2 July, 14:43

Who Mr. Tefft is and what he brings to Russia

Who Mr. Tefft is and what he brings to Russia

While Russia has yet to approve the suggested candidacy for the vacant US ambassador post in the country, many wonder what should be expected from John F. Tefft, the currently retired career diplomat, but a former US Ambassador to Ukraine and Georgia.

John F. Tefft was nominated as the Ambassador to Ukraine under Barack Obama's presidency in 2009 and served in office until 2013. Before assuming that position, he served as Ambassador to Georgia (2005-2009), and prior to that as  Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and was responsible for US relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.

From 2003-2004 Tefft was the International Affairs Advisor at the National War College in Washington, DC and served as the United States Ambassador to Lithuania from 2000 to 2003. He was Deputy Mission Chief at the US Embassy in Moscow from 1996 to 1999, and Charge d’Affaires from November 1996 to September 1997. His other Foreign Service assignments include Jerusalem, Budapest and Rome.

Tefft holds a Bachelor's Degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a Master's Degree from Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Among his awards are the State Department's Distinguished Honor Award in 1992 and the DCM of the Year Award for his service in Moscow in 1999. He received Presidential Meritorious Service Awards in 2001 and 2005.

While his candidacy is yet to be approved officially by both Russia and the US, experts have jumped on an opportunity to expound.

"He would become an outstanding ambassador."

As the previous US Ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul himself wrote on Twitter back in April: "If nominated and confirmed Tefft would be a fantastic ambassador. One of best ambos around. Perfect choice."

That view is shared by Jack Matlock, US Ambassador to the USSR during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush: "Washington says that John Tefft is likely to be appointed to the office of the US ambassador to Russia. If it happens, he would become an outstanding ambassador. I know him well. When I used to be the US ambassador to the USSR, Mr. Tefft was one of the best experts in Russia."

"Ambassador Tefft became notorious in Moscow for his deep involvement in the domestic affairs of Georgia and Ukraine."

And Nicholas Burns, a US ambassador to NATO in the last decade and under secretary of state for political affairs from 2005 to 2008: "Tefft is one of the finest experts on Russia and the post-Soviet states in the past three decades."

But, as the "Russia Direct" website found out, not all the experts are so openly optimistic.

"He will most likely enjoy very dry and formal communications."

"The US decision to appoint John Tefft as Ambassador to Russia reflects the attitude of the current US administration to Moscow," Dmitry Polikanov, Vice President of The PIR Center and Chairman the of Trialogue International Club told the site.

"On the one hand, Ambassador Tefft became notorious in Moscow for his deep involvement in the domestic affairs of Georgia and Ukraine. Many Russian officials will keep in mind some of his previous statements and his track record as an advisor to the "Orange Revolution,” and, hence, he will most likely enjoy very dry and formal communications. Moreover, while Michael McFaul was allegedly called one of the “theorists of change,” John Tefft was at the center of the practice of change in Georgia and Ukraine. And this may also increase suspicion to his actions in Russia and result in a cautious approach to any of his initiatives."

"His major objective will be to stay at this post until the end of Obama's presidential term and simply to maintain the relationship without any significant breakthroughs."

"On the other hand, John Tefft is a career diplomat," he said." And therefore, his major objective will be to stay at this post until the end of Obama's presidential term and simply to maintain the relationship without any significant breakthroughs.

The Obama administration does not see Russia as a priority and has no pragmatic political reasons to do so. At the same time, since it started the course of exerting pressure on Russia (mostly for challenging US supremacy in global affairs), it will be quite difficult to stop this machine quickly and to turn it back into indifference or to the rank of one of the "regional headaches".

Since the administration is stalled right now at this bifurcation point, John Tefft's candidacy is quite adequate for the moment. He may represent a challenge to Moscow or serve as an extremely ordinary ambassador engaged with a normal diplomatic routine, depending on the developments."

"He may represent a challenge to Moscow or serve as an extremely ordinary ambassador engaged with a normal diplomatic routine, depending on the developments."

"The appointment of a new ambassador does not mean a new start between the US and Russia, for two reasons," thinks James Carden, contributing editor to The American Conservative magazine, and former Advisor to the US-Russia Presidential Commission at the US State Department. "First, according to a report that appeared in the New York Times in April, "Administration officials were leery of sending Mr. Tefft because of concern that his experience in former Soviet republics that have flouted Moscow's influence would irritate Russia. Now, officials said, there is no reluctance to offend the Kremlin. In light of this report, the fact that the president has gone through with the nomination speaks for itself."

"I seriously doubt we will see the types of miscues, verbal and otherwise, that we were treated to on a near daily basis from the last ambassador who was a creature of academia and the think-tank world and, as he himself frequently admitted, was not a career diplomat."

"That is true of the State Department generally. Policy is made in the West Wing and in the building next door, by the National Security staff. And the president and his National Security Advisor have made it plain (or as President Obama never tires of saying, have "made it clear") that US policy toward Russia is to be one of isolation, encirclement, and disengagement. No ambassador has the power to reverse administration policy on his or her own."

Read more:

McFaul 2.0: Ukraine "color" revolution architect Tefft coming to Russia

US strategy for Russia: new ambassador, old war?

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