@StateDept “continuing to evaluate the situation regarding the embassy and the staffing” in #Moscow

 

Via Department Press Briefing – August 2, 2021
08/02/2021 06:22 PM EDT

QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on the report that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. has said there’s 24 Russian diplomats who’ve been asked to leave the country by September 3rd after their visas expired. So why are they being asked to leave? Were any of these people acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status? And is this a retaliation against something Russia has done?

MR PRICE: Well, let me first address Ambassador Antonov’s remarks. I understand he made these remarks during a media interview. But his characterization of the situation is not accurate; it’s incorrect. The three-year limit on visa validity for Russians, it’s nothing new. When visas expire, as you might expect, these individuals are expected to leave the country or apply for an extension. That is what is at play here.

But since you did raise the – this issue, let me take an opportunity to speak to the broader issue, and that is a statement that you all saw from us – from Secretary Blinken – on Friday. And we issued this statement in response to what the Russian Government has mandated and what took effect yesterday, and that’s namely that the prohibition on the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff except for our guard force, which very lamentably has forced us to let go of hundreds of staff members across Russia, across embassy and the mission community there. It is unfortunate because these measures have a negative impact on our – on the U.S. mission to Russia’s operation, potentially on the safety and security of our personnel, as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian Government.

I will say that we reserve the right to take appropriate response measures to Russia’s actions. The Russian Government has also indicated that it will impose similar measures on the embassies of some other – some of our partners and allies. We also strongly object to this and will stand in solidarity with the other countries, the other members of the diplomatic community there who are affected by this.

The point we’ve made before is that our actions on March 2nd and April 15th, the measures we put into place to hold the Russian Government accountable for its range of threats to our interests and to our people – those were a response. We did not escalate; we did not seek an escalation. Those were a response to the Russian Government’s harmful actions, and we continue to believe that at times like these, we do need open channels of communication between our governments, including through our respective embassies. So we’re continuing to evaluate the situation and will update you as we have new developments.

Shaun.

QUESTION: Could we pursue that a bit? The ambassador – another thing that he said was that three-year validity is unique or almost unique to Russia. Is that accurate as far as you see?

MR PRICE: So the Office of Foreign Missions did issue some guidance recently. What we have said – and we can get you more details if we’re able to share on how this applies to Russia – but we have – we announced last week that the department will limit the assignment duration of most newly arriving members of foreign, diplomatic, or consular missions in the United States to a maximum of five consecutive years. Now, of course, that doesn’t apply to all missions, but the limitation on duration does help us to balance the lengths of tours for bilateral diplomats assigned to foreign missions in the United States and for U.S. diplomats’ assignments overseas.

QUESTION: Five years. Is that not the —

MR PRICE: The maximum is five years across the board.

QUESTION: So when he’s talking about three years, is that accurate? I mean, is that something that’s the case with Russians?

MR PRICE: I couldn’t comment as to whether that is unique to Russian diplomats or not.

QUESTION: Well, can they apply for renewals?

MR PRICE: We’ll see if we can get you more information on that.

QUESTION: Well, because, I mean, you said that after the three years for the Russians, when they either have to leave or they —

MR PRICE: Apply for an extension.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can they get an extension? Or you say no —

MR PRICE: They can apply for an extension. They can apply for an extension, and just as —

QUESTION: But have – and have you – but have you said that we will not accept any extension requests?

MR PRICE: What we’ve said is that they can apply for an extension. As in all cases, applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: All right. But this – but this – but you’re saying in response to his question is that this is not like a retaliatory move for the broader issues or the —

MR PRICE: This is not – the characterization that he put forward is not accurate.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: He also said that you make it impossible for them to get visa again to come back. He said they likely will not come back because you guys make it impossible for them to get visa renewal. Is that – do you dispute what he’s saying?

MR PRICE: What we have consistently said is that we believe that in a relationship like this that, at least at the present, is characterized by disagreement, by tension, by friction, and all of that is probably putting it lightly, that we need more communication rather than less. We think it is in our interest. We tend to think it’s in the interest of our two countries, that we are able to communicate effectively and openly, and we can do that through our embassies, but our embassies need to be adequately staffed. The measures that the Russian Federation put in place on Sunday has, as we said before, forced us to let go of hundreds of our employees across our facilities in Russia. That, in turn, has a ripple effect on our ability, on the ability of our diplomats in Russia to do their jobs. We think that is quite unfortunate.

Yes.

[…]

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Russia for one second?

MR PRICE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you said that the U.S. is continuing to evaluate the situation regarding the embassy and the staffing. What do you mean by that? Do you mean the U.S. is questioning if they should keep open this embassy in Moscow? Do you mean you’re looking at how to respond both of those things? Can you just be a little more explicit?

MR PRICE: Well, so of course, our embassy in Moscow does remain open. When it comes to our other facilities, operations remain suspended at the U.S. consulate general in Vladivostok. All public-facing services were halted earlier this year at our consulate general in Yekaterinburg. The CG there no longer provides consular services, including U.S. citizen services such as passport issuance, notarial services, and consular reports of birth abroad.

What we have voiced strong objection to, including from the Secretary that you saw on Friday, was the idea that because of the prohibition on the use of Russian or third country staff, that we would have to diminish some of the services and some of the operations that are – that take place at our embassy in Moscow. What I was referring to there – and obviously, we regret this decision that the Russian Federation has taken. Of course, we are going to continue to evaluate what might be appropriate – what may be an appropriate response for us to take going forward.

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US Mission Russia Terminates Local Employees/Contractors Due to Moscow’s Prohibition

 

The US Mission Russia staffing issue that has been brewing for a while has finally erupted to a predictable conclusion. Previously, in late April we reported that there was supposed to be a Mass Termination of Local Staff, and Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12. That did not happen when Russia informed the US Embassy in Moscow of its intent to postpone its prohibition of the employment of foreign nationals until mid-July.  Presumably, the two sides continued talking but the issue did not get resolved.
On Friday, July 30, Secretary Blinken released the following statement:

The United States is immensely grateful for the tireless dedication and commitment of our locally employed staff and contractors at U.S. Mission Russia. We thank them for their contributions to the overall operations and their work to improve relations between our two countries. Their dedication, expertise and friendship have been a mainstay of Mission Russia for decades.

Starting in August, the Russian government is prohibiting the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff, except our guard force. We are deeply saddened that this action will force us to let go of 182 local employees and dozens of contractors at our diplomatic facilities in Moscow, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.

These unfortunate measures will severely impact the U.S. mission to Russia’s operations, potentially including the safety of our personnel as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government. Although we regret the actions of the Russian government forcing a reduction in our services and operations, the United States will follow through on our commitments while continuing to pursue a predictable and stable relationship with Russia.

We value our deep connection to the Russian people. Our people-to-people relationships are the bedrock of our bilateral relations.

As of April 1, 2021, Consulate General in Yekaterinburg stopped visa and American Citizen services. In March 2020, the U.S. Consulate General Vladivostok suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Post did not resume its operations in due to critically low staffing of the United States Mission to Russia. It looks like following that suspension of services, U.S. citizens in the Russian Far East were still able to obtain services from the U.S. Consular Agency in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Visa services by then were provided solely by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow due to insufficient staffing. It is likely that this consular agency will also shut down.
We once recalled that in 1986, the then Soviet Union barred all Soviet employees from working for the U.S. Embassy or U.S. diplomats, in response to the expulsion from the United States of 55 Soviet diplomats. At that time WaPo noted that “225 diplomats and their families had to adjust quickly to the latest development in the embassy wars.”

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Biden Taps @Penn’s Amy Gutmann to be the Next U.S. Ambassador to Germany

President Biden announced his intent to nominate University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Germany. The WH released the following brief bio:

Amy Gutmann, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federal Republic of Germany

Amy Gutmann is the eighth President of the University of Pennsylvania, serving since 2004.  She is also the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and a Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication.  Her focus on global engagement fueled the creation of Penn’s Perry World House on campus, Penn Wharton China Center in Beijing, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington, D.C.  Previously, at Princeton University, Gutmann was Provost, Dean of the Faculty, Founding Director of The University Center for Human Values, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics, and Director of the Program in Ethics and Public Affairs.  She also worked at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and at the University of Maryland.  Gutmann is an award-winning author and editor of 17 books, many centered on understanding and defending constitutional democracy and human rights. The daughter of a German Jewish refugee, and first in her family to graduate college, she earned a B.A. at Harvard-Radcliffe College, an M.S. at the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. at Harvard.  She was named by Fortune in 2018 as one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”

If confirmed, Ms. Gutmann would succeed Richard Grenell who served from May 2018 – June 2020.  She would also be the first female American ambassador to Berlin. According to AFSA’s tracking, 12 of 17 ambassadors appointed to Germany since 1960 or 70.6% were non-career appointees.

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State/E Chief of Staff Kent Doyle Logsdon to be U.S. Ambassador to Moldova

 

 

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Kent Doyle Logsdon to be the next Ambassador to Moldova. The WH released the following brief bio:

Kent Doyle Logsdon, Nominee for Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Moldova

Kent Doyle Logsdon, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of Minister-Counselor, is Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment.  Previously, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Energy Resources, and was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany, serving as Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. from January 2017 to May 2018.  Prior to that, Logsdon was the Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, and Deputy Executive Secretary of the State Department.  Previous positions include Director of the Operations Center, Director of the Office of Russian Affairs, and Deputy Chief of Mission in Tbilisi, Georgia.  Logsdon also served in Kyiv, Ukraine; Bangkok, Thailand; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Stuttgart, Germany.   He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Notre Dame.  The recipient of a Presidential Meritorious Service Award, Logsdon speaks Russian, Ukrainian, Thai and German.

If confirmed, Mr. Logsdon would succeed career diplomat Dereck J. Hogan who served as chief of mission at the US Embassy in Chisinau from November 2, 2018–till this month. Moldova is one of some 30 countries, mostly in Africa, where all appointees for ambassadors since 1960 have been career diplomats.

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Belarus Opposition Leader Sviatlana @Tsihanouskaya Visits WashDC

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. DS

 

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Acting EUR A/S Philip Reeker to Serve as Chargé d’Affaires at US Embassy London

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Grazie — DS

On July 15, the State Department announced the appointment of the Acting Assistant Secretary for EUR Philip Reeker as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim at the US Embassy in London.

Ambassador Philip T. Reeker will serve as Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim, at the Embassy of the United States of America to the Court of St. James’s, as of August 1, 2021. A career diplomat with the rank of Minister Counselor, Ambassador Reeker is currently the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Prior to leading the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Ambassador Reeker was Civilian Deputy and Policy Advisor to the Commander of U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, and from 2008-2011 he was the U.S. Ambassador to North Macedonia.

The United States has no closer Ally than the United Kingdom, and Ambassador Reeker is dedicated to continuing to advance this special relationship.

Ambassador Reeker has served as Acting A/S for EUR since March 2019.With him off to London, who will mind the EUR shop? Biden’s nominee for EUR Karen Erika Donfried was announced in spring; her nomination received by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 29, 2021. She is scheduled to have her confirmation hearing on July 20. Calculation must be that Dr. Donfried will get confirmed before the Senate’s August recess.
The current CDA for Embassy London Yael Lempert became Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. in January 2021 when Woody Johnson left post. Lempert previously took up her assignment as Deputy Chief of Mission in London in January 2019.  These are typically three year assignments, so her successor as DCM would not have been expected to arrived in London before January 2022.  Lempert is reportedly leaving post in two weeks.  She previously worked at the National Security Council during President Obama’s second term. She has also been the subject of attacks in the media for that tenure.
During Secretary Blinken’s May visit in London, he said, “…I’m particularly grateful to Yael Lempert for her extraordinary leadership of this mission. We’ve been colleagues for a long time. I’m grateful to have you here at this time.”

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EUR/DAS George Kent Returns to Ukraine as Chargé d’Affaires

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Grazie — DS

 

We could not locate the announcement but EUR DAS (and Trump Impeachment witness) George Kent is back in Ukraine as Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Kyiv.  Kent has served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau overseeing policy towards Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan since September 2018. He was also Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv from 2015-18.
As of July 12, he is back in Ukraine as CDA per tweet from US Embassy Kyiv. Until recently, Embassy Kyiv’s Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. was Kristina A. Kvien. She is still listed as CDA on embassy’s website as of this writing. This is a tad confusing, unconfuse us, please.
Embassy Kyiv has a new DCM who previously served at post as political counselor.  Alan Purcell became Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine in May 2021. A career Foreign Service Officer, he served most recently as Acting Consul General in Hamilton, Bermuda, from January to May 2021. He was acting DAS at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor prior to his stint in Bermuda.

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Belarus Kicks Out US Diplomats With New Limits in US Embassy Minsk Staffing

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

According to the June 3 statement from the Belarus Foreign Ministry, the government summoned the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Minsk and informed him of retaliatory measures against the United States. The measures include the reduction of the diplomatic and administrative-technical personnel of the American diplomatic mission, the tightening of visa procedures, the limitation of the work of American specialists in Belarus on a temporary basis. The government also revoked the work permit for the US Agency for International Development.
In 2008, the Belarusian Government imposed restrictions on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, and the State Department was forced to reduce its embassy staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw the U.S. Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. We are not sure how many were at post prior to this latest development. The current CDA Ruben Harutunian assumed his duties as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk on May 24, 2021.
In April 2020, with improved relations with the dictator in Belarus, the Trump Administration announced the nomination of  career diplomat Julie Fisher as the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008. She was confirmed in December 2020. In April this year, the new ambassador was reportedly to reside in Lithuania temporarily as she was not granted a visa for Belarus.

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President Biden’s First Overseas Trip/3: Geneva, Switzerland For Bilateral Summit With Putin

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

President Biden is on his first overseas trip from June 10-16. He was at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, U.K. from June 11-13; in Brussels, Belgium for the NATO Summit on June 14, and the U.S.–EU Summit on June 15. On June 16, he will have a bilateral summit with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

 

 

 

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POTUS Joe Biden’s First Overseas Trip/2: Brussels, Belgium For NATO and US-EU Summits

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

 

President Biden is on his first overseas trip from June 10-16. He was at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, U.K. from June 11-13. He will be in Brussels, Belgium for the NATO Summit on June 14, and the U.S.–EU Summit on June 15. He will then travel to Geneva, Switzerland for a bilateral summit with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin on June 16.

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