Here we go again! Bush Names new Ambassador to Armenia
The Bush Administration has submitted to the Armenian government the name of Marie L. Yovanovitch as the next Ambassador to Armenia, according to several Armenian and American reliable sources. She is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic.
This is the first step in diplomatic protocol in the nomination of a new U.S. Ambassador to a foreign country. After receiving Armenia’s consent, Pres. Bush would then officially nominate Ms. Yovanovitch as Ambassador to Armenia and submit her name to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and subsequently to the full Senate for final confirmation.
This will be Bush administration’s second attempt to nominate an ambassador to Armenia after its recall of Amb. John Evans for using the term Armenian Genocide. An earlier attempt to nominate Amb. Richard Hoagland to replace Amb. Evans was blocked by Sen. Robert Menendez (Dem.-N.J.), to protest the dismissal of Amb. Evans and to object to Amb. Hoagland’s poor choice of words in responding to Senators’ questions on the validity of the Armenian Genocide.
Here is the biography of Marie L. Yovanovitch as posted on the State Department’s website: "Ms. Yovanovitch of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, was nominated on June 3, 2005 to serve as the next Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kyrgyz Republic, and confirmed by the Senate on June 30, 2005. Prior to her appointment as U.S. Ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch was the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from August 2004 to May 2005. From August 2001 to June 2004, she was the Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Kiev, Ukraine. Prior to this assignment, from May 1998 to May 2000, she served as the Deputy Director of the Russian Desk. Her previous overseas assignments include Ottawa, Moscow, London, and Mogadishu. Ms. Yovanovitch joined the Foreign Service in 1986. Ms. Yovanovitch is a graduate of Princeton University where she earned a BA in History and Russian Studies (1980). She has studied at the Pushkin Institute (1980) and received an MS from the National War College (2001). Ms. Yovanovitch speaks Russian and French and is learning Kyrgyz."
There is nothing unusual or objectionable in Ms. Yovanovitch’s background. One could question, however, the timing of her nomination: Why has the State Dept. decided to submit her name as Ambassador to Armenia just a few months before the end of Pres. Bush’s term? Here are some other crucial questions:
- 1. Why did the U.S. government wait for over 18 months after Amb. Hoagland’s nomination was blocked, in order to name a new Ambassador to Armenia? Shouldn’t the State Dept. have acted much earlier to fill a vacancy at a critical time when Parliamentary and Presidential elections were being held in Armenia?
- 2. Since Amb. Richard Hoagland’s nomination was held up by Sen. Menendez due to the nominee’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, what assurance does the State Dept. have that Amb. Yovanovitch will not meet the same fate?
- 3. Having waited until a few months from the end of Pres. Bush’s term, shouldn’t the State Dept. have waited a little longer allowing the next President to pick his or her own nominee? Given the fact that Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have made a commitment to recognize the Armenian Genocide if elected President, the State Dept. could avoid another confrontation with the Armenian-American community and a possible "hold" by Sen. Menendez, by waiting to see if the next President would have a more accommodating policy on the Armenian Genocide.
The State Dept. is repeating yet another mistake by stubbornly refusing to consult with the leadership of the Armenian-American community regarding the answers that the ambassadorial nominee would be giving to the Senate on the Armenian Genocide issue. The premature termination of Amb. Evans’ career and the subsequent "hold" placed on Amb. Hoagland’s nomination could have been avoided had the Bush administration treated Armenian-Americans with a little more courtesy and respect and met with them to gauge their opinion on this controversy. Given the Armenian authorities’ understandable preference to have a U.S. Ambassador in Armenia sooner rather than later, and its apparent willingness to give its consent to Amb. Yovanovitch’s nomination -- as was the case with Amb. Hoagland -- it would be in the interest of the State Dept., U.S. Senate as well as the Armenian-American community to find mutually acceptable wording to describe the Armenian Genocide. Otherwise, a prolonged confrontation on this issue would deprive Armenia of the opportunity to welcome a U.S. Ambassador, undermine the prestige of the State Dept. vis-à-vis the U.S. Senate and prevent the U.S. government from stationing a high-ranking official in Yerevan at such a delicate moment in Armenia’s history.
Furthermore, a repeat of the earlier confrontation could damage Amb. Yovanovitch’s Foreign Service career as Amb. Hoagland’s own career was regrettably ruined by the Bush administration’s refusal to withdraw his nomination when it was obvious that he would not be confirmed by the Senate. Amb. Hoagland was eventually dispatched to Turkmenistan to serve as Charge D’Affaires, after aimlessly wandering in the corridors of the State Dept. for more than a year. Finding a proper resolution to this issue would be beneficial to all parties concerned.