Profile of next US ambassador to Armenia – news agency

Profile of next US ambassador to Armenia – news agency

Mediamax news agency, Yerevan
10 May 04

Prior to his taking up the appointment as US Ambassador to Armenia,
John Evans is profiled as a diplomat experienced in Russian and NATO
affairs but the news agency questions his ability in dealing with
a previous regional conflict. It notes that he was one of the first
diplomats to chart Vladimir Putin’s rise. Following are excerpts from
a report by the Armenian news agency Mediamax; subheadings inserted

On 6 May, the President of the United States George Bush nominated
to the Senate the candidacy of the new US Ambassador Extraordinary
and Plenipotentiary to Armenia – Director of the State Department’s
Office of Russian Affairs, John Marshall Evans. Despite the fact that
Evans’s official appointment, most likely, will take place in several
months we decided to present some facts from his biography.

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John Evans is a graduate of Yale College and Columbia University. He
has served in US diplomatic missions in Iran (1971-74), Czechoslovakia
(1975-78), the Soviet Union (Moscow, 1981-83), at NATO Headquarters,
1983-86). In the State Department, he has served as a special assistant
to Secretaries Cyrus Vance and Edmund Muskie in different years.

In the mid-nineties, John Evans John Evans held the posts of Deputy
Head of the US Diplomatic Mission in Czech Republic and US Consul
General in Saint Petersburg. In 1997-1999, he headed the OSCE Mission
to Moldova. After returning to Washington, John Evans became Director
of the Office of Analysis for Russia and Eurasia in the Bureau of
Intelligence and Research. For the last few years John Evans has been
Director of the State Department’s Office of Russian Affairs. The
diplomat’s spouse, Donna Evans, is the executive director of the
World Affairs Council in Washington [D.C.]

Judging by the record of service, John Evans is a more experienced
diplomat than the current US Ambassador to Armenia John Ordway, who
will soon head the US diplomatic mission in Kazakhstan. At the same
time, if we compare the biographies of the two diplomats it becomes
clear that they have much in common – Ordway, like Evans worked in the
US diplomatic missions in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and NATO,
and before his appointment for the post of US Ambassador to Armenia
he was Deputy Head of the US Diplomatic Mission in Moscow.

Ambassadors with a “Russian past”

Yerevan’s opposition newspaper Haykakan Zhamanak [Armenian Times]
asserts that Washington sends ambassadors with a “Russian past”
to Yerevan as it “considers Armenia to be Russia’s vassal.”

“The fact that a diplomat specialized in Russia will take the post
of the US ambassador to Armenia testifies to the fact that Armenia
is perceived not as a separate geopolitical unit but as Russia’s
vassal. In order to work in Armenia the foreign diplomats should be
familiar with Russia,” Haykakan Zhamanak wrote on 6 May.

We can agree with the newspaper’s one opinion only – the US Ambassador
to Armenia should really be familiar with Russia. But this does not
mean that by appointing John Evans the United States “gave up on
Armenia” which they think to be “Russia’s patrimony.”

In our opinion the appointment of John Evans, on the contrary,
proves the United States’ growing interest towards Armenia. For the
last two years, Armenia and the USA have moved forward considerably
in their relations. The military cooperation between the two states,
which seemed unreal several years ago, has not only become a reality
but is also developing consecutively. Armenia-NATO relations,
the main inspirer of which is the United States, also develop
intensively. Armenia has already stated its intention to sign
Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO, and the Alliance’s
leadership does not hide that NATO’s policy in relation to the South
Caucasus will be formulated and voiced at the forthcoming NATO Summit
in Istanbul in June.

Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Ambassador Elizabeth Jones said in mid- April [2004] that “Armenia has
taken big steps to enhance its security relationship with the United
States and NATO in the past six months”. “We have strongly encouraged
the Armenian government to permit closer military cooperation with the
US and look forward to a positive response from Yerevan,” Jones said.

Thus, there is every reason to suppose that one of the priority
directions in John Evans’s work will become the development of
US-Armenian military cooperation and the provision of further close
relations between Armenia and NATO. It is natural that the diplomat
will need his acquaintance with Russia while solving these questions.

Early familiarity with Vladimir Putin

An interesting nuance – John Evans is one of those few American
diplomats who was personally familiar with Vladimir Putin at the time
when few people could have expected the former KGB Colonel to become
President of the Russian Federation. Putin and Evans got acquainted
in Saint Petersburg: Russia’s future President was Deputy Mayor at
that time and was in charge of foreign economic ties, and the future
US Ambassador to Armenia was Consul General of the United States in
Saint Petersburg.

Delivering a lecture on the situation in Russia in Mississippi
University in February 2002, John Evans said that he attentively
followed Putin’s career. Speaking about Russian leader’s policy, he
noted that Putin subordinated Russian Foreign Policy to economic goals
and for that reason he was tilting more to the West than to the East,
especially after 11 September 2001.

However, Evans’s favourable attitude towards Vladimir Putin did
not prevent him from making a number of harsh-worded statements in
relation to Russia in the autumn of 2002, the reason of which was the
flight of Russian military planes over Georgia’s territory. Evans’s
statement could hardly be called diplomatic: “we have some doubts
that the Russian highest civil government controls its armed forces.”

John Evans also said: “Due to the opportunities of collecting
information created by the USA during the Cold War, Washington at
once learned what happened to Kursk submarine on 12 August [2000]
and we immediately shared this information with the Russian side
but your military leadership did not disclose the truth for two
years.” “Part of Russian high military officialdom continuously lies
to the country’s leadership,” he said.

Solving conflicts

On the post of the US ambassador to Armenia, John Evans will have to
engage in solving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as well. As at the
end of the nineties he headed the OSCE mission to Moldova, which was
actively involved in settling the conflict in the Dniester region,
we can assume that Evans possesses certain experience in this sphere.

Despite the fact that Evans left Moldova in 1999 he did not set aside
the Dniester region conflict. In any case, he discussed the Dniester
region conflict with the Chairman of International Committee of the
Federation Council Mikhail Margelov last November. Evans said in
particular that the memorandum suggested by Russia for settling the
situation in the Dniester region and the fact that both Moldova and
the region spoke for its adoption “gives hope for an earlier peaceful
settlement of the problems in the region.”

In spite of the fact that after this statement by John Evans the
Russian newspapers published articles headed “The USA approve of
the Russian plan” several days later the Russian initiative failed
as official Kishinev refused to sign the document suggested by
Russia, which had already been coordinated with Dniester region
authorities. Moscow was so irritated that Russian Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov openly accused the United States, which was not informed
about the coming signing of the peace plan, for the failure of the
Russian peace initiative. Nobody explained the reason that made John
Evans support the Russian peace initiative several days before.

We can only hope that such “incidents” will not happen in the process
of Nagorno Karabakh settlement, the fate of which depends of Russia
and USA’s coordinated actions in many respects.