Sometimes it is convenient for one government to have an ambassador in another country. Even if the French can call them home for “advice” in the event of a dispute, as they did with their husbands in Washington recently. If President Joe Biden wanted to express his anger at another government in this way, his options would be limited. Because in many countries the US government does not currently have an ambassador.
Sending an official diplomatic representative to the United States is a privilege of the President. He or she nominates a candidate, after which the Senate has the right to approve or reject. As a result, dozens of U.S. ambassadors lose their positions with each change of government in Washington – especially if they have a recognizable personal or political relationship with the old president.
It may take time to fill these positions: Biden has been in power since January. But so far the Senate has confirmed only two of its diplomatic candidates – Linda Thomas, who represents the United States at the UN in New York – and Kenneth Lee Salazar, who has been appointed to Greenfield and Mexico City. That is a historically low number: when he was president, George W. Bush. Bush already had 73 confirmed ambassadors, 59 for Barack Obama and 24 for Donald Trump.
America’s diplomatic missions cannot be said to be headless. Some business diplomats who have become ambassadors hold their positions. In the capitals where Biden’s predecessor Trump sent envoys, after their departure, he progressed as vice president of the “DCM” mission. During the transition period, these diplomats held the highest office in the United States until a new ambassador arrived, “Charge de Affairs I”.
Senators are forcing individual votes
Still, it is not a good thing when the US government is not represented at the highest level in another country. Presidential ambassadorships are often given to friends or political allies who have aided or abetted the election campaign. These people are not always the most talented diplomats. But when a fully appointed ambassador with a trusted relationship with the president speaks to a foreign minister in a foreign capital, no matter how shiny it is, the Charge de Affairs alone carries a completely different weight. If there is a dispute or crisis, it will lead to a decisive change.
There are political reasons for the traffic congestion of Biden’s ambassadors. The president nominated several dozen candidates. Only two have so far been confirmed by individual senators delaying the hearing and forcing boring individual votes in the entire session of the Foreign and Parliamentary Committees. Republicans Ted Cruz and Josh Howley are particularly unruly in this regard. Cruz is angry that Biden allowed the construction of the German-Russian gas pipeline North Stream 2. Howley has objected to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He will confirm Biden’s ambassador only when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Foreign Minister Anthony Blingen step down, he said.
Since Democrats have a majority in the Senate, they can avoid these obstacles – it will take more time. Nicholas Burns, the candidate for the most important ambassador post in Beijing, for example, had to wait until Wednesday to introduce himself to the Foreign Committee. This also applies to Rahm Emanuel, the future ambassador to Japan. Many left-wing Democrats are protesting. Emanuel, as mayor of Chicago, has covered up a dangerous case of police brutality.
When will Germany arrive?
On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved several candidates, including Thomas Nietzsche, who is already scheduled for Israel, the presumptive new NATO ambassador Julian Smith and the future US representative to the European Union, Mark Gidenstein. However, they will all have to wait for a confirmed vote in the full session of the Senate. When candidates are open for other countries that are completely unimportant – including Germany.
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