about. We're not just talking about the weather and [indiscernible] [00:44:31]. We're
like [indiscernible][00:44:33] that's Russian, yada, yada, yada, that's English. We're like trying to get things done. And so those are -- it's very important point you made. There are precious moments, like an hour of time with Putin or Medvedev, you only get like a half a dozen of those in a year, so you've got to use it to get things done. And then another thing that would happen just to finish it, I was always on the phone, when the president was on the phone with Russians, I was on the other line in the Oval Office listening in.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:07] Overtly, right? Everyone knew, I've got invested in the phone.
Michael McFaul: [00:45:09] Yeah, they would know, although they wouldn't know everybody that's on the call.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:13] Sure.
Michael McFaul: [00:45:13] We didn't advertise that, but they were aware the people who were in the room. Some people are listening in that were not in the room as well.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:21]Yeah. I would imagine.
Michael McFaul: [00:45:22] And you can call secure unsecure and we normally did secure, because as you can imagine, lots of world leaders would be interested in those phones.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:31] I would imagine, yeah.
Michael McFaul: [00:45:32] And then there would be a briefing afterwards about, the do outs of either the meeting or the phone call.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:37] Wow! That is complicated, because of course the image that we have is civilians is we think you're sitting around the Oval Office. I've got to call a Putin at 6. You pick up the phone, you say, “All right, what's going on? I'm watching the news here, what's going on in Syria?
All right, well let's wrap this up. I don't want to have to bomb a chemical factory.”
Michael McFaul: [00:45:55] Every now and then that would happen. But 95 percent -- no for the majority of the time for the Russians, it might happen with leaders that the president was closer to. So I bet you he picked up the phone and called Merkel from time to time when I was there. But for the Russians, it was be a scheduled time. Even like who's going to pick up the phone first? I remember the first phone call we did, this is my fourth day at the White House. So January 2009, we’re there and the phones are on the president's desk and the people arranging the call. There's a whole team that all they do is arrange calls, that's what they do. And he was telling us, Mr. President don't pick up until Medvedev picks up first because that was always the little cat and mouse game, and finally we're sitting there and Obama just grabbed the phone because he didn't care.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:46] Yeah, and not for this status game. They play the same game somebody going to [indiscernible] [00:46:50]
Michael McFaul: [00:46:50] Yeah, he didn’t mind to be on hold for 15 seconds.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:52] That's funny that they put him on hold at all because I can imagine it's like let them wait. Put them on hold for a while. Well okay.
Michael McFaul: [00:46:59] A little power game going on there. Putin was always late, was always late. It was a little power game, he was playing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:05] He's sitting next to the phone, staring at it with his watch on the wrist, timing it down. How do you work on the -- well actually before I get into that, I would imagine some of these habits have stuck with you. I mean if you're preparing for hours and hours for 45 or even half an hour long phone call, do you find yourself doing that now where you're like, “All right, I've got a meeting. I'm going to prepare the crap out of this meeting.”
Michael McFaul: [00:47:26] Well, and I meant to say that as an ambassador at a much lower level, that I would do the same thing. So I would never meet one on one with Putin, that violates protocol. There are other countries in the world where they meet with ambassadors, heads of state. Russia, there's a very firm protocol, just as the Russian Ambassador Antonov is his name, I used to work with him. He would never meet one on one with -- well things are different for Trump.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:56] Yeah, apparent for a few months ago when they do it.
Michael McFaul: [00:47:59] But now he hasn’t it, there's this other thing, so there's a certain list of people that get to meet with the president, and if you don't do it, then they don't allow you. So I remember I prepared the call package, that meeting package for Sergey Lavrov, the Foreign Minister when he first met with Obama in 2009. And that's one meeting that happens, and that means that meant that Secretary Clinton on her trip to Moscow, we'd meet with the President of Russia. Ambassadors in Russia, you tend to deal with kind of the foreign minister, deputy foreign minister, government ministers, but not the president. I would attend those meetings, but I wouldn't have a one on one. But for my meetings, I did the same thing and we did the same thing at the embassy. But you got to be prepared and remember, you're dealing like, I'm a professor here at Stanford. I've written a lot about Russia, probably more than most, but sometimes you're dealing with very complicated issues like ractopamine. Do you know what ractopamine is?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:09] No, what is this?
Michael McFaul: [00:49:10] Neither did I. And then I actually spent a ton of time on ractopomine as ambassador. It took me forever to figure out what it was.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:18] It sounds like a pharmaceutical.
Michael McFaul: [00:49:20] It is, and it's an ingredient that we in the United States put in the feed for pigs that reduces, that makes them leaner, because Americans like their bacon lean.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:33] The bacon, we have here is lean? That’s a new one.
Michael McFaul: [00:49:36] Well, comparatively, but other countries in the world thinks that this bad for your health.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:42] It probably is.
Michael McFaul: [00:49:43] And I just know what my talking points were. I'm not a scientist, but we were trying to get them to allow us to export pork that had ractopomine used by our industry. And by the way, we eventually lost that debate. There's no --
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:04] So Russia has safer food than well, or --
Michael McFaul: [00:50:07] At least in that domain, but the Europeans don't allow ractopomine either.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:10] That’s a little red flag right there, I don't know. Not that I trust when any government initially will do because of the powers involved, but whenever we're the only country that allows us a certain chemical in the food, I'm always like, “Are we just late to the party here?”
Michael McFaul: [00:50:24] They'll look into it. But that's an instance of a specialized thing. And the TR accuse the quotas that we were allowed in terms of pork and chicken. So those are not things I knew as a Stanford professor even working at the White House. And that's where why you need a team of experts to help you get ready.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:42] In the book From Cold War To Hot Peace. There are some stories -- there was one in particular where I think it was like 9 a.m, and they brought in vodka or something like that. And you're going, “Well, I guess I got to take part in this.
Michael McFaul: [00:50:55] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:56] There's got to be some areas where you go, “Look, I'm not doing this.” Or, or do you have to -- are there courses that you guys take where it's like, “Look, if they're going to bring in vodka.” “Yes, it's going to be 7:30 in the morning. You just have to deal with it.”
Michael McFaul: [00:51:09] Yeah. Well, there are courses, we're sitting right now with the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. We call it here FSI at Stanford, but the State Department has their own FSI, the Foreign Service Institute, and out there, they train their diplomats in all of those -- I mean they train them in the languages, but they train them on all these cultural things as well. I didn't have the luxury of spending a lot of time at FSI. I only got a day and a half of training because I was at the White House, and I literally said goodbye to President Obama and Biden in the morning, and I was sworn in as Ambassador that next afternoon, and two days later I was on my way to Moscow. But yeah, you learn those things. I had lived in Russia.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:53] You lived there already, yeah.
Michael McFaul: [00:51:54] So I knew, but there's some tricky things and I made some mistakes. I definitely made some mistakes, both in my use of language particularly -- I think for me that’s -- if I have some regrets, it was when I had a little too much confidence in my use of the Russian language.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:16] Okay.
Michael McFaul: [00:52:17] I did because I had been going back and forth forever.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:19] Sure.
Michael McFaul: [00:52:21] I'd stopped writing Russian a long time ago, because I don't, you know, I don't write in Russian, but I do read Russian and I speak Russian. It's one thing to just be doing an interview for your research or speaking to friends in Russia at a seminar. It's another thing to represent the United States of America in Russian.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:44] Yeah.
Michael McFaul: [00:52:44] And I made some mistakes. I use some slang one time that was improper. I should have said, and this was on the record, I didn't know was on the record by the way. That's another thing you need to learn. You're always on the record. Yeah, you should always, as a US government official, they say it's just an informal seminar and then somebody sitting in the room as a journalist and that became news. I should have said, I was referring to Russian Kyrgyz economic relations. And at the time Putin was trying to get the government of Kyrgyzstan to close our air base in Kyrgyzstan. And what should have said is he offered him, Bakiyev was his name, the President. He offered him an economic assistance package. That's what I should have said.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:35] Okay.
Michael McFaul: [00:53:35] What I did say is I said the slang in Russian vzyatki, which is bribe.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:42] Oh, they must've loved that.
Michael McFaul: [00:53:43] They did not like that. They were extremely upset at me and that was, you know, that was a mistake.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:49] Yikes, and of course that got printed everywhere.
Michael McFaul: [00:53:51] It did.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:52] Yeah. That you're accusing them of bribery, all this stuff. My gosh. Speaking of all this sort of entry and always being on the record, you mentioned there were some sleeper cells of spies they'd sent to the United States, and this was all kind of under the table and off the record. And we actually interviewed someone for the show, his name is Jack Barsky. Have you heard of this guy? Oh my gosh. He was an illegal in the United States who came to through Canada to pretend he was American, and he ended up liking it so much. He just stayed. He told the government after they tried to call him back. He said that he had HIV so he could stay because he figured rightly they wouldn't want him to go back home.
Michael McFaul: [00:54:31] Wow!
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:31] If he was HIV positive. So he just set alienable that said he had HIV and then he got married and had kids.
Michael McFaul: [00:54:38] Amazing story. I didn't know that. I’ll look him up.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:40] Yeah, I'll send you the interview, he’ll cover a lot of this. It was interesting because one of his chief complaints was they sent me here to cause all this trouble and get close to people and he ended up going, I like it here. I'm coding computer programs, and insurance company. I’m eating good food. I like the people, got married, had kids, the end, and the way he got caught was he was fighting with his wife and she said something like, I don't remember how it came out, but he basically said, “Look, here's the problem. I came here from East Germany, I used to work for the KGB and all the stuff.” And the FBI happened to go -- they were listening because they were suspicious and they went, he just admitted it. So they arrested him and he got caught that way.
Michael McFaul: [00:55:22] Wow.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:22] But he ended up -- in true KGB fashion being such a charismatic guy that he befriended the FBI agent that he was working with and did whatever he needed to do. So now they're friends and they golf every Sunday.
Michael McFaul: [00:55:35] Wow. That's a great story.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:36] Yeah. He’s really interesting guy. Talk about good branding though. You send a spy here and they like it so much. They go, “You know what? I'm just going to stick around.” So deepen the cover that they just say it's true. I'm never gone home.
Michael McFaul: [00:55:47] Interesting.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:48] I think that's a good, a kind of a good, what do you call it? A vote of confidence for the American way.
Michael McFaul: [00:55:53] In our system. Well, that's for sure. I agree with that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:54] Yeah. How do you earn respects when you come to an office where a lot of people might just think, “Oh, this is some wonky guy?” You're not a career foreign service officer.
Michael McFaul: [00:56:04] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:05] And usually ambassadorships go to career foreign service officers, if I'm not mistaken.
Michael McFaul: [00:56:10] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:11] So you might've shown up in a place where people go, “Great I've been here for 20 years and they'd put this yachts in as my boss. What's going on here?” How do you come in and earn respect, earn the trust?
Michael McFaul: [00:56:21] Yeah, that's a good question because it's unusual to have a political appointee in Moscow. There are political appointees, about 30 percent of our ambassadors are political appointees as opposed to career diplomats. But there's two things that are different about them. They tend to give a lot of money to the presidential candidates.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:39] Sure.
Michael McFaul: [00:56:39] I think I gave 200 dollars to Obama.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:42] Yeah. And so that's how you get the job.
Michael McFaul: [00:56:44] Yeah, and they tend to go to places where the politics are not -- that diplomacy is not as crucial, whereas Russia is a crucial place. Now, subsequently President Trump has named another political appointee, Jon Huntsman is now the new Ambassador, so maybe that'll change with time. I don't know. But I was the first political appointee in 30 years there. And you're right, it was not easy. Who am I? What do I know? And there was suspicion about me and you got remember, when you're the ambassador for hundreds of people, you're not just the boss. You're actually like the -- you're like the mayor as well because it's a small village. I mean a lot of people lived on the compound. We had our own bar and food facility and hairdresser and basketball court and physical trainer. I had a trainer, we had our own store hairdresser.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:45] Was that a Russian guy? Because that's a pretty cushy gay.
Michael McFaul: [00:57:47] Russian woman.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:47] Okay.
Michael McFaul: [00:57:48] Yeah, she was fierce. She was tough.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:50] Because I'm thinking how do you get the gig? You're sitting in Montana and they go, “Look, you're going to be the trainer at the US Embassy.”
Michael McFaul: [00:57:57] No, no, she was Russian.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:58] Okay. That makes sense.
Michael McFaul: [00:57:59] No, actually, she's immigrated. She now works in Washington. She was a fantastic trainer.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:03] She must have been a great trainer.
Michael McFaul: [00:58:04] First time, I ever had a trainer. But right, so you're dealing with housing issues and we had a big issue of just for instance, huge protest over the vendor for lunch because Russians don't eat sandwiches. They have hot food for lunch. That's their main meal that day.
Jordan Harbinger: [0:58:23] Oh, so they were thinking this is prison food.
Michael McFaul: [00:58:25] Right. And the Americans want a grab and go Turkey sandwiches and sushi. And so there was this huge societal fight over what we're going to have for food. And so anyway, so there's that dimension with the job too.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:39] That's interesting though because you're managing this cross cultural divide because honestly you kind of have to give them what they want because they're among everyone's equally important, I would imagine in this. You've got your American staffing, sure, and you don't want them to hate life, but these Russians, they can quit and leave, the Americans at least in there, they got shipped over.
Michael McFaul: [00:59:00] I never thought of it that way, but it was you know -- so there's that bundle of issues. So your point is a good one and I was nervous about it. I did have some advantages. One is a lot of new ambassadors don't know the policy and they have to learn the policy after they've been nominated. I didn't have to do that. I helped to write the policy because I was there from the very beginning. So Russia policy in the year 2012, I've been in the White House the whole time, that was a big advantage. Number two, a lot of ambassadors have to kind of inflate their relationship with senior decision makers back in Washington. So they don't really know the President. But if you walk into their office, you'll see they have a photo of them with the President. Probably the one time they met him or her or him, so far on their way to be deployed. I've worked for Obama for three, four years, so I already knew him well and everybody in the government knew that I knew him well, and I'd worked on the campaign. And I knew the Secretary of State, and I knew the National Security Advisor. So that was advantage number two for me.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:08] Got a couple of selfies in your phone with--
Michael McFaul: [01:00:10] I do. I've got some great photos with the president, some of which are in the book.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:14] I had the audio book, so I never get to see it.
Michael McFaul: [01:00:16] Oh, well I'll show you a copy later.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:18] Thanks.
Michael McFaul: [01:00:18] Number three. Some ambassadors show up and they never lived in that country before or spoke the language and these are career people as well. I spoke Russian. I'd lived there many, many times, so it was not my first rodeo. And then four, I remember this one day talking to some of the junior officers that were working for me. I'm an academic, I've published tens of thousands of pages on Russia. Some of them had read my book, to as part of their training to get ready to go to Moscow. So those were advantages that I have, and you'd have to ask people what they thought, I think on balance, those advantages, I had way outweigh the disadvantages. But there were some places, especially with, I would say the Senior Diplomatic Corps, people who probably thought that they should be ambassadors not me, those were the ones I had to win over.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:17] That exists in pretty much every industry though. Whenever you get promoted over somebody else, there's always somebody who thinks they deserve it more.
Michael McFaul: [01:01:23] It’s a good point.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:24] Yeah, yeah. You mentioned some of your gaps, if you can call it that. You are super authentic on social media and in the press, and that was especially the case in Russia, I think you said you had a Twitter account, probably the only social media that was really, aside from Facebook that was being used back then. Why did you do that? What were some of the effects, the positive effects of that aside from misspeaking on a tweet here and there?
Michael McFaul: [01:01:48] Yeah. Well, that was not my idea. That was Hillary Clinton's idea. The meeting I had with her before I went out to Moscow. First she said, “Stay strong. Be strong. Push back and defend our policy.” And the other thing she said is--
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:03] Get on Twitter.
Michael McFaul: [01:02:05] Well, she said, she basically did, she said engage with society.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:08] Okay.
Michael McFaul: [01:02:09] And because Russia, the state controls their conventional media. She said, use social media. And she had an advisor, his name is Alec Ross. I remember he came over to my White House Office and he said, “I'm going to give you a little tutorial on how to use social media.” And his job was to do that with all diplomats. And you're right, this is brand new. I was one of the first users of Twitter in the State Department, and I'd never seen a tweet before I got to Moscow.
[01:02:43] So that came from her, and how to evaluate it? I think I'm balanced it was a very useful tool. I mean, I use Twitter, Facebook, I had my own blog on something called Live Journal. So those were the three main platforms we used. And there was a rating agency and I often would be in the top 10 most--
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:10] Influential.
Michael McFaul: [01:03:10] Influential bloggers in Russia. So I was the only foreigner that would ever make that list. So there was demand for what we were saying. And there was a couple things that were great about it. One obvious, the obvious thing, you can get out your message and it's not filtered to the Russian media, and then our statement is out there and then others can use it for their reporting. So that was great.
[01:03:32] Two, Russia's a big country. It would take a hundred years to go to every city in Russia. So Twitter offered me a way to interact with Russians and Siberia or more months in the North or Chechnya, that I never got to most of those places. And that was really a new, they'd never talked to an ambassador before, and Twitter would allow me to do that. And then there's a third thing about the reporting part. This was another way to look into Russian society, what was happening on social media. And a lot of the traditional diplomats hadn't done that before. They just were reading the newspapers, watching TV, but there's this whole other place. And by the way, the Russian government was active in this space too. It wasn't just the opposition or civil society. People are movie stars. And so we learned, I think from being interactive on Twitter about what was happening in Russia.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:30] And also, you noted this in the book that your candor on these platforms made the Russian government look a little bit bad because they never would admit fault with anything. And you'd be like, “Oh hey, look, my bad, this is an apology.” “Oh this didn't work out.” You don't hear that from state controlled media outlets.
Michael McFaul: [01:04:45] Well that's for sure.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:46] Yeah. They ignore problems.
Michael McFaul: [01:04:48] That’s for sure.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:48] Or tell them, “Yeah, we did that deliberately because you don't understand the plan of the wisdom of our great leader or whatever,” depending on where you're at.
Michael McFaul: [01:04:56] That's true. And that definitely differentiated me from Putin. In fact, one his people told me one day, he said, “What he really doesn't like about you is exactly that.” Your openness, because of that indirectly undermines his closeness. Like I would tweet about my son's basketball game. I was the coach. We don’t even know where his kids live. So that in a much more subtle way than handing out money to the opposition was a criticism of his regime and the way he ruled it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:28] Interesting. So you didn't have to say this regime is restrictive. Look, it's this really close. You just had to live a totally different example.
Michael McFaul: [01:05:36] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:36] And people went, “Oh, wait a minute.”
Michael McFaul: [01:05:38] That's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:38] Look at Barack Obama shooting hoops.
Michael McFaul: [01:05:41] That’s right, and those were powerful, subtle messages about the difference between their system and ours.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:46] That is interesting. How do you stay focused when there's a full court press around you 24/7, to throw you off your game? Because towards the end of the book you're talking about people are following you. People are following your kids. People are bugging you literally, bugging you, bugging your premises, chasing you around cars, chasing your friends around. And how do you, how do you push that to one side and focus on the job? Because I assume that that's all there to make you jittery and get you to make a mistake or something like that.
Michael McFaul: [01:06:14] You're right. It is. And at times that succeeded, the harassment did cause me to make a mistake one time when it was broadcast and that was detrimental to what I was trying to do. And I don't want to dismiss it, especially the stuff they did with my family, did get under my skin, and they knew exactly the right buttons to push for me. They're good at their jobs and they got it right.
I guess I would say two things. One is, we used a lot of humor in my family just to kind of keep it all light and always remember that we had a lot of support staff and the real danger to us was pretty minimal. My wife used to joke when our kids were being followed to school, she said, “Well better the government following them then some crazy nationalists. So they're probably going to protect them and sometimes when we're traveling around and then they would be lurking around where we're at, where it's like, “Okay, we got one more layer of protection here, in addition to our bodyguards. But it was annoying and it was unprecedented. It didn't happen even during the communist days. This was a new level of pressure and it wasn't just me, by the way. There are many other people at the embassy that experienced it and it was disruptive and for other people, not me, but for other people, it was so disruptive that they left. They didn't want to be in that space.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:45] Did you ever think about turning to the people that were tailing you and being like, “Hey man, do you want some coffee?” Because you had to know, you had to see the same faces over and over and over again.
Michael McFaul: [01:07:53 ]Well, I didn't do it with those people at the advice of my own bodyguard.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:07:59] They say don’t engagement with them, okay.
Michael McFaul: [01:08:01] Yeah. We had a protocol about how to deal with them, but there was another group that for however reasons back to our point about that they seem to always know my calendar. They always knew where I was going. They always knew when we had like a dinner party or a reception at my house.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:20] And what do you use outlook? It can't be that hard.
Michael McFaul: [01:08:23] Probably not so hard to break into our system. But so they were -- and they would show up all the time. Sometimes it would be three people, sometimes it'd be 50 people, and show up and yell and scream at me, revolutionary guy and putting microphones in my face and try to trip me up. And I remember one time, this particular group and I did get to know their faces, because they were with me all the time. I drove in to my house and there they were. And remember, they're staked outside of my house. They're there to harass Russians coming to the event because they're going to film them and then they're going to put it on TV to say, ha-ha there they're coming to get their instructions to overthrow the regime share from McFaul. That's the way it was portrayed. And by the way, it worked. People stop coming. They did not want to be filmed and they didn't want to be part of that disinformation. It worked. And I remember, I was coming in, they were there, and so I got out of my car before I drove into the compound and I started filming them, and I started asking them questions about who are you, why are you here, who do you work for? And then I went in and then I came back out and I gave him cookies. And I said, I know you guys -- we’re going to be here a long time, so I want to make sure you're okay. And so every now and then we joked around like that most of the time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:48] Take more poison cookies, have them analyze it.
Michael McFaul: [01:09:50] Well, I should have said that. That would have been smarter. I wasn't that clever, but most of the time was a little more adversarial than that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:56] I'm guessing those cookies did not get consumed by them or are they just totally know they're full of crap and they went on these were good cookies. He knows where just here to screw around. Is it true that Obama told Medvedev, “Hey, stop screwing with McFaul?”
Michael McFaul: [01:10:09] Yeah, he did.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:09] He literally said that?
Michael McFaul: [01:10:11] The key is to stronger word than that. I'm not going to repeat right now. Begins with the letter F.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:10:16] I can imagine him just saying, “Hey, stop effing with McFaul and Medvedev probably said, “This is above even my pay grade.” Right?
Michael McFaul: [01:10:23] Well, I don't know what he said in response. It was a one on one. So the way these bilateral meetings generally work, this was in a Seoul, I was ambassador by then. It was 2012, and just to say, explain for your listeners, why are we in Seoul? We're in Seoul for some multilateral meeting, and then there's always these side meetings that you do with various heads of state. Bilats are called bilateral meetings. So I flew all the way from Moscow to Seoul just to be in that meeting for an hour. That's the way it would work. And that was unusual actually, Obama wanted me there, most times ambassadors don't travel to these third countries, but because I knew him, he had me come. Anyway, there's always a, not always, but usually there's something called a pull aside at the end of one of these meetings where you have the formal meeting for a couple hours and then the sensitive stuff, the two presidents would pull aside sometimes it was in a separate room to talk about the sensitive stuff. And then he did that with a Medvedev, and that's when they talked about me and it was in the car ride back to our hotel that he told us that what he had said in that meeting. That's what I learned about it. I don't know what Medvedev said. That's the only thing I know.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:39] Yeah. He probably just shrugged and said, “I don't know what you're talking about.” Yeah. I mean, it must be so embarrassing to be called out like that because we don't do -- I assume we listen in on conversations and things like that, but we don't put people outside their house, we don't follow people's kids to school.
Michael McFaul: [01:11:55] We don't.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:11:55] You don't really need to do that. It doesn't really do anything.
Michael McFaul: [01:11:59] We don't, and it’s interesting you said that, because when things were getting heated, some of our folks in our government thought, “Well, let's start doing the same thing to them.” With Kislyak, let's put a little pressure on them. And the hardliners, in our government, they were like, “Well, why don't we just do that?” And we thought about it and I want to be clear, sometimes much worse things happen to our people than what happen to me. I mean, some people got beat up, some people got arrested, allegedly for spying, and the norms of how our countries are supposed to interact in these channels were being violated. And every time we had that conversation, it was always “No, because we're not them.” We're not going to act like them. So we're going to push back or we're going to try to stop it, and we did push back, but we're better than them.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:12:57] I think that's probably the proper response and you see this happen socially as well. Because imagine being in someone like Kislyak, and he's going, yeah, I know we're harassing his family, we’re harassing his kids, we’re harassing all the staff, and he goes and he walks down the street by himself, gets a cup of coffee and nobody bothers him. It's hard at some point to keep lying to yourself and thinking, “Yeah, we're on the right side of this.” When you've got to do all this crap to get.
Michael McFaul: [01:13:21] That’s right.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:22] And you know it doesn't do anything. You know you're just being petty and screwing with people.
Michael McFaul: [01:13:26] I think that's right.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:13:27] Because you don't have the upper hand.
Michael McFaul: [01:13:28] Yep, I think that's right. Well, you know on that question though, I should know one of the things that was -- we're talking about some of the dark side of being ambassador, but the flip side is what you're alluding to, I do want to dig into it a little bit. It was awesome to represent the United States of America abroad. I mean, it was a fantastic job because I do think we have a fantastic country, and that little conversation that you played that maybe Kislyak was thinking about. I never had to do that. Sure, we make mistakes. Sure, we had tough conversations about foreign policy issues and sometimes domestic issues. Police brutality for instance, I had to answer those kinds of questions at town hall meetings. But on balance, I always felt that my job of representing America and all the greatness of the different dimensions of our society was much easier than Kislyak’s job on representing Russia.
[01:14:31] And one of the great things about the job that I did, because you asked me a great question at the beginning about well what is it, the job? Like one part I left out, part of your job is to facilitate and expose Russians to America in all its dimensions, not just about our differences about Syria. So one of my jobs for instance, to make it less abstract was to host the NBA at my house. I love basketball, and a dozen players came to the from America and a bunch of Russian players too, because there's a good chunk of Russian players these days, and our job was to like sell the NBA and then help them run a clinic at my kid's high school. The NBA hasn't been to my house here in Palo Alto at this time lately, doing dribbling drills with my kids. That was part of my job. Another part of my job was to host, this jazz musician, Herbie Hancock, who was an idol of mine as a kid. I used to play a jazz music, and here, he's playing in my house, a concert for 500 of my friends. That's pretty awesome. Or to host a eBay.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:43] ebay?
Michael McFaul: [01:15:43] eBay came to town one time. Fantastic company.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:46] On the scale of jazz and NBA, eBay's definitely the bottom.
Michael McFaul: [01:15:49] Well, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:15:50] Sorry, eBay.
Michael McFaul: [01:15:51] Fair point, fair point. But we're representing like the Silicon Valley and there's a different way to do business. That was the kind of subtle point of that. And at particularly, the musical performances. I mean, we had bluegrass music. I'm from Montana, we had a band from Montana ones. We had the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We had hip hop, we had Latin music, we had this incredible group from New Orleans that came, and irrespective of our differences on policy, we could all bond over that stuff, and that was my job. That was a great job. And there was one other anecdote, when we were getting harassed and all this stuff. And remember my security guys, their job is to protect me, and tragically I was ambassador when Ambassador Stevens was killed in Libya. So there was even more heightened awareness about security for Americans. And I remember one of my body guards, my inner body guards are all Russian. And then I had more Americans depending on the security situation. And I remember one of the guys saying to me, “You know, Mr. ambassador, we think for protection, we should take the flag down on your car.” I was like, “What do you mean?” “Well, so we could travel a little bit more quietly around town,” and we're driving in this giant black Cadillacs, giant with two Suburbans, Brown Suburbans with my bodyguards in them. And it's like, “I think everybody knows we’re the American ambassador here.” Let's put the flag up.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:31] Yeah, keep the flag up.
Michael McFaul: [01:17:31] I always like, I always liked having the flag up. And by the way, thousands of Russians did too. They would take photographs all the time of my car with that flag. I loved seeing that flag.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:17:41] That's interesting. I want to end on a high note for Russia too, because we talked about harassment and food and all of a sudden. Would you recommend traveling there? Because it does sound quite interesting.
Michael McFaul: [01:17:51] Without question. Oh, it's a fantastic country. One, just the cultural and historic richness of the place can fill up a weeks of your time. I mean, Moscow, St. Petersburg because these are incredible cities with lots of history and beautiful places. Some of the most striking things you can see in the world, that's number one. Number two, it is no longer the poor country we were talking about. So I think a lot of Americans, they still think of it circa 1990 and poverty, and it isn’t. And Moscow is a super-rich city, a very pleasant place where you can go to Shake Shack where my kids like to go. But you can also go to some of the most fancy restaurants in the world, so you'll be taken care of there. Nothing is difficult about traveling in Russia anymore. And three, and this is a great place to end. Tragically I'm on the sanctions list right now. I can't travel to Russia, because of the difficulties in our relationship and that we put so many of their people on the list. But I consider some of my closest friends in life to be Russians because I've been going there for 30 years, and they take their relationships really seriously. And just as I think you can come to America and have a great time and keep politics aside, you don't have to be a Trump supporter or a Trump hater to come and enjoy our country and get to know Americans. I think you can do that with Russia too, with their leader and their system, and there's no better way to do that, and to really understand a country than to go there. So I mean, highly recommended.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:36] And unless you're on the sanctions list, in which case tough luck.
Michael McFaul: [01:19:39] You’re on the sanctions list is, you can't do it. I tragically can't. I haven't been there for four years now.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:19:45] You think that, when's that supposed to -- you think you'll ever be able to go back? Is it going to take 30 years before they fix that?
Michael McFaul: [01:19:52] I don't know. I honestly don't know. My situation got even more complicated this summer when President Trump and Putin met in Helsinki just days before then. Mueller had indicted a dozen GRU military intelligence officials for what they did in the 2016 election here, for stealing data and publishing it. So Putin at that meeting said, “Well, we have a dozen Americans that we think may have committed crimes against us, and I was on that list.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:23] Oh man.
Michael McFaul: [01:20:24] So not only do I have the sanctions problem, but I now have the threat of indictment, and it's a totally made up cockamamie story. A completely crazy, it's about something I did when I was at the White House, not as ambassador. But that means it probably would be a long, long time before I get back to Russia.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:42] Yeah. That's like Bill Browde. You have to worry about traveling now because of the red list. So you could do Spain, and you could end up, “Hey, you're on the Interpol list.”
Michael McFaul: [01:20:50] Well, I hope that that is a really low probability, but it's not a zero probability.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:20:56] Yeah, wow! Well, Michael McFaul, thank you so much.
Michael McFaul: [01:20:59] Thanks for having me.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:02] So Jason, Russia 2019, what do you think?
Jason DeFillippo: [01:21:05] I think I'm in, I was amazed that he said that it's a great country to visit. I was actually floored. I mean, I always wanted to go there, but I'm terrified of it, but he kind of paints the picture that it is just a beautiful culture that everybody should, you know, get to experience. So let's do it. Road trip!
Jordan Harbinger: [01:21:22] Road trip, exactly. I mean there might be a plane involved, but yeah, definitely, definitely interested in checking out. Hopefully, I haven't done enough Bill Browder episodes to get in trouble when I go there. I'm not too sure. I might be on some list somewhere, but I would love to see it, and I think I'm not so surprised he thought that. He studied it for a long time. He lived there for a long time. He's an expert on the place and to be truthful, he spent a lot of good years there and had a blast, and then he just happened to be put right into a position where he became kind of the guy in the line of fire during a time where we were sanctioning the country. So yeah, wrong place, wrong time. I think he was quite disappointed about being persona non grata PNGed in Russia.
[01:22:05] I think it's kind of a rough punishment, and I think they knew that when they put him on that list. But great big thank you to Michael McFaul. He is an interesting character. I was really grateful to do this show live on Stanford University Campus. His book is called From Cold War to Hot Peace, the inside story of Russia and America. It's a great read if you're interested in this sort of topic. And if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems, using tiny habits, and not spending my entire day doing it, check out our Six-Minute Networking Course. It's free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. The key to relationships is making them before you need them. You can't make up for lost time with this stuff and I know you're busy. I know you want to do it later. I'm telling you, start now. Put in a few minutes each day, and I'm going to teach you exactly how to do it. Go to jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:22:57] And speaking of relationships, shoot me a takeaway here from Michael McFaul. I'm @jordanharbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, and don't forget if you want learn how to apply everything you learned today from Michael McFaul. Well, make sure you go grab the worksheets. Those are also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[01:23:14] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne, and this episode was co-produced by my comrades, Jason DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. The show notes are by Robert Fogarty. Worksheets by Caleb Bacon, and I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. The fee for the show as always is that you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every single episode. So please share the show with those you love, and even those you don't. A lot more in the pipe, I'm very excited for some of our future guests, including this one, of course. And in the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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