US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan left Moscow shortly after attending a farewell ceremony for the late Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The head of the US diplomatic mission in Russia completed his work in the Russian capital.
US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan left his post and left Moscow, the US Embassy in Moscow said in a statement on Sunday.
“After his departure, he will retire from a career in public service that spans four decades under five US presidents, including serving as an undersecretary of state and in senior positions in the ministries of justice, defense and commerce,” the US diplomatic mission said in a statement.
Sullivan’s departure from his post was sudden, and there had been no previous public indication that his retirement was imminent, writes The Washington Post. At the same time, a State Department official and a Biden administration official, who spoke to the American publication on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Sullivan’s resignation was expected.
“Ambassador Sullivan’s departure is planned and part of the normal diplomatic rotation,” a State Department spokesman said. “He served a full term as U.S. Ambassador to Russia, managing some of the most important bilateral relations in the world at an unprecedented time.”
A White House spokesman said Sullivan’s departure from Moscow was expected given that US ambassadors to Russia usually serve for about three years, but it was expedited due to family issues.
On Saturday, at his last official function as ambassador, Sullivan attended the funeral in Moscow of Mikhail Gorbachev, whom he called “a statesman who changed the world with his vision of peaceful coexistence and transformation in his country and the rest of the world.”
Prior to the arrival of Sullivan’s successor, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Moscow Elizabeth Rude will take over as Chargé d’Affaires, the embassy said Sunday. Rude was appointed US Ambassador to Turkmenistan last month and is awaiting confirmation by the Senate for the post.
John Sullivan, a seasoned government official, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Russia by President Donald Trump in December 2019 and has been in Moscow for over two and a half years; President Biden asked him to stay, given tensions with Russia and the difficulty of getting ambassadorial candidates through the US Senate. It took many months, and in some cases more than a year, for many Biden candidates to take their seats.
Sullivan arrived in Russia in January 2020, a year before the end of Trump’s term, at a time when U.S.-Russia relations were already tense. At the same time, the staff of the embassy in Moscow was already depleted after a series of diplomatic expulsions, and the situation escalated after Russia in 2021 banned the United States from hiring employees from among Russian citizens or third countries, which forced the embassy to lay off 182 local employees and dozens of contractors.
“These unfortunate measures will seriously affect the US mission in operations in Russia, potentially including the safety of our personnel, as well as our ability to conduct diplomatic relations with the Russian government,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at the time.
During Sullivan’s tenure in Moscow, relations between the United States and Russia deteriorated to their worst point, at least since the end of the Cold War.
“Unfortunately today, the halls and offices of the embassy are mostly quiet,” Ambassador Sullivan told Politico in February, describing the drastic reduction in staff and how it affected their ability to carry out the duties of the diplomatic mission. “There are whole floors in the embassy that are not occupied – row after row of empty offices and long corridors with dark offices on either side.”
“If the expulsion by the Russian government continues, it will be very difficult to continue to function safely as an embassy,” he added.
After the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, the United States expelled a number of Russian diplomats and embassy officials as a “punishment”. Moscow soon responded in kind: Even the chef at the US embassy in Moscow was forced to leave Russia after her visa was revoked, according to The Washington Post.
Prior to his post in Russia, Sullivan served as Deputy Secretary of State from 2017 to 2019, some of the most turbulent years in State Department history.
Although he was involved in many important political and managerial decisions, Sullivan was best known to the public as the State Department official who told Marie Yovanovitch, when she was U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, that she was not prematurely yanked home because she had done something wrong. but because Trump simply “lost confidence” in her.
“We intend to announce our next post soon,” a State Department spokesman told CNN, commenting on the agency’s staffing plans for the United States embassy in Russia.