The White House has nominated Kelly Colleen Degnan for the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia position, that remains vacant since Ambassador Ian C. Kelly completed his mission in March 2018. Kelly Degnan, President Donald Trump’s pick for the position is a native of California with 25 years of diplomatic experience.
Degnan currently serves as the Political Advisor to the Commander of United States Naval Forces Europe–Africa and her prior diplomatic postings include Rome, Pristina, Ankara, Brussels and Khost, Afghanistan, giving her vast diplomatic as well as security expertise. Experts in the U.S. believe her experience is very important as Georgia is facing serious security issues with Russia. Voice of America’s Maryam Ugrekhelidze talked to Georgia-watchers about the nomination.
Jonathan Katz, senior fellow of German Marshall Fund of the United States, says Degnan has an experience of working in the region which is very important for Georgia: “The good news is that the administration, the White House has nominated somebody who has a great deal of experience both working in the region, somebody who is well respected, somebody who has also worked on both diplomatic and security [issues] as well.”
“Georgia faces extraordinary security challenges both from its neighbor to the north but also in terms of its efforts to join NATO,” Katz says, adding that “the new U.S ambassador being there [in Georgia] is really critical and important to ensure that all the issues that are on the table whether it’s NATO membership or Georgia’s democracy…”
Georgia-watchers highlight upcoming 2020 parliamentary elections that is widely regarded to be a crucial milestone for Georgian democracy. Experts think having U.S ambassador in Georgia prior to 2020 polls is essential to work on important topics together with the government, civil society and Georgian citizens.
“2020 is going to be an important year for Georgia and hopefully by then the nominee will be in Tbilisi and be there prior to the Georgian parliamentary elections which I really think are pivotal to Georgia’s future and the transatlantic community and organizations. And I think U.S. ambassador is needed there to work with the government and to work with civil society and citizens in Georgia,” Katz says.
Luke Coffey of Heritage Foundation also emphasizes that the next U.S. ambassador arriving to Georgia will face upcoming 2020 polls as well as security issues to deal with: “She will have a very busy time heading to the election next year and also with everything going on with Russia and borderization in Georgia. It is very hectic time for any ambassador to arrive on to the scene and I wish her good luck.”
Coffey says Degnan’s nomination highlights the importance Georgia bears for the U.S: “I think it sets very important signal that Georgia is kept in mind in Washington and is treated at the level that should be treated as in terms of Georgia’s partnership with U.S. that means having a U.S. Ambassador on the ground to have a better understanding what’s happening inside the country, but also as a way to explain what U.S. policy is towards the region as well.”
Former U.S. ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly thinks Degnan’s nomination is a positive step for U.S.-Georgia relations. The former U.S. ambassador to Georgia says he has known Kelly Degnan for almost twenty years and adds that he “can hardly think of a better choice to represent the U.S. in such a critical time as this, and such an important place like Georgia.”
“Assuming she gets confirmed by the Senate, I’m sure she will do a great job. I’m thrilled for her, and for the Georgians,” Kelly added.
Ian Kelly also highlighted “a wonderful job Elizabeth Rood has done managing the embassy and the bilateral relationship during this long (too long!) gap between ambassadors.” “She and Kelly will make a great team,” former ambassador added.
Currently, Elizabeth Rood, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. to Tbilisi serves as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
Kelly Degnan’s appointment requires the U.S. Senate confirmation. It is still uncertain when the approval procedures will be completed, however. If confirmed, Kelly Degnan will serve as the first female U.S ambassador to Georgia.
This material was prepared for Civil.ge by the Voice of America. In order to license this and other content free of charge, please contact Adam Gartner.