With the U.S. facing one of its most trying periods in the relationship with Russia, the White House won’t say if it’s even close to filling the ambassadorship in Moscow.
The post has been vacant since Feb. 26, when Ambassador Michael McFaul, appointed to the post in 2011, stepped down to rejoin his family in California.
White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked whether the delay in sending a successor to Moscow is because Geoffrey Pyatt, currently U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, is first in line for the job.
“I don’t have any comment on short lists or candidates for any position that’s currently in need of being filled, except to say that a position like that is one that — that teams in place to review personnel decisions act aggressively on, and that, you know, we will move on when the time is right and when everything is in place,” Carney said.
He brushed off suggestions that, with Russian aggression on the rise, it’s not a good idea to be lacking an American ambassador in Moscow.
“I think we have an excellent team at our embassy in Moscow, and I don’t believe that that’s been a hindrance. The fact of the matter is because of the crisis in Ukraine, we have had more high-level direct conversations between U.S. and Russian government officials probably in a short period of time that has been had in a long time,” Carney boasted.
“As a general matter, the president and President Putin have spoken frequently. Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary Kerry have met and spoken frequently,” he continued. “Unfortunately, Russia has against the will of the international community, the United States, the European Union, the G7 and pretty much most of the world, have decided to engage in practices that violate flagrantly international law that violate a sovereign nation’s territorial integrity and that seem to seek to destabilize the free and fair presidential elections that have been called for May 25 in that country.”
“So I can tell you on this personnel matter that it will be acted on as soon as the president is ready to name someone,” Carney added.
McCaul announced at the beginning of February that he would leave after the Sochi Games. Russia invaded Crimea as soon as McCaul left the State Department.