Brett Bruen, former US Diplomat and Director of Global Engagement at the Obama White House, said it’s ’embarrassing’ at the lack of ambassadors that have been named
President Joe Biden is facing increasing criticism for not nominating more than 90 ambassadors, including a representative to the UK, before landing in Cornwall for the G7 on Wednesday.
Many in the diplomatic world expected Biden to name his British ambassador – one of the poshest postings in the diplomatic world – by Thursday’s G7 meeting.
The president has named a series of career diplomats to lower level ambassadorial postings, including Bahrain, Somalia, and Algeria. But no one has been nominated for the London position nor any other top destination, such as France, Israel, Russia, China or the European Union.
‘It is embarrassing that six months into office we still have over ninety embassies without ambassadors,’ Brett Bruen, former US Diplomat and Director of Global Engagement at the Obama White House, told DailyMail.com.
The lack of ambassador comes as the president has said repeatedly the United States ‘is back’ as he moves to reverse former President Donald Trump’s more isolationist foreign policy.
‘Biden can’t talk about America being back on the world stage when we don’t have anyone out there to represent us. The process has been overly delayed by political considerations, trying to reward the well to do and the well connected. We have hundreds of extraordinarily experienced career diplomats who are ready to serve,’ Bruen said.
And, a UK official said, if the US wants to show it’s back as a global leader, it needs to start naming ambassadors.
‘While we would have all preferred an Ambassador in place before President Biden’s first overseas trip and certainly the Embassy will have more impact with an Ambassador, it is not critical for a successful visit,’ the official told DailyMail.com.
‘But there is a symbolism to this. If the US is serious about wanting to show they are back globally, they need to start appointing Ambassadors, and soon,’ the person said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week there was no update on the ambassadorships but they ‘hope to have more soon.’
She added that ‘one of the processes in the ambassadorial nomination process is that countries have to agree to these selections, and so sometimes that’s part of the timeline.’
Asked if that was holding up nominations, Psaki said no, noting ‘it’s just part of the process.’
Foreign governments must give ‘agreement’ to a country’s ambassador nominee – a diplomatic courtesy that is usually a formality.
A source in the British Foreign Office said they don’t believe there is a name in the pipeline and don’t expect an appointment imminently.
‘It’s a long and complicated process,’ the source said.
The United States Senate also must confirm ambassadors, which adds to the timeline between naming a pick and having that person in an embassy.
Former UK foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said he was a ‘little bit puzzled’ about the lack of an ambassador so far and suggested Biden might have a ‘controversial’ candidate in mind.
‘I am not sure it is politically significant. Basically London is always seen as the top notch embassy, not because it is diplomatically important but because it is a superb way of the president of the day rewarding his most comfortable followers,’ he said.
He added: ‘I am a little bit puzzled by it. They all have to be approved by the Senate so maybe the person he has in mind might have some reasons for being controversial.
‘That might be the reason, or maybe he just can’t make up his mind.’
President Joe Biden holds a face-to-face meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Cornwall on Thursday
One name being banded about for UK ambassador is outgoing Disney CEO Bob Iger; above Prince Harry speaks with Iger about a job for his wife Meghan, who is hugging Beyonce, at the July 2019 London premiere of the ‘Lion King’
The highest-level ambassador posting Biden has named is Linda Thomas Greenfield as UN Ambassador, which is a different kind of posting entirely.
Biden is also behind in comparison to his predecessors in naming his picks to represent the United States abroad.
President Donald Trump named Woody Johnson as his choice for ambassador to the Court of St. James at his inauguration lunch on January 20th. President Barack Obama named his first round of ambassadors – to London, Paris, New Deli and Beijing – in May 2009, about five months after his inauguration.
Johnson left the Embassy in London with Trump’s departure from office. A career State Department officials acts as the top American representative to the British government.
Many names have been bandied about for the posting to the Court of St. James and the lavish benefits that comes with the British ambassadorship, including residency in the 35-bedroom Winfield House, in Regent’s Park.
Its 12-acre garden is second only to the Queen’s at Buckingham Palace and has room for Marine One to land, while inside glittering reception rooms make an invitation from the ambassador a prize on London’s social scene.
Not that there is a shortage of invitations for the ambassador: the most glamorous of all when he or she presents their credentials at Buckingham Palace, riding there in a carriage and wearing a top hat and tails.
Given its benefits, the ambassadorship has been used by presidents of both parties as the ultimate reward to supporters for their loyalty or their fundraising – preferably both.
And given Biden’s long history of government service, he has many supporters who have their hands out, wanting their reward.
Among the names being mentioned for the UK spot including outgoing Disney CEO Bob Iger, former ambassador to Madrid James Costos, an openly gay mega fundraiser in Hollywood who is close friends with the Obamas; and one of Biden’s oldest friends Ted Kaufman, 81.
But no front runner has emerged unlike for other positions: Cindy McCain has emerged as the top contender to Ambassador to the World Food Program, according to reports, along with former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for Japan, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for India, and former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns to China.
The president is preparing to head to the UK on Wednesday for a nine-day trip that includes stops in Brussels for a NATO meeting and EU summit with a final leg in Geneva for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden will hold his first face-to-face meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday when the two leaders sit down ahead of the G7 meeting in Cornwall.
His first stop will be the UK will be a visit with US troops. He and first lady Jill Biden, on Wednesday, will visit US Air Force personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall. RAF Mildenhall is home to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the only permanent U.S. Air Force air refueling wing in the European theater.
Schedule for President Biden’s Europe Trip
President Joe Biden makes a seven-day trip to Europe next week. Here’s the itinerary thus far:
June 9: Visit US Air Force personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall
June 10: Meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
June 11-13: Attending G7 Summit in Cornwall
June 13: He and Dr. Jill Biden meet with The Queen at Windsor Castle
June 14: NATO Summit in Brussels
June 15: U.S.–EU Summit in Brussels
June 16: Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva
Biden held off on foreign travel due to the coronavirus pandemic but is making up for it with this trip that includes meetings with foreign leaders, Queen Elizabeth II, the king of Belgium, and his Russian counterpart.
First lady Jill Biden will join him for the British portion of the trip but will return to the United States after the first couple meets with the Queen at Windsor Castle next Sunday.
Biden will be the 13th American president the Queen has met since ascending to the throne in 1953.
There is speculation that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will also meet the American couple at some point during their visit to the UK.
At his sit down with Johnson, Biden will ‘affirm the enduring strength of the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement last week.
Biden and Johnson have spoken on the phone multiple times since Biden was elected president.
‘There’s a range of issues of mutual interest,’ Psaki said Thursday at her White House press briefing when asked about the sit down. ‘From the future of economic growth in the world to addressing the COVID pandemic to security issues around the world so they have a range of topics they can clearly discuss.’
Johnson will also ask the American president to exempt vaccinated British and American travellers from quarantine restrictions to facilitate travel between the two nations.
The PM wants to create a ‘green channel’ for those fully vaccinated, The Times reported, as the summer holiday season approaches.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday declined to say when travel restrictions might be eased.
‘This is a process being driven by science and public health guidance and so it is ultimately up to the public health professionals in the US government to make that determination,’ he said.
‘We have heard very clearly, the desire of our friends in Europe and in the UK, to be able to reopen travel across the Atlantic. And we want to see that happen. But we have to follow the science and we have to follow the guidance of our public health professionals so we’re actively engaging with them to determine the timeframe, and I can’t give him a date today but I will tell you that we recognize the concern and we are fundamentally being guided by objective analysis,’ he added.
Afterward the meeting with Johnson, Biden will attend the G7 summit, where he will hold bilateral meetings with fellow G7 leaders. The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
After his meeting with The Queen, Biden will travel to Brussels, Belgium, to participate in in a NATO meeting and an EU Summit.
First lady Jill Biden will join President Biden when he meets with The Queen at Windsor Castle on Sunday, June 13
The Carbis Bay Hotel in Cornwall still ‘looks like a building site’ with just weeks before it hosts the G7 summit
The hotel – where US President Joe Biden and Boris Johnson will be staying – is littered with construction materials
There, the president will discuss transatlantic security and the collective defense of Europe.
He will also meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Biden also will participate in the U.S.–EU Summit while in Brussels. That meeting with focus on global health and the world economy. Leaders will discuss climate change, trade, and democracy.
President Biden will also meet with His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
Then Biden travels to Geneva for his sit down with Putin on June 16. He will also meet with Swiss President Guy Parmelin and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.