The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed a Russian-speaking career diplomat as ambassador to Russia, ending a three-month gap that comes as tensions soar over the Ukraine war.
The Senate voted 93-2 to confirm Lynne Tracy, who is currently the US ambassador to Armenia and formerly the number two at the embassy in Moscow. She will be the first woman in the key diplomatic post.
The confirmation vote came hours before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address Congress on his first trip abroad since Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February.
“Even as Putin presses forward with this brutal war, the United States needs an ambassador who can represent us in Moscow,” said Senator Bob Menendez, who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Tracy “has the courage to carry out her duties in the face of a hostile government and represent America beyond the Kremlin walls,” he said on the Senate floor.
She replaces John Sullivan, one of the few appointees of predecessor Donald Trump kept by President Joe Biden as he sought not to shake up complicated diplomatic channels.
Sullivan retired in September due to the illness of his wife, Grace Rodriguez, who died of cancer a day after he left.
Relations between the United States and Russia were already sour before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February, with Washington complaining that restrictions on staffing had reduced its embassy to a skeleton crew.
The Biden administration has largely shunned Russia since the war, believing that President Vladimir Putin has no real interest in a negotiated solution other than conquest.
But the two countries have still maintained discreet channels, brokering two prisoner swaps.
Tracy has also served in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. She was also from 2006 to 2009 the top US diplomat in the Pakistani frontline city of Peshawar where she survived an attack by gunmen on her official car.