WASHINGTON -- Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, says there is "real politics in Russia again."
Speaking on March 12 at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, he said Russia is in a period of "civil society renewal" and that "society is taking their constitutional rights more seriously and the state is responding to that."
The U.S. envoy was referencing recent mass protests and the unusually energized public debate in Russia following December's parliamentary elections and March's presidential election, which saw Vladimir Putin, who has been prime minister since 2008, reelected president for a third term.
McFaul also said that urging U.S. lawmakers to repeal the Cold War-era Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which prohibits permanent normal trade relations with Russia, is the Obama administration's "top trade issue for this year."
The ambassador, who took up his post in January, also said the recent wave of anti-American rhetoric in the country is "somewhat shocking" and likely attributable to the presidential campaign season.