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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 13th July 2018 > The Catbird Seat

The Catbird Seat

As Obama’s ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul got to know how its president thinks. And he’s clear on one thing: Thanks to Trump, ‘the world looks pretty good from Putin’s point of view’



MICHAEL MCFAUL WAS AN ACADEMIC EXPERT IN RUSSIAN STUDIES WHEN President Barack Obama tapped him to become the White House’s point man on Russia in 2009. He was tasked with attempting to reset relations with Russia after its invasion of neighboring Georgia. But soon after he was appointed as ambassador, Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of being behind mass demonstrations opposing his third term as president. McFaul quickly became a hated figure in Russian media, and nationalist youth groups physically harassed him after he met with representatives of the Russian opposition.

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OVER THE MOON When the world first learned of a historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the news didn’t come from a presidential tweet or a state-run media announcement. More than any other player in this diplomatic drama, South Korean President Moon Jae-in was most responsible for the historic meeting. Acting as mediators between Trump and Kim, he and his top aides had spent months encouraging, cajoling and flattering the two leaders into accepting the conditions that made their denuclearization talks possible. For Moon, the Singapore summit was a diplomatic and political triumph.In the wake of the meeting, polls showed Moon en-joying his highest approval ratings since his election in May 2017.