U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul reacted on Monday to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s criticism by writing in his Twitter microblog that he is “still learning the craft of speaking more diplomatically.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday criticized McFaul for statements he had made at a meeting with students of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow a few days earlier.
McFaul on Friday in particular told students that Russia had “bribed” Kyrgyzstan four years ago to prompt the country to shut down the U.S. military airbase in Manas airport near Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek. In his speech, he admitted that the United States had also offered a bribe to Kyrgyzstan, but ten times less.
“The Russian Foreign Ministry was extremely bewildered by the U.S. ambassador’s statements… His estimates of Russian-U.S. cooperation go far beyond diplomatic etiquette,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.
McFaul’s statements “are in essence a deliberate distortion of a number of aspects of the Russian-American dialogue,” the ministry said. “This is not the first time when statements and actions of Mr. McFaul, who holds such a responsible post, cause bewilderment.”
“As we see it, the task of ambassadors is progressive development of bilateral relations with the host country on the basis of deep knowledge of facts rather than angry duplication of fairy tales through media,” it said.
“As regards Manas airport, McFaul must know better which bribes and to whom Washington gave,” the statement said.
The United States began operations at the Manas base in 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks to support military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It remains a key supply facility for the ongoing military campaign there.
When Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev assumed his post in December 2011, he stated that Kyrgyzstan would not prolong the lease contract with the United States, which expires in 2014, saying that he did not want a third country carrying out a retaliatory strike against the civilian airport. Pentagon officials have since been trying to persuade the Kyrgyz authorities to change their mind.
The U.S. airbase serves now as a major transit point for supplying troops in Afghanistan. It also hosts a fleet of coalition aerial tankers for refueling fighter and surveillance aircraft used in Afghanistan. It will likely be closed down in 2014.