The U.S. diplomatic mission in Ukraine has a new leader – Kristina A. Kvien. The American diplomat replaces William B. Taylor Jr., who headed the mission from June to the end of 2019.
According to U.S. law, a politically appointed official (i.e. not a professional diplomat) cannot hold such a position for more than 200 days. This was the reason for Taylor's release. On the eve of his departure from Kyiv, he said that Kvien was "very qualified" and would represent the U.S. diplomatic mission well until a new ambassador was elected and approved by the Senate.
Taylor is one of the key witnesses in the impeachment case of U.S. President Donald Trump. But, leaving his post in Ukraine, he stressed: this story will in no way worsen relations between the U.S. and Ukraine. He assessed very positively all the changes that took place in Ukraine in the last six months – the election of a new president and parliament, the creation of ground for reform – and predicted "good times" for Ukraine.
Does the new head of the U.S. diplomatic mission believe in this, and what do we know about her?
“I’ve been in Ukraine for approximately six months serving as deputy chief of mission at the Embassy and I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the people of Ukraine as I’ve explored Kyiv and traveled to cities such as Lviv and Dnipro. I’m excited to take on the new challenge and great responsibility of leading the U.S. Embassy team as we work closely with our Ukrainian partners to advance our shared goals,” Kvien said in her address on January 2, her first day at the helm.
However, the post of U.S. Chargé d'Affaires in Ukraine is not really new to Kvien: she has already held the post from late May to the end of June 2019. Prior to that, Joseph Pennington headed the diplomatic mission for just eight days following U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s abrupt departure after almost three years in Ukraine. Yovanovitch also testified in the Trump impeachment case – and then declared pressure from the U.S. president and the State Department to release her.
“While the Embassy’s leadership is changing, our policy of strong support for Ukraine remains steady. Our embassy team will continue to partner closely with the Ukrainian government and civil society in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in support of reforms that will help Ukraine build its prosperous European future. Ukraine has made great strides forward in the short time I’ve been here and I’m committed to supporting the work ahead,” the new chargé d’affaires added.
Kvien and Trump Impeachment
In the impeachment case of Donald Trump, Kvien’s name was mentioned once – during the testimony of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine’s counselor for political affairs David Holmes before Congress. He said he heard a conversation between U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Trump during a meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s aide, Andriy Yermak. He also shared his impressions of Kvien, who was Taylor's deputy at the time.
“I told her the whole story. I said, you wouldn’t believe what I just heard. At lunch, Ambassador Sondland pulled out his cellphone and called the President. And then I told her the version of events that I testified to,” The Guardian cites Holmes.
Kvien’s Work Experience
54-year-old Kristina Kvien is an experienced diplomat. She is originally from Orange County, California, a graduate of the Occidental College in Los Angeles with a degree in Political Science and worked as a market researcher for the Los Angeles Times. In addition, she attended the University of Stockholm and received her Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.
Kvien began her diplomatic career in 1992 when she was appointed to the U.S. Consulate in Paris. Subsequently, she worked as an economic advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Then Kvien served in the European Bureau in Washington, where she dealt with issues of European cooperation, and after a while – bilateral relations with Slovenia.
From 2001 to 2005, Kvien worked at the U.S. Mission to the E.U. in Brussels, where she again served as an economic advisor, and later was appointed to the U.S. Delegation in Moscow, where she was responsible for the environment and energy. From 2008 to 2010, she was Director for E.U., Ukraine and Belarus at the National Security Council in the Executive Office of the U.S. President.
In 2013, Kvien received the post of economic counselor at the U.S. Embassy in London. From 2016 until April 2019, she served as Acting DCM/Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy in Paris before assuming the post of chargée d'affaires in Ukraine from Joseph Pennington on May 28, 2019.
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