Valeriy Chaly appointed Ukrainian Ambassador to the USA…..eventually

Since April 2015, Ukraine has had no ambassador to the USA, a nation that is currently a key, if the not key, ally of the country.  Certainly US diplomatic energy and will is the driving force amongst the diplomatic community.  Even if US Embassy Kyiv messages are getting lost, or at least diluted, within “the beltway”, its energy within Ukraine is robust and obvious.

Undoubtedly many a sharp and pointed communique is blunted and/or watered down before it reaches the eyes of certain people in Washington - if it reaches the eyes of certain people at all (no differently from many communiques from various diplomatic corps of numerous nations).

Indeed the recent visit to Odessa by the US diplomatic corps was probably the biggest your author has ever met - the Ambassador, political attaché, naval attaché, press attaché, trade attaché etc (the list goes on).  The clear “takeaway” and yet unsaid message for the local elites after meeting such a sizable diplomatic visit was that (despite the US wrestling with the prickly issue of just how close to hug Governor Saakashvili - or not) it sees Odessa as the front line in the fight against corruption and the full US diplomatic weight will be put behind reform in the Oblast - so local elites think on.

Anyway, between April 2015 and today, the very capable Chargé d’affaires, Yaroslav Brisiuck, in the absence of an Ambassador, has been running the Ukrainian diplomatic affairs in the US.

That has now changed.

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As has been expected for many months, Valeriy Chaly, up until yesterday the a Deputy Chief (foreign affairs) of the Presidential Administration has eventually been appointed by Presidential Decree as the Ukrainian Ambassador to the USA.  A matter now of presenting credentials in Washington etc - and perhaps being on post in time for the 13th July Investors Conference.

There is certainly nothing wrong in the presidential choice.  Mr Chaly is a very intelligent man and well versed in foreign policy.

That Mr Chaly has not been appointed before now, having been the only realistic name in the frame for many months, raises several (reflective) possibilities.

We are after all, talking top table domestic politics as the Deputy Chief (foreign affairs) of the Presidential Administration within the permanent sight, and having the daily ear, of the President being swapped for the position of Ukrainian Ambassador to the USA.  A position that does not provide the sort of daily access to the presidential sight and ear - albeit hardly a lowly appointment.

Indeed after Foreign Minister, in the current climate it is probably the leading diplomatic role abroad.

Mr Chaly has a lot of hard work ahead lobbying for Ukraine and also undoing all the very expensive lobbying The Kremlin is doing inside “the beltway”.

So why accept the role now?

The first possibility is that Mr Chaly was deemed necessarily retained within the Presidential Administration despite the very empty Ambassadorial chair in the US, only to be released and appointed when it was deemed prudent.

If this be the case, that prudent moment would therefore seemingly have arrived.

Certainly it is difficult to see how the US Embassy Kyiv could be actively involved any further in Ukraine than it currently is, within the boundaries placed upon it by the White House.  Perhaps given its overt and energetic commitment here to the point where shrinking back would be very difficult (short of a very serious Ukrainian faux pas), it is now time for a worthy Ukrainian anchor to be dropped in Washington.

Another possibility is (and there will surely be an element of this, for it is the nature of the political animal) that Mr Chaly had thus far refused the position much preferring to have the eyes and ears of the President on a daily basis.  Simply put, it has taken this long to pressure/ease him into accepting the role.  Let’s be quite honest, few give up their seat at the top of the presidential domestic political table for a position abroad, for their daily influence dwindles over time whilst their replacement’s influence grows.

Mr Chaly is young (45) - capable and ambitious.  It may therefore be that he has been sent to Washington to “makes friends” and gain traction within “the beltway” with an eye upon future positions far greater than that held held until yesterday within the Presidential Administration.

Alternatively, because he is young, ambitious and intelligent, he may have been moved from the centre quite deliberately for more self-serving reasons within the centre of gravity, rather than for reasons of “growing” Mr Chaly’s “western” influence for future domestic political use.

A “horizontal promotion” away from decision/policy making, or a deliberate move to enhance the résumé of a prodigy?

Mr Chaly may, of course, foreseeing a good deal of domestic political blood-letting between September 2015 and April 2016 as prerequisites to local elections, reshuffles at the very top thereafter, and the ever-increasing probability of new Rada elections by Easter, decide that now is a good time to step out of the domestic political pool for a while.

Whatever the case, with Mr Chaly having been the only serious name in the frame for this position for months, the timing is always more interesting than the actual appointment.