The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

32 DECEMBER 2023 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL the consular section, and the remainder doing some political and economic reporting on Jerusalem and the West Bank, which made up our consular district. This gave me a broad perspective on the work of the Foreign Service. The big event during our tour was the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and subsequently Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy, which we supported. FSJ: You were a career Foreign Service officer for more than 45 years, including service in real hot spots. What kept you in the Service for that long? JFT: I found the Foreign Service fascinating from the very start. My experience in Jerusalem had a big impact on me. It gave me a chance to see history being made right before my eyes. I had some wonderful bosses and mentors over the years. I was also fortunate to continue to get good assignments. I ended up feeling that this was a career for which I had the right personality and skills. I never really thought of another career. And I had the wonderful support of my wife, Mariella, throughout my career. She was my partner in the Foreign Service for 45 years. On Dealing with Russia FSJ: Much of your career was spent in the Soviet Union and then Russia and the countries that had been part of the USSR. What sparked your interest in this region? JFT: When I was a senior at Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin, I took an elective course in Russian history. Sister Marie Michel, our teacher, not only taught us the main political and economic developments in Russia but also Russia’s cultural achievements. She took us to see the opera, “Boris Godunov,” at the Lyric Opera in Chicago. She had prepared us by teaching us about the “Time of Troubles” and about Mussorgsky’s opera. She played records with the most famous arias and gave us English-language librettos to follow along. It was a phenomenal experience, a wonderful introduction to Russian culture. That same year, in 1965, David Lean’s film, “Dr. Zhivago,” was released. It captivated me. It was a visual introduction to Russia’s history, capturing the trauma of the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftermath through an exploration of the memorable characters in Boris Pasternak’s novel. Russia was in my imagination now as it never had been before. FSJ: After “retiring” from the Foreign Service in 2013, you were called back in 2014 to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia, which had just annexed Crimea a few months before. At the time, Ambassador (ret.) Steven Pifer said this to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “I can’t think of a better choice for the embassy in Moscow. … He knows how to deliver a tough message in a way the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft (left) and Secretary of State John Kerry greet President Vladimir Putin at the Bocherov Ruche—a government villa—in Sochi, Russia, before a bilateral meeting on May 12, 2015. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE