National Security

FP's Situation Report: Bob Work: The Ax Man Cometh

How Whack-a-Mole in Pakistan could end; Is Pyongyang fielding a new "road-mobile" ICBM?; Peckerwood is the new black; What is a Skinny Puppy and why is it mad?; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

The Ax Man Cometh: Bob Work likes analysis, ships and bad B-movies. Can he cut the Pentagon's budget? ...Work, the chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security, will be nominated by the White House as the new deputy secretary of defense by the end of the week, possibly even today, U.S. officials tell Situation Report. That will leave Work with one of the most difficult jobs imaginable: slashing the Pentagon's bloated budget and pushing back against the powerful lawmakers and senior military officials who will do all they can to preserve the status quo.

Work will have three things on his plate, said Jim Stavridis, the retired four-star admiral who now serves as the dean of Tufts University's Fletcher School: "The budget, the budget and the budget."

Work has earned a reputation as a careful analyst and a hands-on manager who is well suited to running the day-to-day operations of the Pentagon during a time of fundamental changes to its missions and resources. He has shown a willingness to make controversial decisions like supporting the killing of an advanced vehicle cherished by his fellow Marines.

At the same time, those who know him say Work can be quick to cut off debate and resistant to hearing opposing views. At CNAS, which has long prided itself for being staffed by strong personalities who enjoy intellectual jousting, Work has been seen as ponderous and occasionally closed off from his staff. As one individual who knows Work put it: "He's boring even as a defense nerd."

But it's not all Work and no play: ...Juan Garcia, the assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower and reserve affairs, has seen a different side of Work. The two men agreed one of them would visit the wounded at Bethesda Naval Hospital at least once a month. Work, Garcia said, also had another passion.

"He's also a guy with a true appreciation for bad B-movie action flicks," Garcia told Situation Report in an e-mail, citing 2011's Battle: Los Angeles as an example. "I look forward to having him back in the building." Read our pre-nom, mini-profile here.

Work's work is cut out for him: Four think tanks agreed, roughly, on defense spending yesterday. Defense News' Paul McCleary: "...During a briefing held in the Dirksen Senate Office building on Wednesday, a group of well-known budgetary and strategic thinkers from the four think tanks coalesced around a roughly similar set of options for the Pentagon over the next decade: The venerable A-10 attack plane should be retired, along with the U2 spy plane and the F-18C/D models, while the Navy should lose two to four of its current aircraft carriers. Hosted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, the event also featured the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Center for a New American Strategy (CNAS), and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"The effort is the organization's yearly attempt to game out the options being weighed by the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). While all four teams cut carriers and destroyers from the Navy's arsenal - they only did so in order to preserve funding to add to the Navy's submarines and also to replace the current carriers with newer models - keeping the industrial base happy-instead of giving mid-life overhauls to existing flattops. Read McCleary's piece here. And click here for the slides from each think tank at CSBA's event yesterday.

Apropos of nothing: In the A, B, C, D and E-Rings: Peckerwood is the new black. Ever since Clyde Vaughn, the retired three-star who served as the director of the Army National Guard, used the word "peckerwood" during a hearing in Congress this week, it's become the word-du-jour in the Pentagon. From a dear friend of Situation Report: "Peckerwood is the new black.  After General Vaughn used the phrase in hill testimony yesterday I've heard it constantly in the halls."

HA! "...First everyone had to look it up (no one wants to become a statistic) but once Webster verified the word is only a run-of-the-mill 'often disparaging' noun defined as 'a rural white southerner' it displaced honey badger as the most used idiom."

Here's the quote from Vaughn: "I told them: We got to catch the first peckerwoods to get out here and mess this thing up for everybody, and we got to prosecute them quickly." Here's FP's Dan Lamothe's story from the hearing here.

Welcome to Thursday's edition of Situation Report. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

Page One: The Pakistan drone program is being curbed - and the game of Whac-a-Mole could begin to be over. The WSJ's Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman and Saeed Shah: "The Obama administration will narrow its controversial drone program in Pakistan to target a short list of high-level terrorists, and aim to end it during the prime minister's current term, senior U.S. officials have told their Pakistani counterparts.

The downsizing of the covert Central Intelligence Agency program reflects Pakistani objections to the strikes and logistical constraints on the spy agency at the end of this year, when U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of neighboring Afghanistan, according to administration, intelligence and military officials.

"Senior U.S. officials said they have discussed the revisions with Pakistani officials in a series of meetings over the past six months. U.S. officials say the goal is to make the drone campaign less of an irritant in the two countries' troubled relations, without preventing the CIA from conducting higher-priority operations during the time the program has left. The changes fall short of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's demands for an immediate freeze in drone strikes...

Now, the list of new targets doesn't replenish itself. The WSJ: "...Officials say the revision is meant to move the CIA away from what some critics call a 'Whac-A-Mole' approach and put the U.S. on a path to end the program, though not as quickly as drone critics and the Pakistani government would like. The CIA has long added new targets to a longer 'kill list' on a rolling basis as old targets are hit. Now, U.S. officials say, the 'kill list' is not self-replenishing, a change long sought by Islamabad. 'By taking one off, we're not automatically putting one on,' a senior U.S. official said. As a result, the number of targets on the list are decreasing as the CIA's drones focus on a more limited number of high-level targets that "will enable us to conclude the program," the official said." Read the rest here.
The soldier behind the SOTU: CBS' David Martin profiles Cory Remsburg, the Army Ranger who did (count 'em) 10 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before being critically injured by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan in October 2009. He met President Obama three times - then got an invite to sit next to Michelle at the State of the Union address last week. People have been wondering about him ever since.

David Martin: "Which is the tougher fight, against the enemy or the fight you're fighting now against your wounds?"

Cory Remsburg, slurring, because it took almost eight months before he could speak after the attack: "Hands down now."

Martin: "Hands down now."

The segment's kicker -

Martin: "And what does Sgt. First Class Cory Remsburg think of the extraordinary service he gave his country?"

Remsburg: "In a perfect world, I'd do it all again. I'd go back if they let me [thumbs up]."

Martin: "We all know it's not a perfect world. But Cory Remsburg just might be a perfect soldier. David Martin, CBS News, Phoenix, Arizona."  Watch the whole report here and cry.

Eek: North Korea has taken the initial steps toward fielding a "road-mobile" intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting parts of the U.S. Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio: "...The KN-08 has been been displayed twice in parades, and 'we assess that North Korea has already taken initial steps towards fielding this system, although it remains untested,' Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, said in his latest annual unclassified Worldwide Threat assessment.

North Korea's missile development, along with concern about Iranian weapons programs, is the principle rationale for the $34 billion U.S. ground based-missile defense program managed by Boeing Co., which hasn't had a successful interception test since December 2008." Read the rest here.

Adm. John Kirby's readout of Chuck Hagel's phoner with South Korea's Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan Jin: They discussed "the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, the United States' unwavering commitment to the U.S.-ROK alliance, and the importance of regional cooperation to reinforce deterrence against North Korean threats," reaffirmed the "strength of the alliance" and agreed that "close consultation and coordination are pivotal in promoting alliance unity and readiness in all areas."

"Skinny Puppy" sends a bill to the Pentagon, but where's the invoice? The BBC: "A Canadian rock band has sent a bill to the US military after being told its music was used to torment suspected terrorists at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, a member has said.

"Skinny Puppy keyboardist Cevin Key told CTV News the band sought $666,000 (£409,000) for use of its music. Key said a fan who had served as a guard there informed the group its music had been used. A US military spokesman told the BBC it had not received an invoice. Lt Col Todd Breasseale said the defense department would not comment on procedures at Guantanamo Bay."

Keyboardist Cevin Key: "I am not only against the fact they're using our music to inflict damage on somebody else but they are doing it without anybody's permission." Read the rest here.

Scandal Update:  Hagel worried about an "ethical breakdown" in the U.S. military:  Most of Wednesday's Pentagon briefing dealt with the problem that is becoming a bigger and bigger thorn in the Pentagon's side.  AP's Lita Baldor and Bob Burns: "Concerned that ethical problems inside the military might run deeper than he realized, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered service leaders Wednesday to add urgency to their drive to ensure ‘‘moral character and moral courage'' in a force emerging from more than a decade of war. Almost a year into his tenure as Pentagon chief, Hagel had been worried by a string of ethics scandals that produced a wave of unwelcome publicity for the military. But in light of new disclosures this week, including the announcement of alleged cheating among senior sailors in the nuclear Navy, Hagel decided to push for a fuller accounting.

"... The steady drumbeat of one military ethics scandal after another has caused many to conclude that the misbehavior reflects more than routine lapses."

Pentagon pressec Kirby: ‘‘He definitely sees this as a growing problem...‘And he's concerned about the depth of it... ‘I don't think he could stand here and tell you that he has - that anybody has - the full grasp here, and that's what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn't have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it." Read the rest of the AP report here.

Debbie James Love: Kori Schake, writing on FP, says that finally, the Air Force gets the leader it deserves. Read her bit here.

On Syria, Kerry says Assad's position has "improved a little bit" but he's not winning, it's a stalemate:  Speaking to CNN's Jake Tapper, the Secretary of State also said "Iran is not open for business" contrary to recent assertions by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and "Nobody should doubt for an instant that the United States is prepared to enforce the sanctions that exist. And all of our allies are in agreement that those sanctions are staying in place until or unless there is a deal." In response to critical comments from some Israeli officials about remarks Kerry made at the Munich Security Conference ("For Israel, there's an increasing de-legitimation campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it, there's talk of boycotts, and other kinds of things.") Kerry pushed back "I've been ... attacked before by people using real bullets not words, and I'm not going to be intimidated."   He also made clear he won't run for President in 2016. For the invu, click here.

Pentagon says to industry - stem that urge to mergeReuters' Andrea Shalal-Esa: "...Elana Broitman, whose office at the Defense Department reviews deals that involve national security issues, told an investor conference that ‘there are far fewer of the large firms, so we're in a more constrained environment.  Even though we're seeing a budget downturn which has corresponded to consolidation in the past, we'd be less comfortable now because of that smaller number." Read the rest here.

Cool Code Name News:  "Taranis" and "Colossus" are the British code names for the UK's no-longer-quite-so-top secret unmanned drone and a World War II code breaking early computer. Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, was unveiled in 2010 but had its first test flight only recently.  The builder, BAE systems, calls it "the pinnacle of British engineering."  Read more from the BBC here.  And as for "Colossus," a happy 70th birthday wish is in order; it was first used by the brainy gang at Bletchley Park on February 5, 1944 to crack messages sent by Hitler and his generals.  It stayed secret for decades, continuing its service against the then Soviet Union, as noted, also by the BBC, here (check out all the tubes in the photo.)

Check out FP's cartoonist Matt Bors' bit today: Sugarfree ScarJo to the Rescue: If only Middle East peace were this easy, here.


National Security

FP's Situation Report: Bob Work, on deck

Vaughn to McCaskill: catch the peckerwoods!; Move over Air Force, the Navy has a new cheating scandal; Why there are more Kalashnikovs moving in Afg; Clapper on Assad; and a bit more.

By Gordon Lubold

Bob Work, on deck. At long last, it looks to be true - Bob Work, the retired Marine colonel who done good, is poised to be nominated to be the next Deputy Secretary of Defense in the next day or so. Work, chief executive officer at the Center for a New American Security, appears to be in pre-nom mode, turning down invitations for speaking engagements and other events, Situation Report is told. Work, who last served as the Navy's No. 2, has long been thought to be the nominee. But his actual nomination seemed to be delayed for any a number of reasons. Some believed it was to give Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox a little space to do some heavy lifting on the budget. Although the defense budget probably won't be released until March now, much of that work may be done and maybe now is the right time for a Work nom. So, it's on. Check back here later today for our bit on Work. 

Sharing the hot seat: Move over Air Force, the Navy has a cheating scandal, too. It turns out the Air Force isn't the only service with a cheating scandal in the ranks of its nuclear force. With the Air Force grappling with growing evidence of systemic wrongdoing among its nuclear personnel, the Navy announced Tuesday that, it, too has uncovered a similar problem at a nuclear propulsion base in Charleston, S.C. Senior Navy officials said they'd already fingered 30 sailors but acknowledged that the total numbers could grow. And if the Air Force scandal is any indication, they will: Air Force commanders first said 34 officers were implicated, only to later raise that estimate to 92. They now say the true figure is likely to be even higher.

Tuesday's announcement means the hot seat the Air Force has been occupying for the last several weeks must now be shared with the Navy, the only other service that operates nuclear systems. Navy officials said that that a sailor-instructor from the nuclear power training unit in Charleston had come forward after colleagues asked if he or she wanted to participate in a cheating ring. The alleged ring includes senior enlisted personnel who allegedly shared information about how to pass proficiency tests designed to measure their knowledge of naval nuclear reactors.

As Navy officials put it, their system worked: the senior sailor rebuffed the personnel running the cheating ring and immediately alerted the program's chain of command. Navy officials, who had already begun a review of their own nuclear force after the Air Force scandal came to light, said they were conducting a formal investigation into the alleged incident.

"To say that I'm disappointed would be an understatement whenever I hear about integrity issues," said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, who was accompanied at a last-minute press briefing at the Pentagon by the head of the Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program, Adm. John Richardson.

Added Richardson to reporters: "I take full responsibility for this incident - it is mine to investigate and to correct."

Noting: we think Richardson's look-alike is RFK but no one agrees with us. Whatevs! Read the rest of our story here.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of Situation Report, where we'll never sell cigarettes. If you'd like to sign up to receive Situation Report, send us a note at and we'll just stick you on. And if you like what you see, tell a friend.  And if you have a report you want teased, a piece of news, or a good tidbit, send it to us early for maximum tease, because if you see something, we hope you'll say something -- to Situation Report. And one more thing: please follow us @glubold.

The Army recruiting scandal just got bigger.  FP's own Dan Lamothe: "One of the largest fraud investigations in the Army's history has grown grew even larger, with lawmakers releasing new evidence that a troubled Army National Guard recruiting program allowed hundreds of troops, including a two-star general and at least 18 colonels, to effectively steal as much as $66 million.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has been leading the Congressional investigation into the National Guard program, repeatedly asked senior officials who had overseen the Army's now-defunct Recruiting Assistance Program why the initiative hadn't been designed with better anti-fraud measures. The program offered cash incentives to all troops who helped nudge other would-be soldiers to join the military. The Army's actual recruiters weren't eligible for the money, but an Army audit completed in 2012 concluded that disgruntled recruiters and other troops may have unlawfully cooked the books to collect tens, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars that they didn't deserve.

McCaskill, clearly exasperated, during yesterday's hearing: "This is what kills me about this, you guys: This is, like, basic... You just assumed whoever was typing [recruits' information] in was telling the truth! And then nobody checked to see if they're lying! You're giving out millions of dollars, no questions asked!"

Lamothe: "Retired Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, who commanded the Army National Guard from June 2005 to June 2009, was among the officials who defended the incentive program on Tuesday, saying its success in finding those additional recruits should not be overlooked. He pushed back against McCaskill's allegation that he and his staff didn't do enough to oversee the money, saying he regularly urged the general officers in charge of the National Guard in each state and territory to watch out for fraud. Those other officers were potentially at fault, he implied, for failing to keep a closer eye on the soldiers under their individual commands.

Vaughn, using a surprisingly colorful military epithet: "I told them, ‘We have to catch the first peckerwoods who get out here and mess this thing up. And, we have to prosecute them quickly... and I did that 18 months in a row." Read the rest of Lamothe's bit here.

Pakistan is a no-show at Taliban peace talks. The NYT's Salman Masood reporting from Islamabad: "Pakistani government representatives failed to appear on Tuesday for the scheduled start of peace talks with the Taliban, forcing the postponement of the talks and drawing a sharp rebuke from the militants' representatives. The episode added to the swirl of contradictory statements, confusion and delays that have surrounded the peace initiative since last week, when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made the surprise announcement that a four-member delegation would hold talks with the Pakistani Taliban. In turn, the Taliban named five public figures, including the opposition politician Imran Khan, to represent them in the talks. But Mr. Khan and another of the five refused to do so. The three remaining designees, led by Maulana Sami ul-Haq, a prominent religious scholar with close ties to Taliban leaders, said on Monday that they would meet the next day with the government representatives in Islamabad, the capital. But on Tuesday the government side balked." More here.

Page One: U.S. to curb drone strikes in Pakistan. The WaPo's Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller: "The Obama administration has sharply curtailed drone strikes in Pakistan after a request from the government there for restraint as it pursues peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, according to U.S. officials. 'That's what they asked for, and we didn't tell them no,' one U.S. official said. The administration indicated that it will still carry out strikes against senior al-Qaeda targets, if they become available, and move to thwart any direct, imminent threat to U.S. persons... The administration is 'continuing to aggressively identify and disrupt terrorist threats in the Afghan war theater and outside areas of active hostilities in line with our established CT [counterterrorism] objectives and legal and policy standards. .?.?. Reports that we have agreed to a different approach in support of Pakistani peace talks are wrong,' said the senior official, one of several interviewed for this article who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive matter." Read the rest here.

Tora Bora isn't the one one: Read the top 10 mistakes the U.S. made in Afghanistan, by  FP's Stephen Walt here.

New today: Were you curious if the delay in signing the bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan was having any other effects? Right. So was the team of experts at the U.S. Institute of Peace, which conducted research on the economic impacts of the delay based on interviews with 29 people around the country. The research shows that the delay is causing increased hedging behavior, including increasing corruption and also causing Afghans to hoard their savings; it's also contributing to increased opium production, increased demand for small arms and the USIP team also found that real estate prices are falling and long-term investments are dropping, too. From one of those interviewed for the study, explaining the second-order effects of the delay: "Families in the east always used to make sure at least one of their boys went into the national army, if for no other reason than to draw a steady paycheck. Right now they are rethinking this livelihood strategy, and fewer families are sending their sons to the government."

At the same time, USIP found that some families are choosing to arm themselves, in part due to the failure of the government to pay police in some provinces and also, likely, due to the uncertainty of having no security agreement in place that would ensure the U.S. and coalition forces stay in some form. USIP found that a small arms dealer in Jalalabad said he is moving more Kalashnikovs and handguns than, according to the dealer, "at any time since the fall of the Taliban." You can read USIP's new report today by clicking here.

Afghanistan is likely one of Obama's most important decisions this year. The NYT's Peter Baker and Matthew Rosenberg: "President Obama brought his top Afghanistan commanders to the Oval Office on Tuesday to discuss the way forward in a war he is determined to end by the end of the year, even as he finds himself stymied by an unreliable partner and an uncertain future. Increasingly vexed by Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, Mr. Obama is trying to figure out what form a residual force might take after the bulk of American troops leave by December and what would happen if no Americans stayed behind at all. The debate has rekindled some of the tensions within the administration that divided it in its early days.

"With Mr. Karzai reinforcing Washington's view of him as an erratic ally, skeptics of the administration's Afghan strategy are increasingly open to withdrawing entirely at the end of 2014. Some in Mr. Obama's civilian circle suspect that his generals may be trying to manipulate him with an all-or-nothing approach to a residual force. Military officials say they are trying to leave options open and are themselves more ambivalent than ever about staying.

"The internal dynamics involved in the review, described by a variety of current and former White House, administration and military officials, are complicating what could be one of the most important decisions Mr. Obama makes this year. The president wants to avoid a repeat of what has happened in Iraq, which is again under siege, and yet he considers extricating the United States from Afghanistan a signature achievement for his legacy.

"...While Washington has long been frustrated by Mr. Karzai, what little patience remains has ebbed in recent weeks as he blamed American forces for terrorist attacks on civilians, threatened to release prisoners deemed dangerous by the international coalition and likened the United States to a 'colonial power.'"

Who came to Obama's meeting yesterday? "...As part of his review, Mr. Obama met Tuesday with Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the general's vice chairman, Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.; Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commander of American and allied forces in Afghanistan; Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the United States Central Command; and Adm. William H. McRaven, head of the United States Special Operations Command." Read the rest here.

Channeling Jim Lehrer: Afghanistan has its first televised debate. The WSJ's Nathan Hodge: "...The debate was aired as Afghan newsrooms prepare for blanket coverage of the campaign. Local media outlets are launching dedicated campaign websites, editors are dispatching reporters to the provinces, and candidates are prepping for a series of unprecedented debates."

Presidential candidate and leading contender Abdullah Abdullah to Hodge: "I think it went very well. It was a civilized debate...We reached millions through television and radio channels. The people of Afghanistan can make a conscious decision." More here.

Intel chief Jim Clapper: This is why Assad is stronger. Reuters' Warren Strobel: "Last year's agreement to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons left President Bashar al-Assad in a strengthened position, and there appears little chance rebels will soon force him from power, the U.S. intelligence chief told Congress on Tuesday. 'The prospects are right now that (Assad) is actually in a strengthened position than when we discussed this last year, by virtue of his agreement to remove the chemical weapons, as slow as that process has been,' said James Clapper, director of national intelligence.

"Clapper... did not specify why the September agreement on chemical arms had boosted Assad's position... Clapper said Assad's government is likely to remain in power, absent a diplomatic agreement for a new transitional government, which most analysts consider a long shot... 'I foresee kind of more of the same, sort of a perpetual state of a stalemate where ... neither the regime nor the opposition can prevail,'" Clapper told the House Intelligence Committee." More here.

The budget deal means the Pentagon needs real budget reforms: Vets Duncan Hunter and Pete Hegseth writing an op-ed in USA Today today: "Imagine a combat infantryman with 25 years of military service, through times of war and peace. Now retired, this veteran struggles with back pain and arthritis, warranting a disability rating and modest compensation for decades of grueling service. Despite the pain, he is deeply proud of his service to this country. "Now imagine a military compensation system that, because of growing budget pressures, is incapable of providing him with the full benefits he earned through decades of service. No different than federal entitlement programs, the military compensation system is facing challenges and constraints of its own. The Ryan-Murray budget deal, whether intentional or not, thrust military compensation into the spotlight and called attention to disconcerting projections of a system that, unless reformed, will be unable to meet its future obligations and crowd out other defense priorities." Their suggestions for an alternative to reform spending that could potentially save $600 million per year includes "audit the Pentagon" and "reform retirement benefits for future DOD employees" and "reform the acquisition process." Read the rest here.

An official says the threats at Sochi are real. AP's Kim Dozier: "A top U.S. counterterrorist official says there are "a number of specific threats" aimed at the Winter Olympics that start this week in Sochi, Russia - with the greatest danger coming from the Caucasus Emirate, which has threatened to attack the games. Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. and Russia are tracking threats of 'varying degrees' of credibility. He said potential attacks seem more likely outside the venues for the games, and instead in the area or region around Sochi. He described intelligence sharing with Russia as 'good.'" More here.

U.S. Ambassador to Moscow McFaul, out soon. Reuters' Steve Gutterman: "U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul, who engineered Washington's "reset" of relations with Moscow but riled Russia during his tenure as envoy, said on Tuesday he would soon leave his posting and the administration of President Barack Obama. McFaul helped Obama improve ties with Russia during his first term but was clouded by controversy from the start of his stint as envoy after Vladimir Putin, campaigning to regain the presidency in 2012, accused Washington of stirring up protests." More here.