Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for October 1, 2019

Newsline: Ousted U.S. diplomat could be crucial to impeachment inquiry

In President Trump’s rough parlance, she was “the woman.” That’s how Trump described Marie Louise Yovanovitch, the widely respected former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in his July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Now the 60-year-old envoy, who spent more than three decades in the diplomatic service, could prove key to illuminating murky events central to the House impeachment inquiry against Trump. (https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2019-09-30/ousted-u-s-diplomat-could-be-crucial-to-impeachment-inquiry) The veteran diplomat was abruptly ordered back to Washington in May, ending her three-year tour two months early. By then, the events that ultimately would set the stage for the impeachment saga were already in play. Yovanovitch is one of five current or former State Department employees summoned to provide depositions to investigators from the House committees on intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight. Her closed-door appearance is scheduled Wednesday. From her perch in the Ukrainian capital, Yovanovitch had a front-row seat to the machinations of Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who engaged with a range of Ukrainian officials outside normal diplomatic channels in an effort to stir up suspicions about former Vice President Joe Biden, now a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son, Hunter. By all accounts, Giuliani and his Ukrainian contacts found Yovanovitch, who had sought to boost the country’s anti-corruption efforts, an impediment. And Trump, in the reconstructed record of the call with Zelensky that the White House released last week, made plain his own animosity. “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news,” Trump told Zelensky, who took office in May. “And the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news, so I just wanted to let you know that.” Vaguely but ominously, Trump added: “She’s going to go through some things.” Under Trump — as under most presidents — America’s diplomatic corps is laced with envoys who got the job because they helped fill campaign coffers. Yovanovitch, by contrast, is described by colleagues as a precise and conscientious diplomat. Her recall in May triggered an outcry in foreign policy circles, as well as public praise from many former diplomats — tributes that were echoed when Trump’s derisive remarks about her became public. Although she was born in Canada, Yovanovitch grew up speaking Russian and is known to friends by the Russian diminutive Masha. After joining the diplomatic corps in 1986, she bounced around the globe, serving at U.S. embassies in Canada, Russia, Britain and Somalia, before a two-year stint as deputy director of the State Department’s Russia desk. In 2001, Yovanovitch landed in Kyiv as deputy chief of the U.S. mission. It was an era of upheaval, only a decade after the tumultuous breakup of the Soviet Union brought Ukraine its independence. The 1990s had seen steps toward democracy, but — as in neighboring Russia — also ushered in an entrenched culture of fraud and oligarchy.

Newsline: From controversy to EU’s top diplomat

The nomination of Spain’s Josep Borrell as the EU high-representative for foreign affairs and vice-president of the commission was among one of Ursula von der Leyen’s most surprising appointments – he is 72-years-old and his career has been marred by more than one contentious event. Borrell is a former aeronautical engineer with a doctorate in economics and an extensive experience in Brussels. He was elected as the president of the EU Parliament from 2004 to 2007, and remained as the president of the committee on development until 2009. But, at first inspection, the parliament’s legal affairs committee was not satisfied with the financial declaration of Borrell. (https://euobserver.com/political/146106) Borrell is also well-known for saying controversial things, that may complicate his hearing taking place on 7 October. For instance, Borrell has voiced his sympathy for Iran on several occasion – defending the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that US president Donald Trump rejected and pledging to try to save it. Overall, his relationship with US president Donal Trump is not the best. Borrell described him as the first US president “to voice hostility towards the European project [and] to describe us as foes”. He also defined China as a “systemic rival”, and the EU-Turkey agreement for refugees as a solution “to stop an immigrant haemorrhage”. His comments even made Russia summon the Spanish ambassador to Moscow last May after he referred to the country as an “old enemy [that] is once again saying, ‘here I am,’ and has returned as a threat”.