It is important to stress the following: Nobody is arguing against the right of American diplomats to meet with the opposition. However, nobody forgot about the political rationality of various actions even if they initially seem perfectly innocent. Michael McFaul, as an expert on issues of democracy should know Joseph Schumpeter’s democratic theory as written in his acclaimed book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. As one of the prerequisites for normal functioning of democracy he mentions politicians’ awareness of self-control and self-restraint. Schumpeter notes that even if the opposition has resources for putting more pressure on the authorities to overthrow them, it should nonetheless restrain itself if this could lead to not just the government’s fall but also possibly to state collapse.
Hence, in my view, the meeting in question was not in the interest of the new ambassador, nor in the interest of today’s opposition, nor in the interest of Russian-American relations. The ambassador now will have to devote effort to smoothing over his mistake, just as Obama did when he put forward some unpalatable claims about Prime Minister Putin before his first official visit to Moscow. Then he had to lavish upon the man plenty of compliments once he arrived to limit the damage caused by his clumsy behavior.
Andranik Migranyan is the director of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York. He is also a professor at the Institute of International Relations in Moscow, a former member of the Public Chamber and a former member of the Russian Presidential Council.
Image: The White House