The Curious Case of the Half Ambassador

Word count: 421

What happens when the United States appoints a new ambassador to a friendly, allied country? There’s a little ceremony and then a press release goes out. Right?

Well that’s sort of what happened today. The United States now has a new ambassador to Moldova and here he is, saying hello to the people of RM in both Romanian and Russian with professional subtitles (wow):

It’s nice that the US Embassy in Moldova’s official channel put out that video greeting from Mr. Pettit. It’s also nice that the local media in Moldova (and Romania) picked up the story as well.

Except that something is curiously missing.

First, there’s nothing on the American Embassy’s website about him at all. In fact, here’s the home page as it looked when I just accessed it:


Here you can see Uncle Moser, the outgoing ambassador, giving the youth of Moldova a squeeze, but no sign whatsoever of James Pettit, the new ambassador.

In fact, if you use the Embassy site’s search function, you don’t find him at all:

Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?
Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?

Furthermore, there’s been no press release or mention in the English-language media whatsoever about it. Nothing on the State Department (where Pettit has worked for 20+ years), not a blurb in the Washington Post, nothing. It’s as if the only people who need to know about this are Moldovans.

There is a lot of online information about Mr. Pettit’s career, and from watching his video it’s pretty clear that yes he actually speaks Russian*, and that he’s about one million miles away from being a CIA agent. So why is here here? Why did the Obama administration send him?

* According to his biographies online, he speaks a LOT of languages, including German and Mandarin Chinese, so now it looks like he’s added Romanian (Moldovan) to the mix – quite an accomplishment!

I have no idea. What I do know that is that usually ambassadorships are sinecure positions, given to friends and sponsors of the President (or Vice President), whereas Mr. Pettit is a genuinely professional diplomat. All that we know is that he got sent here right at a critical moment in Moldova’s future as it threads the needle between a healthy, friendly relationship with Russia (and Ukraine) and a closer association with the European Union and the “West” in general.


Also, judging from his taped video message in both languages, it seems pretty obvious that the guy loves flags (and popcorn).

Welcome to Moldova, sir!

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