US Ambassador to Russia @JonHuntsman Presents His Credentials in Moscow

Posted: 5:02 am ET
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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.

Senate Confirms Mitchell (EUR), Siberell (Bahrain), Bass (Afghanistan), Huntsman (Russia)

Posted: 12:40 am ET
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On September 28, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination for the new Assistant Secretary for State for EUR, and the nominees as chiefs of mission to Bahrain, Afghanistan, and Russia.

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SFRC Clears Huntsman (Russia), Siberell (Bahrain), Mitchell (EUR), Dowd (AfDB)

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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On September 26, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following nominations:

Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., of Utah, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Russian Federation (Sep 26, 2017 Reported by Mr. Corker, Committee on Foreign Relations, without printed report).

Justin Hicks Siberell, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

A. Wess Mitchell, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (European and Eurasian Affairs), vice Victoria Nuland.

The SFRC also cleared the nomination of J. Steven Dowd, of Florida, to be the United States Director of the African Development Bank for a term of five years, vice Walter Crawford Jones, who resigned.

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Sharon Weinberger: The Imagineers of War (Excerpt)

Posted: 12:25 am ET
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We mentioned Sharon Wienberger’s book a couple days ago in¬†16 USG Employees in ‚ÄúSonic Attack‚ÄĚ and More on The Secret History of Diplomats and Invisible¬†Weapons.¬† For readers who may be interested, below is an excerpt courtesy of Kindle Preview:

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@StateDept Spins the Russia Sanctions, Fails to Impress Regular Folks

Posted: 12:01 am ET
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Putin Says 755 U.S. Diplomats Must Leave, Let’s Break Down the Numbers

Posted: 12:20 pm PT
Updated 5:22 pm PT with AP news
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Last week, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued the following statement:

Despite Washington’s constant outbursts, we have adhered to responsible and reserved behaviour and have not responded to express provocations until now. However, the latest events confirm that certain circles in the US are fixated on Russophobia and open confrontation with our country.

РTherefore, we suggest our American counterparts bringing the number of diplomatic and technical staff at the US Embassy in Moscow, the consulates general in St Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok, into strict correspondence with the number of Russian diplomats and technical staff currently working in the United States, until September 1, 2017. This means that the total number of American diplomatic and consular office employees in the Russian Federation must be reduced to 455 people. In the event of further unilateral action on behalf of US officials to reduce the Russian diplomatic staff in the US, we will respond accordingly.

– Starting August 1, the use of all the storage facilities on Dorozhnaya Street in Moscow and the country house in Serebryany Bor will be suspended from use by the US Embassy.

Russia reserves the right to resort to other measures affecting US’ interests on a basis of reciprocity.

Today, according to AFP, President Putin announced that 755 diplomats must leave Russia. Also a report here by Reuters. Let’s look at the numbers.

In 2007, the US Mission in Russia had a total staff of 1,878 (includes over 1300 local employees).

In October 2012, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) ceased operations at the insistence of the Russian Government. USAID Russia had 99 employees including over 80 employees affected by the closure.

In 2013, US Mission Russia (embassy and consulates general)¬†employed¬†1,279 staff. This¬†included¬†301 U.S. direct-hire positions and 934 locally employed (LE) staff positions from 35 U.S. Government agencies. The State Department typically do not have huge swings in staffing at overseas posts (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan excepted), so these are probably close to the current numbers. We don’t have a count on the accompanying family members who are also on diplomatic visas.

In addition to the embassy, US Mission Russia includes consulates general in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok. (When did we close the consular agency in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk?)

The only way the reported numbers make sense is if President Putin is actually talking about the entire mission staff and not just American diplomats. If we go by the 2013 numbers of 1,279 total staff, and only 455 can remain per MFA Russia announcement, that leaves us with 824. That’s close to the 755 number attributed to Putin (69 difference can be attributed to changes in staffing patterns between 2013-2017). But that means, a reduction of all staff, including the local employees.

The July 28 statement from the Russian MFA also says that in “the event of further unilateral action on behalf of US officials to reduce the Russian diplomatic staff in the US, we will respond accordingly.”

In 1986, the¬†then Soviet Union barred all Soviet employes from working for the U.S. Embassy or U.S. diplomats, in response to the expulsion from the United States of 55 Soviet diplomats. ¬†We’re not there yet, but this can always get worse.

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Tillerson in Moscow to Talk #Syria, #DPRK, US-#Russia Relation

Posted: 2:50 am ET
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Trump Bombs Syria While Hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russia Demands UNSC Meeting

Posted: 4:23 am ET
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Meanwhile in Mar-a-Lago, where President Trump is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping:

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U.S. Diplomacy Center: Baseball Autographed by Russian Human Rights Activists

Posted: 12:41 am ET
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The U.S. Diplomacy Center was in the news recently with the opening of the Clinton Pavillion. Note that the U.S. Diplomacy Center is actively seeking artifacts that represent American diplomacy and the work of the U.S. Department of State. These artifacts can come from a variety of individuals and sources. Anyone currently or previously working in a diplomatic capacity might have objects that could be a good fit for the center’s¬†collection. If you have items you might be interested in donating, please¬†contact the center¬†for more information.

As an example of a good artifact, here is a clip of Foreign Service Officer Kevin Covert who shares the powerful story behind an artifact he loaned to USDC, a baseball autographed by Russian human rights activists.  Via USDC:

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