- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2012

Moscow’s relentless criticism of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul reached a new height this week when the foreign minister accused him of arrogance.

Sergey Lavrov said that Mr. McFaul was “very arrogant” in appearing to dismiss Russia’s concern about U.S. missile-defense plans for Europe in an interview the ambassador gave Tuesday with the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency.

The foreign minister’s censure was the highest-ranking criticism of Mr. McFaul since he arrived in Moscow three months ago. Most of the previous complaints came from pro-Kremlin sources in the Russian media.

The onslaught of criticism started after Mr. McFaul met with Russian opposition leaders in January.

In his interview with RIA Novosti, Mr. McFaul was asked about Russia’s concern that the U.S. missile-defense shield for Europe would undermine Moscow’s own nuclear arsenal and disrupt the balance of power.

“We are going to accept no limitations on that whatsoever because the security of our people, of our allies, is the No. 1 priority,” the ambassador said.

Mr. McFaul reiterated the U.S. position that the defense system is designed to protect Europe and the United States from missile attacks from rogue states like Iran and North Korea.

The United States has “no interest in building a missile-defense system against Russia’s nuclear arsenal,” he added.

Mr. Lavrov dismissed the ambassador’s assurances, and lectured him on the proper role of an ambassador and the need to consult with the Russian government.

“Our colleague, the U.S. ambassador, made a very arrogant statement that there will be no changes on the missile-defense system, but as an ambassador he should understand that interests of the other state should also be taken into account,” he said.

In his interview, Mr. McFaul also downplayed President Obama’s comment to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would be more “flexible” on missile-defense if he is re-elected in November.

The two men thought they were speaking privately, but their remarks were picked up on a microphone as they were talking in Seoul, where they attended an annual conference on nuclear security.

Mr. McFaul said the president’s comment “means were are going to build whatever missile-defense system we need.”

Mr. Obama’s critics have accused him of planning to make more concessions to the incoming Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

As prime minister, Mr. Putin objected strongly to the original plan promoted by President George W. Bush to put a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Mr. Obama canceled those plans in favor of a scaled-back missile-defense on Navy warships.

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