The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

30 DECEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL MEETING POST–COLD WAR CHALLENGES Complete Professional, Celebrated Mentor, Russia Expert A Conversation with Ambassador John Tefft 2023 Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy Recipient Ambassador John F. Tefft, a four-time chief of mission who specialized in Russian and Eurasian affairs and played a critical role in the peaceful transition of the post-Soviet space, a leader revered for his professionalism, and mentor to several generations of diplomats during his more than 45-year Foreign Service career, is this year’s recipient of the American Foreign Service Association’s Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy. (For coverage of the Oct. 5 ceremony, see AFSA News, page 63.) Tefft is the 29th recipient of this prestigious award, given annually in recognition of a distinguished practitioner’s career and enduring devotion to diplomacy. Past honorees include George H.W. Bush, Thomas Pickering, Ruth A. Davis, George Shultz, Richard Lugar, Joan Clark, Ronald Neumann, Sam Nunn, Rozanne Ridgway, Nancy Powell, Thomas Boyatt, William Harrop, Herman “Hank” Cohen, Edward Perkins, John D. Negroponte, and Anne Patterson. Ambassador Tefft joined the Foreign Service in 1972. Early assignments included Jerusalem, Budapest, and Rome, but most of his distinguished career focused on Russian and Eurasian affairs. As deputy director in the Office of Soviet Affairs from 1989 to 1992, he was at the center of Washington’s efforts to deal with historic transitions from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the end of the Soviet Union. As deputy chief of mission in Moscow from 1996 to 1999 (and chargé d’affaires from November 1996 to September 1997), he managed one of our largest missions and most important relationships. Appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve as U.S. ambassador to Lithuania (2000-2003), he worked successfully to have Lithuania admitted to NATO. He served as the international affairs adviser at the National War College in Washington, D.C., from 2003 to 2004, when he was named deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs responsible for U.S. relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. In 2005 he returned overseas as U.S. ambassador to Georgia (2005-2009), leading the embassy during the 2008 Russo-Georgian war and U.S. efforts to assist Georgia’s recovery from the war. Amb. Tefft was then named U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (2009-2013). Amb. Tefft originally retired from the Foreign Service in September 2013 and served as executive director of the RAND Corporation’s U.S.-Russia Business Leaders Forum from October 2013 to August 2014, when he was recalled to duty as U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation (2014-2017). There he navigated the strained relationship between the U.S. and Russia following the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea. FOCUS AFSA AWARDS: HONORING EXCELLENCE AND CONSTRUCTIVE DISSENT ISTOCK.COM/ANDREI_ANDREEV