A Channel One analyst, Mikhail Leontiev, described him as “not an expert” on Russia.
As Russia’s presidential election approaches, the criticisms by Lavrov and the TV program were in a sense elaborations on remarks made earlier by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Russia has to assume its proper role in shaping world affairs. That almost inevitably means sparring with the United States.
But after a year of popular uprisings in the Arab world, which Russia has taken a dim view of, Moscow has become especially sensitive to American support for civil society, an unfettered Internet and what Putin calls “exporting democracy.” Some Russian officials have suggested that the United States helped to sponsor December protests in Russia.
The TV program, broadcast on Tuesday night, linked McFaul to what it sarcastically referred to as “revolution” in Russia. That day, he had met with a group of opposition figures, including Yevgenia Chirikova, who led the effort to try to save the Khimki Forest outside Moscow from road construction and has become a leader of the political protests here.
On his blog, McFaul said it was important for him to meet with the opposition as well as government leaders. “It’s a policy we call dual-track engagement,” he said. “We learned a lot from listening to these leaders.”
At Wednesday’s news conference, devoted to a review of Russian foreign policy, Lavrov kept returning to the role of the United States and the ways in which Russia takes issue with American policies and intentions.
Neither as belligerent nor as caustic as the TV program on McFaul, Lavrov laid out Russian objections to the American approach on Middle Eastern democracy, missile defense, trade restrictions and adoption. Nothing that he said indicated an abrupt departure from past Russian pronouncements, but the news conference was an occasion to put all of Moscow’s grievances together. He saved some of his strongest comments for discussing Syria.
Russia, he said, opposes the use of force against the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and will use its veto to prevent the United Nations from supporting armed intervention.
“If some intend to use force at all cost . . . we can hardly prevent that from happening,” he said. “But let them do it at their own initiative on their own conscience. They won’t get any authorization from the U.N. Security Council.”