The Foreign Service Journal, September 2022

16 SEPTEMBER 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL TALKING POINTS The American Public Likes Diplomats A study published this year by the RAND Corporation evaluating the public view of U.S. diplomats and diplomacy found generally favorable attitudes toward diplomats but limited understanding of what they do, how they are selected and the role of diplomacy in America’s national security establish- ment. To conduct the study, in 2020 and 2021 RAND posed a series of questions to a nationally representative, probability- based sample of more than 2,000 Ameri- cans ages 24 and older. Survey respondents and focus group participants considered support for American citizens abroad to be a core and highly valued function for diplomats. They were less aware that diplomats also pro- mote U.S. exports and support businesses. Those surveyed identified understand- ing of global affairs and negotiating prow- ess as the most important skills for diplo- mats. More than half had no opinion on whether they considered U.S. diplomats to be representative of American society. The authors of the study also found what they characterized as “worrisome levels of opinion that American diplomats, while trustworthy, were politically biased.” Nevertheless, the public expressed greater confidence in career ambassadors than political appointees, implying that reduced politicization of State Depart- ment positions would be broadly sup- ported by Americans. Despite the fact that more than 65 percent of respondents said they thought diplomacy contributes to national secu- rity, when asked whether spending on for- eign affairs should be more, less or about the same, respondents favored keeping spending about the same. Finally, the group expressed a clear preference for diplomats to lead foreign policy efforts rather than military leaders. Sustained Support for Ukraine O n July 27, the day before Ukrainian Statehood Day, USAID announced its plan to send an additional $75 million in humanitarian aid for those affected by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine. This brings the total USAID humanitarian contribution to more than $1 billion, and the total con- tributed by the U.S. government to more than $1.5 billion. Days earlier, a senior U.S. congressio- nal delegation led by Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on July 23. In a joint press release, the delega- tion pledged to “continue to seek ways to support President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people as effectively as possible as they continue their brave stand.” Meanwhile, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), a breakaway Russia- backed group not recognized by the U.S. government, claimed credit in June for the capture of U.S. military veterans Alexander Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh. Against warnings that American fighters will be treated as mercenaries if captured by Russian soldiers—and therefore not protected by international rules for prisoners of war—the two trav- eled overseas as volunteers to help train troops in Ukraine. The State Department said it is in contact with Ukrainian and Russian authorities concerning the cap- tured Americans. A third U.S. citizen, Grady Kurpasi, is missing in Ukraine and at least two Ameri- cans are believed to have died in the fight- ing, The Washington Post reported in July. The capture of the ex-military per- sonnel is a sensitive dilemma, as the Kremlin may use it as evidence that the U.S. has become directly involved in the ongoing conflict. S Talks Equity at State A ddressing a global audience from the Dean Acheson Auditorium, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (S) hosted a town hall on May 31 to discuss how the State Department is embedding equity in its foreign affairs work and insti- tutional culture. He was joined by Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Brian McKeon and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley. Secretary Blinken explained that the State Department’s equity action plan, approved by the White House in April and part of his modernization agenda, contains specific actions, metrics and accountabil- ity measures to integrate equity into five priority areas: (1) foreign policy development and imple- mentation, (2) foreign assistance, (3) public diplomacy, (4) consular services and (5) procure- ment, contracts and grants. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, U.S. Ambassador Bridget Brink and Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) meet in Kyiv on July 23. U.S.EMBASSYKYIV