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U.S. Ambassador McFaul Leaves Post Amid Ukraine Turmoil

Published: February 27, 2014 (Issue # 1799)



  • McFaul handing over leadership of the U.S. Embassy to Sheila Gwaltney.
    Photo: Twitter / McFaul

Michael McFaul officially relinquished his position as U.S. ambassador to Russia on Wednesday morning, leaving one of the U.S.' most vital diplomatic posts empty amid political upheaval in neighboring Ukraine.

McFaul, known for his active presence on Twitter, wrote goodbyes to Russian users of the microblogging service throughout the morning and tweeted a photo of himself with Sheila Gwaltney, the deputy chief of mission in Moscow, who will head the U.S. Embassy until McFaul's successor is appointed.

Related: Farewell, Ambassador McFaul

A U.S. Embassy representative said there was no official timeline for a replacement to be appointed, and no candidates have been named publicly. But media reports have identified several likely candidates, most of them career diplomats with experience in Eastern Europe.

Kommersant, citing a source close to the U.S. State Department, singled out four candidates currently being considered to head U.S. diplomacy in Moscow, noting that three of them are former ambassadors to Ukraine and hinting that the U.S will be deploying serious diplomatic efforts on Russian soil in favor of Ukraine's prospective turn toward the West.

The first candidate named by the newspaper was John Tefft, who headed the U.S. Embassy in Kiev until July 2013, after having served as ambassador to Georgia and Lithuania. If Tefft were to be appointed as McFaul's successor, he would not be new to the Russian diplomatic scene, having served as the deputy head of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the late 1990s.

Related: Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Reflects on Time in Office

The two other former ambassadors to Ukraine, Steven Pifer and Carlos Pascual, have also worked on various policy issues in the region. Pifer is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, D.C., and heads its Arms Control and Nonproliferation Initiative. Pascual, who has worked on Russian and Eurasian issues for the State Department since the mid-1990s, is the U.S. Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs.

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Tuesday, Sept. 2


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