Ambassador John F. Tefft Pens Op-Ed as He Departs Russia, to Retire After 45 Years of Service

Posted: 2:23 am ET
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Ambassador John F. Tefft, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia left post on September 28. He is also retiring from the U.S. Foreign Service for the second time after 45 years of public service. He pens the following op-ed for The Moscow Times:

On the Day of My Departure

We need to rebuild trust between our two countries.

When I first joined the diplomatic service, working on the Soviet desk in the 1980s, our relationship with Russia was at a low point. The Soviet Union had just shot down a Korean Airliner, with almost 100 Americans including a Congressman on board. There was a lot of anger in America.

Today, as I prepare to leave Russia, our relationship has reached another low point. Americans are concerned and angry about Russian interference in our elections and by the Russian authorities’ refusal to accept their responsibility for it.

As Secretary Tillerson said, we need to rebuild trust between our two countries and move our relationship to a different place. The American people want the two most powerful nuclear nations in the world to have a better relationship. From the earliest days of this Administration we have said time and again that we would prefer a constructive relationship with Russia based on cooperation on common interests. We remain prepared to try to find a way forward.

Serving the American community is at the heart of the work of the U.S. Mission in Russia, and it will continue to be a main priority moving forward. The U.S. Embassy and our Consulates General throughout Russia first and foremost are here to provide services to the Americans living, working, and traveling in Russia. During my time here, I have seen what Americans can do in Russia to bring our countries together on a people-to-people, business-to-business, scholar-to-scholar, performer-to-performer level. This gives me hope, even during these difficult times.

With the help of our Foreign Commercial Service and Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. and Russian businesses receive assistance developing and expanding new relationships and introducing innovative technologies. This increases trade and investment and strengthens ties between our two countries. I have seen how cattle ranchers from the United States and Russia work together to produce high quality beef for the Russian market and how American-trained managers bring productivity and streamlined processing into Russian businesses to help make them more profitable and more successful.

I am particularly proud of the positive influence U.S. companies have had on the Russian business culture. When I contrast the present business culture with what I witnessed here in the 1990s, I notice tremendous progress in the areas of transparency, business ethics, and corporate social responsibility.

U.S. companies have led by example on corporate social responsibility. One major soft drinks manufacturer has partnered with governmental and non-governmental organizations to preserve and protect important watersheds; an oil and gas corporation has provided over $250 million to support infrastructure and community projects in Sakhalin and Khabarovsk Krai; and a paper and pulp producer supports social programs in Svetogorsk. These are just a few of the many examples of the benefits of the presence of U.S. companies here in Russia. I have also been very impressed with Russia’s talented business leaders, including women, many of whom rose from entry-level positions at U.S. companies to the highest ranks of leadership.

As I look back over my time here in Russia, I am struck by the richness of Russian culture and history. I will look back fondly on my travels to places like Tikhvin, where I had the pleasure of visiting Rimsky-Korsakov’s childhood home and seeing the piano on which so many amazing and talented Russian composers played and composed their works. I will particularly remember my annual visits to events such as the pop-culture and entertainment conference Comic-Con, my travels throughout the country to visit American businesses and partnerships, and all of the opportunities I have to meet with many creative, intelligent young Russians who are inspired by the possibilities of what we can do when we work together.

We will continue to stand up for our interests while looking for avenues of dialogue. We remain dedicated to finding ways to bring together Russians and Americans both to discuss our differences and to discover the many things we have in common. Having seen how we weathered the storm in the 1980s and the dedication of our staff of talented professionals in the State Department back home and here in Mission Russia, I remain optimistic that our governments will ultimately find a way forward. On our side, we’re certainly ready.

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Ambassador Tefft served as the United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation since September 2014. He previously served as Ambassador to Lithuania from 2000 to 2003, to Georgia from 2005 to 2009, and to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013. He worked from 2004 to 2005 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs responsible for U.S. relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.

Ambassador Tefft retired from the Foreign Service in September 2013 and served as Executive Director of the RAND Corporation’s Business Leaders Forum from October 2013 to August 2014 until his recall to duty and confirmation as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation.  From 2003 to 2004 Tefft was the International Affairs Advisor at the National War College in Washington, D.C. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1996 to 1999, and was Chargé d’Affaires from November 1996 to September 1997. His other Foreign Service assignments include Jerusalem, Budapest, and Rome.

He received the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award in 1992, the DCM of the Year Award for his service in Moscow in 1999 and the Diplomacy for Human Rights Award in 2013. He also received Presidential Meritorious Service Awards in 2001 and 2005.

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Photo of the Day: Secretary Kerry Swears-in Ambassador to Russia John Tefft

— Domani Spero
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On September 2, Secretary Kerry sworn-in our Ambassador-Designate to the Russian Federation John Tefft at the State Department.  Ambassador Tefft will succeed Michael McFaul who resigned from post in February 2014.  This is Ambassador Tefft’s fourth ambassadorial appointment.  All but three appointees to Moscow since 1960 have been career diplomats. (see also Attention Would-be Ambassadors! No One Is Getting Out of D.C. Tonight, Courtesy of Sen. Enzi — Opps! Wait …).

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 2, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC on September 2, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


Below is the brief bio released by the WH when his nomination was announced:

John Francis Tefft, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is the Executive Director of the RAND Business Leaders Forum at the RAND Corporation, a position he has held since 2013.  Mr. Tefft served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013 and as the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia from 2005 to 2009.  From 2004 to 2005, Mr. Tefft served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Department of State.  From 2003 to 2004, Mr. Tefft served as an International Affairs Advisor at the National War College and previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania from 2000 to 2003.  From 1996 to 1999, Mr. Tefft was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.  He was the Director of the Office of Northern European Affairs at the Department of State from 1992 to 1994.  Mr. Tefft served as the Deputy Director of the Office of Soviet Union Affairs/Office of Commonwealth of Independent States from 1989 to 1992 and served as Counselor for Political-Military Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy from 1986 to 1989.  From 1983 to 1986, he was a Political Officer in the Office of Soviet Union Affairs.  Mr. Tefft was a Pearson Fellow in the Office of Congressman Howard Wolpe from 1982 to 1983.  Earlier in his career, Mr. Tefft was also a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest, Hungary; a Special Assistant in the Washington office of the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations; a Political Officer in the Office of United Nations Political Affairs; an Operations Officer in the Operations Center; and a Vice Consul at the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem.

Mr. Tefft served in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1971 to 1974.  Mr. Tefft received a B.A. from Marquette University and an M.A. from Georgetown University.

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Officially In: Geoffrey R. Pyatt, from SCA Bureau to Ukraine

On February 26, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Geoffrey R. Pyatt as the next Ambassador to Ukraine. The WH released the following brief bio:

Geoffrey R. Pyatt, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.  From 2007 to 2010, he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency and International Organizations in Vienna.  Prior to that, from 2002 to 2007, Mr. Pyatt served at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, first as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs and then as Deputy Chief of Mission.  Before his assignment in New Delhi, Mr. Pyatt was an Economic Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong from 1999 to 2002 and a Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan from 1997 to 1999.  In Washington, his assignments included Director for Latin America on the National Security Council staff (1996-1997) and Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State (1995-1996).

Mr. Pyatt received a B.A. from the University of California, Irvine and an M.A. from Yale University.

Via US Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine

Via US Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Pyatt worked with The Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think tank that brings together leading citizens of the Americas.  He grew up in La Jolla, California and holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from Yale and B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine.

If confirmed, Mr. Pyatt would succeed career diplomat John F. Tefft who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv on November 20, 2009.

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