At long last, after more than a four-year wait, and increasingly vocal complaints, including from one former State Department official, President Barack Obama has announced the nominee for the US ambassador to Turkmenistan.
He is Robert E. Patterson, a fluent Russian speaker and a seasoned foreign service office who served in the former Soviet Union in the 1980s and later in Eastern Europe as well as in Africa. According to the whitehouse.gov notice:
Robert E. Patterson most recently served as Counselor for Somalia Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Mr. Patterson has also served as chief of the Political/Internal office in Moscow and has headed the political sections at U.S. embassies in Hungary, Ukraine, and Armenia. Mr. Patterson began his State Department career in 1985, serving first in Toronto, and then in the Office of Soviet Affairs in Washington, D.C., and in Leningrad. Mr. Patterson holds an M.A. and an M.Phil from Columbia University, as well as an M.A. from the U.S. Naval War College and a B.A. from Reed College.
Now comes the wait for his confirmation by the Senate, and as other nominees have found, senators can put "holds" on the nominee for reasons related to the nominee -- or not. In January, the Senate voted to remove the practice of secret holds.
A past nominee for the post of ambassador to Turkmenistan, Ambassador George Krol, was stuck in the limbo of this shadowy process of holds for a lengthy period before he finally took another appointment in the State Department. Now he has been appointed as ambassador to Tashkent and is also awaiting confirmation.