Tillerson Meets Erdoğan in Ankara With Turkish Foreign Minister as Interpreter

Posted: 12:35 am ET


AND NOW THIS, from people paying attention:



@JonHuntsman and @usconsvlad Jump Into Icy Water For Orthodox Epiphany

Posted: 12:02 am ET


The US Ambassador to Moscow Jon Huntsman and Consul General Michael Keays (and staffers) of US Consulate Vladivostok in separate events marked the Orthodox Ephiphany like millions of Russians by jumping into freezing waters. Take a look. We felt the polar woes just watching. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!


The Peter Hoekstra Fall Out Continues, Long-Form Interview With a Dutch Outlet Coming Soon

Posted: 2:47 am ET


The last year, we’ve seen the State Department officially distanced itself from public comments made by its official representative in Israel.  On September 11, 2017, the State Department had to distance itself from a comment made by its top representative in Israel (see @StateDept: Ambassador Friedman’s comment “does not represent a shift in U.S. policy”.  And on September 28, State Department spox Heather Nauert, once more from the podium, said that it’s ambassador’s two percent comment “should not be read as a change in U.S. policy (see @StateDept on Amb. Friedman’s comment (again): “should not be read as a change in U.S. policy”).

The latest addition to this disturbing trend is the new U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra.  In December, we blogged about the then Ambassador-Designate’s double whoppers during an interview with a Dutch journalist (see New U.S. Ambassador Peter Hoekstra Makes Splash With Whoppers on Dutch TV). On December 23, the newest representative of the United States Government to the Netherlands issued a non apology-apology (see Amb. Designate Hoekstra Issues an “Apology,” Gets Roasted on Twitter). On January 10, his first day in office as the United States Ambassador to The Hague, social media noted his grilling by the Dutch press over his controversial claims (see Amb. Hoesktra Presents His Credentials to the King, Then Gets Properly Grilled By the Dutch Press).

On January 11, during the State Department’s On-the-Record-Briefing with the new Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, the top official was similarly grilled by the press about the ambassador’s statements.

So for a third time now, two political ambassadors have caused more work for the building because of their public statements. The top State Department public affairs official went on to disavow Ambassador Hoekstra’s statements saying, “The State Department does not agree with those statements. That is not the language that we would use.” U/S Goldstein also told the press corps that there is now a plan for Ambassador Hoekstra to have long-form interview with a Dutch outlet on January 12. Mr. Goldstein said that Ambassador Hoesktra “also plans over the weekend to be available within many of the communities in the capital, including Muslim communities” and that the State Department has “made clear to the ambassador that – that he must move to get this behind him.”

Also FYI, the United States ambassador serve the people of the United States, and not the people of his/her host country. When junior diplomats completing their training at the Foreign Service Institute are asked where is their country, you expect them to point to their country, the United States of America, and not their country of assignment. Both Ambassador Hoekstra and U/S Goldstein appears to seek to endear themselves to the Dutch and make this controversy go away by talking about “loving” the Netherlands, and commitment to “serving the people of the Netherlands.”

Stop that, please. We can see what you’re trying to do.

If Ambassador Hoekstra is interested in putting this behind him, he should own up to his mistake and make a real apology because people watching are not dimwits. A retraction would be a good place to start. And then maybe the local press will allow him to put this behind him.

Via state.gov, Jan 11:

QUESTION: Ambassador Pete Hoekstra in the Netherlands had his debut for the Dutch media. It didn’t go real well. Just to start off, does the State Department agree with his earlier comments that politicians have been burned as a result of Islamist movements and that there are no-go zones in the Netherlands?

UNDER SECRETARY GOLDSTEIN: No. The State Department does not agree with those statements. That is not the language that we would use.

QUESTION: Would you like the ambassador to maybe retract those given all of the controversy it seems to be causing?

Continue reading

Amb. Hoekstra Presents His Credentials to the King, Then Gets Properly Grilled By the Dutch Press

Posted: 2:44 am ET


So the new U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra presented his credentials to King Willem-Alexander on January 10. The same day, he also faced a grilling from members of the Dutch press. And if that’s not memorable enough, the Dutch Review has a screaming headline that says “It’s Lying Pete Hoeskta’s first day as the US Ambassador in the Netherlands.”

We are having a brain freeze trying to remember if anything like this ever happened before.  Oh, we can’t remember anything. Just that there was no way the embassy could have avoided this incident. Had Ambassador Hoesktra offered a fuller apology after that meltdown of an interview, he would not have been facing a fiery press on his first official day as representative of the United States to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

NLtimes reported that when asked about his previous controversial comments, he announced, “I won’t comment on the matter anymore”. Apparently, he told the press that “now that he is a representative of the American administration, his personal opinions or comments are no longer what matters.” As if somehow “the matter” would simply go away.  It won’t. And Dutch reporters will not stop asking just because Ambassador Hoekstra refuses to comment. And with every future event, we will get similar video clips.  So we doubt very much if this is the end of it. He will get a reminder about this at his every encounter with the Dutch press.

Also see New U.S. Ambassador Peter Hoekstra Makes Splash With Whoppers on Dutch TVAmb. Designate Hoekstra Issues an “Apology,” Gets Roasted on TwitterNomination: Ex-Congressman Peter Hoekstra to be U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands).


PSA For New Ambassadors Preparing to Ditch Their DCMs, Yo – Be Careful What You Wish For

Posted: 1:53 am ET


Remember in 2011 when we posted about the search queries in our blog for “Ambassador window of time to ask DCM to leave” and “When can the ambassador ask the DCM to leave”? (see Which Ambassador is planning to unload his/her DCM shortly and other curtailment news).

The Ambassador-DCM relationship is among the most important in determining the success of a diplomatic mission. At some point if it doesn’t work, a former DCM and now retired FSO who spoke from experience told us, “it’s better to move on.”  But that’s altogether different from not even giving the new working relationship a chance to work.

We have it in good authority that a reminder is needed about tossing out a deputy ambassador without considering the consequences. Below is a post from 2011 that we are reposting as a Public Service Announcement for the newbies:

In diplo-speak, the query is about curtailment which means shortening an employee’s tour of duty from his or her assignment. It may include the employee’s immediate departure from a bureau or post.  In this instance, possibly that of the deputy chief of mission in some unknown embassy (where about a third of total posts are encumbered by political ambassadors).

The Foreign Affairs Manual, fondly known as the FAM says that curtailment is an assignment action, not a disciplinary one. Ha-ha! Oops, did I laugh out loud? Hookay, it may not be a disciplinary one but it follows the employee around, kind of like a dark cloud that follows Eeyore all over the place.

Now on to the law of unintended consequences —

Remember the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark who according to the OIG report asked her DCM to leave post in January 2010?  That resulted in a DCM staffing gap of 9 months. That’s 270 days where the chief of mission (that is, the ambassador) even with an acting DCM may be forced to function as her/his own executive officer dealing with the nuts and bolts of running an embassy.

The regs says that the ambassador can initiate an involuntary curtailment, which gives the chief of mission wide authority over this matter.  In fact, one political ambassador went though five DCMs during his tenure as George W’s ambo in paradise. The whole two Bush terms. We even wrote a tanka about it.  Another political ambassador went through seven permanent and temporary DCMs in less than one presidential term.  Only one served more than six months! That one deserves a super tanka, I know, just haven’t got around to writing it.

Anyway, kicking out the embassy’s #2 officer may seem easy enough – he/she is not your relative and the USG pays for him/her to be relocated elsewhere but we must point out something kinda important here. See, State Department assignments are usually arranged so that folks have assignments a year before they move or rotate to their new posts. Which means, when the chief of mission unloads a staffer, particularly in the higher ranks, there isn’t anyone waiting in the wings to take over at a moment’s notice. Except sometimes, the mothership sends in a retired Foreign Service Office to be temp DCM. Which is fine and all, except what happens if you don’t like him/her, too? I imagine that’s how you could end up as a record holder of sorts or in the top list of folks who should get Bob Sutton’s book for Christmas. And that’s not something you really want to hang on your wall next to that stuffed moose head, trust me.

So like Eminem sings it —

….be careful what you wish for

cause you just might get it and if you get it

then you just might not know what to do wit’ it ….

You’re welcome!


Ambassador John R. Bass Presents His Credentials in Afghanistan

Posted: 2;57 am ET



Amb-Designate Callista Gingrich Still Waiting to Present Credentials Six Weeks On?

Posted: 12:14 am ET


Ambassador-Designate to the Holy See Callista Gingrich was sworn in at the White House on October 27, 2017. She arrived at post on November 6. As of this writing, the embassy website lists a brief bio of Ambassador-Designate Callista L. Gingrich, as well as Chargé d’Affaires Louis L. Bono.

According to the press archive of the Holy See, the designated top representative of the United States to the Vatican is still waiting to present her credentials six weeks after she arrived at post. Since her arrival, the Pope has received the credentials of the ambassadors from Myanmar, Montenegro, Portugal, Ecuador, Nigeria; and last week, the ambassadors from Yemen, New Zealand, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein and India to the Holy See.

On November 9, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to the Holy See

On November 22, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Montenegro to the Holy See

On November 25, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Portugal to the Holy See

On December 4, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Ecuador to the Holy See

On December 9, the Pope received the Credential Letters of the Ambassador of Nigeria to the Holy See

And on December 14, the Holy Father received the credentials of ambassadors from seven countries, the United States excepted. See the Credential Letters of the Ambassadors of Yemen, New Zealand, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein and India to the Holy See.

At the December 14 credentialing ceremony, Pope Francis also delivered the following remarks:

I extend a warm welcome to all of you for this presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See on the part of your respective countries: Yemen, New Zealand, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein and India. I would ask you to convey to the Heads of State of your respective countries my sentiments of appreciation and esteem, and to assure them of my prayers for them and the people they serve.

At the beginning of your new mission, I am conscious of the diverse countries you represent, and of the various cultural and religious traditions that characterize the history of each of your nations. This gives me the opportunity to emphasize the positive and constructive role that such diversity plays in the concert of nations. The international community faces a series of complex threats to the sustainability of the environment and of the world’s social and human ecology, as well as risks to peace and concord stemming from violent fundamentalist ideologies and regional conflicts, which often appear under the guise of opposing interests and values. Yet it is important to remember that the diversity of the human family is not itself a cause of these challenges to peaceful coexistence. Indeed the centrifugal forces that would drive peoples apart are not found in their differences but in the failure to set out on the path of dialogue and understanding as the most effective means of responding to these challenges.

Your very presence here is a reminder of the key role that dialogue plays in enabling diversity to be lived in an authentic and mutually enhancing way in our increasingly globalized society. Respectful communication leads to cooperation, especially in fostering reconciliation where it is most needed. This cooperation in turn assists the progress of that solidarity which is the condition for the growth of justice and due respect for the dignity, rights and aspirations of all. A commitment to dialogue and cooperation must be the hallmark of every institution of the international community, as well as of every national and local institution, for all are charged with the pursuit of the common good.

The promotion of dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation cannot be taken for granted. The delicate art of diplomacy and the arduous craft of nation-building need to be learned afresh with each new generation. We share the collective responsibility to educate our young people about the importance of these principles that sustain the social order. Passing this precious legacy on to our children and grandchildren will not only secure a peaceful and prosperous future but will also meet the demands of intergenerational justice and of that integral human development that is the right of every man, woman and child.

Dear Ambassadors, as you take up your high responsibilities in the service of your nations, I assure you of the support of the various offices of the Holy See. I offer you my prayerful best wishes for your important work, and upon you, your families, and all your fellow citizens, I willingly invoke an abundance of divine blessings.



Question of the Day: Do you personally agree with the President’s decision?

Posted: 3:27 am ET


Via Special Briefing with David M. Satterfield
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
December 7, 2017

QUESTION: As a veteran diplomat and representative of NEA, do you personally agree with the President’s decision?

AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Oh, now. I am an employee of the U.S. Government. I am a Foreign Service officer. We all – and I speak of my boss, the Secretary, and the other principals in the U.S. Government – we are all part of this team. This is a decision which we will work our best to execute and advance.


Tillerson Delivers Performance Management Tip, and EER Drafters Everywhere Cheer

Posted: 12:55 am ET


According to ABC News, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently told U.S. diplomats in Brussels that the U.S. State Department has yet to achieve foreign policy “wins” since he took over nearly a year ago. “While we don’t have any wins on the board yet, I can tell you we’re in a much better position to advance America’s interests around the world than we were 10 months ago,” Tillerson said.

And EER writers everywhere cheered!

No more wasted paper or wasted printer toner come Spring when employee evaluation reports are due. This may be the shortest EER accomplishment employees ever have to write if they take their cue from a secretary of state whose tenure the New Yorker says “may well be regarded as the most consequential in postwar American history.”

DS-5055 has a box for description of accomplishments: “Rated employees must describe their most significant accomplishments during the rating period. Employees should provide a factual description of outcomes achieved and how these outcomes advanced Mission or Department goals. Employees do not self-appraise their own performance.”  Well, never mind that, it can be short and sweet like:

“As the Secretary has said, not having any accomplishments over 10 months is perfectly acceptable. My work has put the Department in a much better position to advance America’s work around the world.”

You’re welcome!


@USAmbCanada Kelly Craft Makes Splash Over “Both Sides of the Science” #ClimateChange

Posted: 12:39 am ET
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