- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2012

RUSSIA TV ATTACKS U.S. ENVOY

Russian state television this week denounced U.S. Ambassador Michael A. McFaul after the American envoy met with political opposition leaders in Moscow.

“The fact is that McFaul is not an expert on Russia. He is a specialist purely in the promotion of democracy,” said commentator Mikhail Leontyev on Russia’s Channel One television.

The broadcaster also suggested the ambassador, who took up his post on Monday, had links to U.S. spy agencies through his earlier work with the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), according to reporters in Moscow.

Mr. McFaul was the “representative in Russia for the NDI, which is known for being close to the American secret services,” Mr. Leontyev claimed.

Kathy Gest, a spokeswoman for at the NDI, which is associated with the Democratic Party, scoffed at the accusation.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” she said. “It is a falsehood.”

Mr. McFaul appeared to dismiss the attack in a posting on his Twitter account.

“No word about the three years of ‘reset,’ ” he said, referring to President Obama’s policy in U.S.-Russian relations.

Mr. McFaul is widely regarded as one of the administration’s top specialists on Russia. He is a former senior director for Russian affairs at the National Security Council and has written widely on Russian issues.

Mr. Leontyev claimed Mr. McFaul has written many articles critical of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is running for a third term as president in March.

He specifically cited Mr. McFaul’s 2001 book, “An Unfinished Revolution in Russia: The Political Change From Gorbachev to Putin.”

“Has McFaul arrived in Russia to work in the speciality? That is, finish the revolution,” Mr. Leontyev said.

Mr. McFaul met Tuesday with civic leaders and representatives of the Communist, Just Russia, People’s Freedom and Yabloko parties.

“We had an informal conversation about the state of civil society in our country, about human-rights violations and the problems that we have,” human-rights activist Lev Ponomarev told Russia’s Interfax news.

On Thursday, Mr. McFaul said at a Moscow public-policy forum that he expects the U.S. Congress to soon repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a Cold War policy designed to impose trade sanctions on the old Soviet Union for preventing Soviet Jews from migrating to Israel or the West.

‘POWER-HUNGRY TYRANT’

The feisty chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week responded to the latest criticism from Venezuela by calling autocratic President Hugo Chavez a “power-hungry tyrant.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who regularly spars with Mr. Chavez and other left-wing leaders in Latin America, said Venezuelan state television has been attacking her for her role in getting a Venezuelan diplomat ousted from the United States.

“The attacks against me by Venezuelan state television are proof positive that in Venezuela the Chavez regime decides everything, down to the content of programming that its citizens watch,” said the Florida Republican.

She suggested that the television station should report on “rolling electrical blackouts” in the capital, Caracas, the “lack of bread, milk and other basic staples throughout the country, the attacks against private property and the withering of human rights.”

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said she doubts those issues will be covered as long as “a power-hungry tyrant” has control of the media.

State television criticized Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen after the State Department last week expelled Livia Acosta, Venezuela’s consul-general in Miami who had been linked to an Iranian plant to disrupt computer systems at U.S. nuclear power plants.

Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen and other members of Congress had called for the State Department to investigate a report about the plot by the Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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