Jul 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Decoding Biden's ambassadors

Former Sen. Jeff Flake is seen walking through the U.S. Capitol.
Former Sen. Jeff Flake, President Biden's nominee to be ambassador to Turkey. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's latest ambassadorial picks reveal his strategy when it comes to the diplomacy of diplomacy: He's blending career servants with political supporters to avoid raising the ire of State Department professionals while filling posts around the world.

Why it matters: The U.S. diplomatic corps remains shaken from cuts to its ranks by Rex Tillerson, former President Trump's first secretary of State.

  • Successor Mike Pompeo vowed to help the State Department regain its "swagger," but many members of the Foreign Service still felt disrespected by the past administration.
  • Biden, whose ties to the State Department span decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his past role as vice president, has sought a different relationship with Foggy Bottom.

Driving the news: Biden on Tuesday packaged his announcement of former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake for ambassador to Turkey with the nomination of Kent Logsdon — previously a deputy chief of mission in Berlin and trip planner for former Secretary of State John Kerry — for ambassador to Moldova.

  • Flake was a Biden colleague in the Senate, but as a Republican he allows the president to exhibit some bipartisanship in his diplomatic assignments.
  • Turkey's no vanity posting. It's a complicated NATO ally straddling Europe and Asia, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan requires careful handling.

Between the lines: On the same day, the White House sent the Senate a previously announced slate of nominees to begin their confirmation process — with names that also ping-ponged between the career and political camps.

  • Julieta Valls Noyes, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, as assistant secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.
  • Massachusetts State Rep. Claire Cronin, a Biden fundraiser, as ambassador to Ireland.
  • Bathsheba Nell Crocker, a longtime diplomat and daughter of Chester Crocker, an Africa specialist under former Secretary of State George Shultz, as U.S. representative to the UN offices in Geneva.
  • Denise Campbell Bauer, another campaign fundraiser and former ambassador to Belgium, to return as ambassador to France and Monaco.

Don't forget: Biden's Secretary of State Tony Blinken and UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also are two well-known representatives from inside the State Department ranks.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the name of Bathsheba Crocker’s father. Axios politics editor Glen Johnson served as a senior communications aide to Secretary of State John Kerry and is author of "Window Seat on the World."

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