Tit For Tat For Tit: Russia expels two US diplomats over unprovoked attack at US Embassy Moscow

Posted: 3:12 am ET
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On June 6, a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB)  guard reportedly attacked one of our accredited diplomats posted in Moscow. About three weeks later, somebody told the Washington Post about the attack.

This previously unreported attack occurred just steps from the entrance to the U.S. Embassy complex, which is located in the Presnensky District in Moscow’s city center. After being tackled by the FSB guard, the diplomat suffered a broken shoulder, among other injuries. He was eventually able to enter the embassy and was then flown out of Russia to receive urgent medical attention, administration officials confirmed to me. He remains outside of Russia.

RFE/RL reported the response from Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on June 30  — that the guard attempted to stop the man to check his identity, but the man struck the guard in the face with his elbow before running into the embassy. “In the tussle that followed, the unknown man shoved away the guard employee and disappeared into the embassy,” she said.

Here’s TASS with a quote from the Russian deputy foreign minister about the incident:

“A video of that incident was broadcasted on July 7 by the NTV channel and speaks for itself – in the middle of the night some man wearing a hat pulled on his eyes, though it is summer, rushes from a taxi to the embassy entrance without any attempts to present a pass,” the Russian deputy foreign minister said. “Then, as the police on guard in order to prevent any threat for the diplomatic mission from the stranger, hurries to the person, the man gives him a punch by elbow into the face, thus actually committing a crime.”

Well, now, here’s the video, which was released earlier this week by Russian state-owned NTV.

Can we please file the deputy under the “Baghdad Bob” folder?

In any case, on July 7, WaPo reported that Congress is now investigating the attack on the U.S. diplomat in Moscow.

On Friday, July 8, State Department spox, John Kirby told reporters for the first time that Russian diplomats were expelled from the US on June 17 in response to the attack. “We are extremely troubled by the way our employees have been treated over the past couple years,” Kirby said.

Gotcha. One month, two days.

On July 9, Russia’s Sputnik News confirmed from the Russian Foreign Ministry that “Washington urged Russian diplomats to leave the US, while not voicing any complaints concerning their activity.”

Also on July 9, TASS reported that “two CIA officials working for U.S. Embassy were declared persona non grata.”  Apparently, Moscow has also warned Washington that “further escalation of bilateral relations will not remain unanswered.”

Here’s something to read via The American Interest:

The Obama Administration really wanted to keep this incident quiet. Whether due to wishful thinking or for reasons knowable only to those on the inside, the White House seems to think it can make progress with Russia on both the Ukraine and Syria portfolios. The harassment of State Department personnel in Moscow by security personnel was not exactly a new phenomenon, even though it had increased in intensity since Russia annexed Crimea, fought a covert war in Donbas, and had sanctions imposed on it. The White House probably saw this latest assault, egregious though it was, as fitting into a well-established pattern (one at odds with whatever hopeful signs it thought it was getting directly from the Kremlin).The Administration knew the video of the beating looked bad and could inflame U.S. domestic opinion if it leaked. But to its credit, it did not completely turn the other cheek either. Rather, it stuck to the informal, accepted procedure of quietly PNGing two Russian spies with diplomatic cover and gave zero notice to the press. Whatever the original reason for the assault, the thinking must have gone, it’s important that it not get in the way of improving relations with the Kremlin.

Read more: Kremlin Paranoia Leads to Escalation in Spy War and Why Russia Published Footage of an FSB Agent Beating an American in Moscow.

Below via the DPB with the official spox on July 8:

QUESTION: Okay. On the incident outside the Russian embassy, there’s been more comments out of Moscow or wherever. Seems like they’re bent on humiliating you over this incident. Do you have a response?

MR KIRBY: So I’ve been clear from the podium that we would prefer to deal with this matter in private government-to-government channels. However, because, as you noted, the Russian Government continues to make allegations about this incident, I am now compelled to set the record straight. On the 6th of June, an accredited U.S. diplomat, who identified himself in accordance with embassy protocols, entering the American embassy compound was attacked by a Russian policeman. The action was unprovoked and it endangered the safety of our employee. The Russian claim the policeman was protecting the embassy from an unidentified individual is simply untrue.

In addition to the attack on the 6th of June, Russian security services have intensified their harassment against U.S. personnel in an effort to disrupt our diplomatic and consular operations. We’ve privately urged the Russian Government to stop the harassment of American personnel in Russia, and as I said before, the safety and well-being of our diplomatic and consular personnel abroad and their accompanying family members are things we take very, very seriously.

QUESTION: All right. On the individual, the diplomat, there were some reports that he sustained injuries, including maybe a broken arm. Is that true, and has he since left the country, been PNGed, or anything like that?

MR KIRBY: Privacy considerations restrict me from speaking about health, and, as a standard practice, I’m not going to comment on the status of any of our employees serving overseas.

QUESTION: In Congress there’s calls for an investigation. Do you support those? Will you undertake an investigation?

MR KIRBY: I’m not aware of any investigation that we are going to undertake. If that changes or something, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: And then what does this say about the broader U.S.-Russian relationship? Is it getting – if you can’t even operate in normal manner in the country, is it getting to a level – a worse level than it’s been in a very long time?

MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, I think it certainly speaks, as I said, of – to the kinds of harassment over the last couple of years – I mean, this is a very graphic example and a very violent one. But it comes on the heels of two years of increasing diplomatic harassment by Russian authorities that is also unprovoked and unnecessary. And as I said I think a week or so ago, Russian claims that they’re getting harassed here are simply without foundation. So you want to have a conversation about in-kind treatment, it’s time for Russia to treat our diplomats with – in the same manner in which they’re treated here when they come to the United States.

And as for the broader relationship, the – our relationship with Russia is complicated, and we certainly don’t see eye to eye on everything. There are areas where we have in the past and I think we’ll continue to seek cooperation with them, such as on Syria and the political process there. There are obviously still areas where there’s tension; Ukraine and Minsk implementation is one of them, and certainly this. There’s no need for this when there’s so many more important things for us to be working on with Russia and so much real, meaningful geopolitical progress that could be had. There’s no place for this kind of treatment and there’s no reason for it.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to make an official complaint about a Vienna Convention violation?

MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything on that to say today.

QUESTION: And then lastly, are – do you have – are you considering any countermeasures against Russia in terms of diplomatic presence in the United States, whether it’s expelling embassies, limiting movement, or otherwise responding to this incident?

MR KIRBY: So a couple of things on there. I’d say in – certainly in a sign of how seriously we take it, as I said earlier, the Secretary raised it directly with Foreign Minister Lavrov on the very day that it occurred.

(Ringtone plays.)

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR KIRBY: That’s okay.

We’re well aware that such efforts against U.S. personnel are not always sanctioned by all elements of the Russian Government. So we’re going to look to senior Russian officials with whom we engage to reign in those elements seeking to impede our diplomatic and consular activities in – I’m sorry – in Russia and our bilateral relationship. And again, this has been raised at the very highest levels – this particular incident – and I think you’ll continue to see us do that.

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AFSA Seeks a Policy Analyst to … Wait, Replace Its Advocacy and Govt Affairs Team?

Posted: 2:04 am ET
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The American Foreign Service Association is looking for a full time policy analyst who will be “responsible for monitoring and analyzing legislation that directly impacts the Foreign Service, developing policy proposals and supporting related advocacy activities.”   The new policy analyst will report directly to the Director of Professional Policy Issues not the Director of Advocacy.

We understand that AFSA’s Director of Advocacy left the organization recently. A little earlier, its Senior Legislative Assistant also left AFSA. It looks like its Advocacy and Government Affairs department is now empty.   What happened?

Screen Shot

Full job announcement:

The American Foreign Service Association seeks a full-time Policy Analyst to join its Professional Policy Issues (PPI) Department in its Washington, D.C., headquarters office. Established in 1924, AFSA is the professional association and exclusive bargaining agent of the U.S. Foreign Service.

The Policy Analyst will be responsible for monitoring and analyzing legislation that directly impacts the Foreign Service, developing policy proposals and supporting related advocacy activities. The Policy Analyst will report directly to the Director of Professional Policy Issues and work with the AFSA President and other Governing Board officials, the Executive Director, and other AFSA departments. Essential duties and responsibilities include the following:

Tracking policy activity relevant to the Foreign Service, including elections, positions of various government officials and policymakers, legislation and other initiatives.

Reviewing and analyzing legislation, policy proposals, AFSA member priorities, reports, data sets and other relevant materials in order to formulate policy recommendations and strategies in support of AFSA’s strategic priorities.

Presenting findings and recommendations through written and oral communications to the AFSA Governing Board, senior leadership and other stakeholders.

Supporting AFSA’s advocacy team, comprised of distinguished career ambassadors, through logistical planning and preparing substantive briefing materials for meetings with policymakers.

Developing written materials on legislative issues, such as policy articles, public statements, testimony, issue briefs, policy memos, etc.

Respond to policy inquiries from policymakers, legislative staff, AFSA members and others.

Qualified candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in public policy, political science or other applicable field; and at least five years of relevant professional experience. Applicants must have spent time in the Foreign Service, possess a strong understanding of the Foreign Service human resources system and be familiar with legislative processes. Applicants with a legal background and experience in human resources management will be viewed favorably. The successful applicant will be a team player with strong organizational management, analytical and interpersonal skills, as well as demonstrable adeptness in writing and verbal communications. Must work well under tight deadlines and pressure.

The salary is $70,000 per year. AFSA offers an excellent benefits package and collegial working environment.

Please send a cover letter and resume with references to jobs@afsa.org by July 11, 2016, and indicate “Policy Analyst” in the subject line. http://www.afsa.org/jobs-afsa

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Burn Bag: Feds going to Havana deserve to sit at layover airports for several hours?

Via Burn Bag:

So, the Department of Transportation is going to approve direct service to Havana by American flag carriers from many cities, but not from Washington’s Dulles Airport.

This tentative decision explicitly disses those individuals – federal employees on official travel – directly responsible for the opportunity created by the opening to Cuba.

Comments on the tentative decision are due by July 22, 2016.

If the State Department and WHA* cannot fix this, then the entire federal government deserves to sit at layover airports for several hours in each direction.

H e l  –  l o  !

giphy-steve martin

 

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*Western Hemisphere Affairs

Comment:  On July 7, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed to select eight U.S. airlines to begin scheduled flights between Atlanta, Charlotte, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, Orlando, and Tampa and Havana as early as this fall.  The proposal comes nearly one year after the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations in July 2015. The airlines receiving the tentative awards are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines. According to DOT’s announcement, the agency’s proposal “allocates nonstop Havana service to areas of substantial Cuban-American population, as well as to important aviation hub cities.”

According to nerdwallet.com citing 2013 census data, the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD area ranks 12th in areas with top Cuban-American population. If DOT eventually includes Dulles in the direct service to Havana, we suspect that it will not be because federal employees did their jobs in reopening Cuba.

 

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@StateDept Orders Departure of Non-Emergency Personnel From US Embassy #Juba, Canada Closes Embassy

Posted: 1:12 am ET
Updated 1:20 am ET
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On July 10, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning against travel to South Sudan due to ongoing fighting, intercommunal violence, and violent crime.  It also announced the “ordered departure” of non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Juba.  Post is headed by Ambassador Mary Catherine (Molly) Phee, a career diplomat who was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan in July last year.

CIA Map

CIA Map

Excerpt below:

The U.S. State Department warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Republic of South Sudan because of ongoing fighting, intercommunal violence, and violent crime.  On July 10, 2016, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel from US. Embassy Juba.  This replaces the Travel Warning dated December 31, 2015.

After clashes between government and opposition forces in Juba on July 7 and 8, general fighting broke out in Juba on July 10.  Since the signing of a peace agreement in August 2015 and the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity in April 2016, instability has persisted nonetheless across the country.  This instability is exacerbated by intertribal and intercommunal violence, cattle raiding, economic uncertainty, and an increase in violent crime. Aid workers have been the targets of shootings, ambushes, assaults, harassment and robberies, some resulting in death.  Fighting that began on July 10 marked a sudden and serious deterioration in the security situation in the capital.

The risk of violent crime is high throughout South Sudan, including in Juba.  Due to the risk of carjacking and banditry, travel outside of Juba should be undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles and appropriate recovery and medical equipment in case of mechanical failure or other emergency.  All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance, and should carry medical evacuation insurance.

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of South Sudan, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). For further background information regarding FAA flight advisories and prohibitions for U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

Read the full text of the warning here.

Meanwhile, CBCNews is reporting that the Canadian government has now closed its embassy in Juba “until further notice” and warned Canadians in the country to consider leaving as soon as it’s safe to do so.  “Be aware that the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance in South Sudan is extremely limited. The situation in Juba is deteriorating,” reads a Global Affairs advisory sent to Canadian nationals in South Sudan. See more here.

A few news clips:

 

Related posts:

 

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