Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul’s use of Twitter and other social media for public outreach became arguably the hallmark of his tenure in Moscow, revolutionizing the social media site as a tool for diplomacy.
So when a Twitter feed emerged earlier this month claiming to be the official account of McFaul’s likely successor, it garnered more than 1,700 followers in just a few weeks.
But as it turns out, the supposed “official” account of John Tefft, U.S. President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. envoy in Moscow, is a sham.
Twitter suspended the account, @J_Tefft, on July 31 after dozens of posts were made on the feed, which was followed by several journalists as well as at least one senior European official, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.
Some on Twitter had questioned the authenticity of the account, which featured a mix of straightforward, silly, and perplexing Tweets -- often conveyed in English and Russian peppered with grammatical mistakes.
“Russia is ready to take me?” one Tweet read shortly after the account was launched earlier this month.
One post congratulated Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger on his birthday.
Another tweet, “America is another name for inspiration,” was an apparent riff on the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, "America is another name for opportunity."
It was not immediately clear who was behind the fake account, nor is it clear whether Tefft himself maintains a Twitter account.
Tefft, who has yet to be confirmed for the post by the Senate, declined to comment when contacted by RFE/RL.
A veteran foreign service officer, Tefft is known as an old-school diplomat who cut his teeth on the State Department’s Soviet desk during the Cold War.
Tefft has been criticized in the Russian media as Washington’s go-to-guy for fomenting political unrest in former Soviet states, due largely to his stints as U.S. ambassador to Georgia and Ukraine.
Both countries saw "color revolutions" that swept pro-Western governments into power over the past decade.
Tefft was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 29, and his nomination must now be approved by the Senate.