In a Wednesday article for the New York Times, regarding the sociopolitical impact of RT and its sister outlets, including Sputnik, McFaul took a complimentary, if somewhat backhanded, stance. "There is a demand in certain countries for this alternative view, an appetite, and we arrogant Americans shouldn't just think that no one cares," he told the Times.
He followed that up with a tweet: "I admire/fear RT. Not a joke."
Since resigning from office (his stated reason was that he wished to spend more time with his family), and taking up his old job as a Stanford University professor of Political Science, McFaul has shown himself a persistent, outspoken critic of both Russia and US President Donald Trump. The former ambassador to Russia has been a frequent guest at security conferences and talk shows ever since.
His recent tweet is not the first time McFaul expressed his surprising admiration for RT. In December 2016 the ambassador tweeted to RT and Sputnik editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan, asking for the opportunity to host a show on RT. Simonyan agreed, provided that McFaul presented a high-quality pilot. A pilot has not, as yet, materialized.
McFaul has nonetheless consistently admitted that RT is extremely effective in presenting its audience with alternative points of view. At the same time, the former ambassador urged the US to review its policies of American government-funded foreign broadcasters.
"RT does serve the interests of the Kremlin effectively. USG must reconsider our strategy in this domain. VOA not cutting it," he wrote.
RT does serve the interests of the Kremlin effectively. USG must reconsider our strategy in this domain. VOA not cutting it. https://t.co/aFqINpkU8d— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) December 13, 2016
McFaul then praised RT leadership, saying that "RT and Simonyan do a fantastic job in the service of the Russian state. Wish we had the same in the service of US state."
Although generally critical of Trump's approach to Russia, McFaul expressed hope for the future, telling Sputnik in February that "[the] Trump administration did not figure out Russia policy yet so you have a contradictory set of ideas… I don't think they figure it out. They need more time."