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Likely New U.S. Diplomat For Eurasia 'Gets Things Done'

  • Andrew Tully

Tina Kaidanow served as the first U.S. ambassador to Kosovo.

Tina Kaidanow served as the first U.S. ambassador to Kosovo.

WASHINGTON -- The United States will soon have a new deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

The man who is vacating the post after four years, Matthew Bryza, has announced he will be replaced by Tina Kaidanow, a longtime diplomat with more than 10 years of experience in the Balkans, who most recently served as the first U.S. ambassador to Kosovo.

The U.S. State Department has yet to formally announce Kaidanow's appointment, however.

Bryza, who has held the post since June 2005, is now rumored to be moving on to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan.

Kaidanow, who holds a master's degree in political science from Columbia University in New York, is a career diplomat who until now has specialized in the Balkans.

Most notably, she served as the chief U.S. envoy to Kosovo from July 2006-July 2009, during its historic transition from a breakaway territory of Serbia to a self-declared independent state.

'She Gets Things Done'

Arbana Vidishiqi, the head of RFE/RL's Pristina bureau, said Kaidanow impressed many in Kosovo as a quiet but effective official.

"This is how everybody remembers Ambassador Kaidanow: She does get things done, and she was here during a very critical period for Kosovo," Vidishiqi says. "She came prior to the independence declaration, and she stayed a year after the independence declaration. So she does get things done here, but she prefers to do those things beyond the public eye."

Ordinary citizens in Kosovo will probably remember her as a person who stood by the leadership here at the most critical time, and that was the independence declaration.
In fact, Vidishiqi says, many reporters were a bit frustrated because Kaidanow seemed so averse to publicity that she seldom gave interviews.

Vidishiqi says Kaidanow didn't restrict herself to diplomatic functions while in Pristina, but used her influence to help everyone she could, including ethnic Serbs in Kosovo.

"Ordinary citizens in Kosovo will probably remember her as a person who stood by the leadership here at the most critical time, and that was the independence declaration," Vidishiqi says. "She also did a lot about the Serbian minority. She opened a lot of health-care institutions here in Serbian enclaves; she promoted freedom of the media in Serbian enclaves. In this regard, people will probably remember her as a person who did help a lot."

Focused On Kosovo

Kaidanow's first major position in government began under President Bill Clinton, where she served as director for Southeast European Affairs at the White House's National Security Council. Subsequently she had assignments in Belgrade and Sarajevo.

Next, Kaidanow served as the special assistant to Christopher Hill when he was ambassador to Macedonia from 1998 to 1999, also during the Clinton presidency. Her duties at that time were centered on the crisis in Kosovo.

After that, she was special assistant for European affairs for Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage during President George W. Bush's time in office.

In July 2006, Kaidanow was the chief of mission and charge d'affaires at the U.S. Office in Pristina, which was to become the U.S. Embassy to Kosovo. Two years later, following the independence declaration, she became the first U.S. ambassador to Kosovo.

Kaidanow's appointment to the European and Eurasian post will see her focusing on issues of U.S. interest in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Southeast Europe. Energy issues and Georgia-Russia tensions can be expected to figure prominently in her work.

Kaidanow's responsibilities may reportedly not extend to serving as the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the three-party body tasked with facilitating negotiations on the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Bryza had served as Minsk Group co-chair during his time as the European and Eurasian deputy assistant secretary. In initial remarks, Bryza suggested Kaidanow would do the same.

But RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service and other news sites in Azerbaijan have since cited U.S. officials as saying she will not be filling the post. An alternative replacement for Bryza's co-chair position has not been named.

Officials in Azerbaijan had expressed concern that Kaidanow's experience in Kosovo would translate into support for Nagorno-Karabakh independence -- an outcome that is hotly opposed by Baku.

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