President Barack Obama plans to nominate his top Russia adviser as the next U.S. ambassador to that country, a man who helped the administration's work to "reset" the two countries' relationship.
A senior administration official on Sunday confirmed the choice of Michael McFaul. That would be a departure from standard practice because McFaul is not a career diplomat.
The administration official spoke on condition of anonymity to speak ahead of a formal announcement. The choice was first reported by The New York Times. Aboard Air Force, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had no comment.
McFaul is considered one of the nation's foremost experts on U.S.-Russia relations and has become a trusted policy adviser as the president has sought to ease long-standing tensions with Russia. Among the recent moves to begin the relationship anew is the signing of the New START treaty to reduce strategic warheads.
Among the challenges to the U.S.-Russia relationship are an American plan for missile defense, which the Russians say threatens their security, and changes that might stem from the upcoming presidential elections in Russia.
McFaul, a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and a political science professor, would replace U.S. Ambassador John Beyrle.
A Rhodes scholar, McFaul traveled in the former Soviet Union and spent two years at the Carnegie Moscow Center before moving to Stanford. He has written or coauthored numerous articles and books on Russia's post-communism transition to democracy.
McFaul was a campaign adviser to Obama on Russia and Eurasia, before moving to the National Security Council to become the president's chief Russia adviser.