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Embassy Row: Diplomatic dominoes
The surprise resignation of the U.S. ambassador to Poland caps about four weeks of diplomatic distress for the Obama administration, which now has seen two ambassadors quit abruptly and two ambassadorial nominees facing scandals withdraw their names from Senate consideration.
Three of the diplomatic dominoes were political supporters of President Obama, and one was a career foreign policy expert who served both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Ambassador Lee Feinstein gave no explanation for his resignation, coming about 21/2 years after his arrival in Warsaw. Mr. Obama last week nominated career diplomat Steven D. Mull, to replace him. Mr. Mull served as ambassador to Poland from 1993 to 1997 and helped negotiate Poland’s membership in NATO.
“It has been a tremendous honor and privilege to represent the United States in Poland during the past three years,” Mr. Feinstein said in remarks posted on the U.S. Embassy website (poland.usembassy.gov).
“I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I remain committed to advancing our common security and prosperity, while I continue to serve in Warsaw and thereafter.”
While Mr. Feinstein was mum on his reason for quitting, rumors were circulating through diplomatic circles in Warsaw of a feud between the American ambassador and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.
The two officials had a “falling out” over Mr. Feinstein’s advocacy of Poland paying compensation to the heirs of Polish Jews whose wealth was confiscated by Nazis during World War II and communists in the post-war period. Some estimates say that the Polish government could face $65 billion in compensation claims.
Many Poles object to the claims because Poland was under Nazi occupation during the war and had no direct role in the confiscation of Jewish property.
Mr. Feinstein, who served in the State and Defense departments during the Clinton administration, supported Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary and later joined Mr. Obama’s transition team after the election.
Mr. Feinstein is the latest diplomatic casualty in a month of bad news for the White House.
In mid-June, Brett McGurk, a seasoned foreign-affairs professional, removed himself from consideration to serve as ambassador to Iraq after the disclosure of sexually tinged emails between Mr. McGurk and a Wall Street Journal reporter while he was working on the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
About a week later, the White House was hit with back-to-back shockers.
On June 28, Timothy Broas — a high-profile Washington lawyer with the Chicago-based firm of Winston and Strawn — withdrew his nomination as ambassador to the Netherlands after he was arrested for drunken driving and resisting arrest. He was a major Obama supporter who had raised more than $500,000 for the 2008 campaign.
A day later, J. Scott Gration, a retired Air Force general who served as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, resigned as ambassador to Kenya after reports surfaced that he was facing a severely critical review from the State Department’s inspector general.
• Call Embassy Row at 202-636-3297 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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About the Author
James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...
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