European Western Balkans

Wess Mitchell appointed as the new Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia

Wess Mitchell; Photo: Polish Institute of International Affairs

Wess Mitchell, co-founder of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), has been confirmed by the US Senate as the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. President Trump announced the nomination of Wess Mitchell on 20 July 2017.

He will replace Victoria Nuland, who held this position in the administration of the former President Barack Obama. The position has been vacant since January 20, 2017, when Nuland, along with other top State Department officials, was told to leave the post. A list of countries covered by the office includes a number of states in potential conflict areas, such as the Balkans and the Caucasus. So far, the duties of Victoria Nuland have been assigned to Brian Hoyt Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, largely in charge of State Department policy in the Balkans.

To remind, Yee’s visits the Western Balkan countries proved very fruitful and contributed to the lessening of the tensions. For instance, his visits to Albania and Macedonia brought about the resolution of political crises that had been tormenting the two Balkan countries for months.

Mitchell, who is described as an expert on NATO and the transatlantic relations, co-founded CEPA in 2005 and has been its president since 2009. He earned a B.A. from Texas Tech University, a M.A. from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and has recently completed a Ph.D. at Freie Universität, in Berlin, Germany. According to CEPA website, he served on the national security team for the campaign of the Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 U.S. presidential election. He is known for his tough stance on Russia, which he calls a “revisionist country”.

A number of experts believed that the fact that Trump has not nominated Nuland’s successor for one of the key positions in the U.S. administration after almost half a year gives an impression of an unclear policiy towards Europe and Eurasia. It remains to be seen in which direction the European policy of the US administration, who promised to improve relations with Moscow, will proceed with the arrival of Wess Mitchell. Mitchell will be able to become one of the chief architects of the U.S. policy towards Russia, although, according to the reports, it is unlikely that he will enjoy the same level of influence that, Victoria Nuland, his predecessor, had.

Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States

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