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According to David Remnick,

In 1991, McFaul was in St. Petersburg, trying to organize a seminar on local government. He found himself doing business with a man from the mayor’s office named Igor Sechin. He and Sechin took an immediate liking to each other. It turned out that, like McFaul, Sechin was interested in Mozambique. They both spoke Portuguese. Sechin never actually said that his familiarity with matters Mozambican came from having been a young Soviet intelligence operative in Maputo, or that he still was a K.G.B. officer, but McFaul knew the score. What he discovered, as they talked, was that Sechin assumed that McFaul, too, was an intelligence agent.

It was an encounter with a certain historical freight: a generation later, when McFaul became Obama’s Ambassador to Russia, Sechin became the president of Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned, hugely profitable energy conglomerate.

Source: David Remnick, Watching the eclipse, The New Yorker, August 2, 2014.


The excerpt above suggests that Michael McFaul and Igor Sechin first met in 1991. However, searching from:McFaul sechin on Twitter led me to the following March 2020 tweet in which McFaul claimed he first met Sechin in 1990.

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Here is a transcription of the tweet to make search engines happy:

⁦‪@maxseddon‬⁩ Sechin was in Mozambique. I dont think he ever worked in Angola (where I used to travel in the 1980s). We spoke Portuguese the first time we met in 1990.

So, when did these two first meet? In 1990 or in 1991? Remnick provided no references and McFaul might have posted his tweet in haste without worrying too much about historical accuracy. Perhaps, in one of McFaul's books, he wrote about his first encounter with Sechin. References would be most welcome.

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  • 2
    I have a hard time remembering what specific year something happened 30 years ago...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 15:46
  • 2
    @JonCuster - As a frequent twitter user, I've on occasion done this exact thing, and then found nit-picky commenters did the work of narrowing down the date much better for me, with only the dubious glory of getting to tell me I was wrong as their reward. I'd say as a good rule of thumb, the date given on the media that's better designed for later editing of one's initial raw thoughts should be trusted more.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 18:02

1 Answer 1

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According to Michael McFaul himself,

In my work with NDI, most events weren't nearly as exciting as Democratic Russia's mass demonstration in March 1991. In May of that year NDI organized a new round of "technical training seminars"—a title we used to sound apolitical—on Democratic Government and Municipal Finance. How boring does that sound? [...] [Putin] handed me off to his trusted deputy, Igor Sechin, who ran the logistics to perfection—much more efficiently than his counterparts in the Moscow city government. [...] At the concluding dinner that night, Russians and Americans together toasted our cooperation and success. In the midst of our celebration, Sechin, Putin's deputy, made a jarring confession. As we congratulated each other on a successful conference, he revealed to me that he too had worked in intelligence, just like his boss. He spoke Portuguese, just like I did, and had worked in southern Africa, just like I had. Although I am sure that I had met dozens of Soviet intelligence officers by then, none of them had admitted it. I wondered if he was telling me this information, especially about our shared experiences in Lusophone Africa, to suggest that he believed that I also was an intelligence officer, a CIA agent. Or was he just trying to be friendly? I finally concluded that it didn't really matter, since we were all on the same side now.

Source: Michael McFaul, From Cold War to Hot Peace, May 2018.


Bold is mine. In case you are wondering, NDI stands for National Democratic Institute.

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