The Foreign Service Journal - April 2017
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APRIL 2017


found change in U.S.-Ukraine relations, even as Russia occupied

Crimea and began its aggression in eastern Ukraine.

As an entry-level management officer assigned to Embassy

Kyiv, I saw the wide breadth of my colleagues’ efforts. Much of my

work involved running down a client’s requests, or consulting with

a section on its future human resource and financial plans; and

through those conversations I gained a sense of the broad range

of U.S. interests at work in helping Ukraine achieve its democratic,

European ambitions. That said, while we had a policy in place to

take down the minute-by-minute experiences of our task force

teams, we had nomechanism to record our officers’ longer-term

memories and strategic perspectives.

There have been great diarists in the history of diplomacy—

Charles Ritchie, the former Canadian ambassador to the United

States, and the late U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke come to

mind. But relatively few diplomats feel the compulsion of history,

the need to reflect on their important daily work and commit their

thoughts and feelings to paper soon after an important event.

By the time some do, after retirement, they have become mem-

oirists, and that defining moment in their careers will be filtered

through 20 or 30 years of subsequent memory. Surely there is some

value, I thought, whether to historians or to colleagues in training

on their way to other posts, to having a contemporaneous record of

our work available from a wide range of perspectives.

“60 Minutes,” Kyiv Edition

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one to have that idea. One

day in the spring of 2015, our deputy chief of mission’s spouse

suggested to our management counselor that we might want to

interview officers at post during the revolution. The manage-

ment counselor, in turn, mentioned it tome; and I contacted the

Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, the nonprofit

organization housed at the Foreign Service Institute that special-

izes in conducting oral history interviews of retired diplomats.


felt like our role during the Maidan was to bear witness,

to understand as deeply as we could, truly, what was

going on, and to convey that to Washington. And it was

hard to do because there were so many elements of the

Maidan that were almost unbelievable unless you were

there. And we saw that in the rumors that came out.

Even Ukrainians who weren’t here for the Maidan, who

for whatever reason were doing fellowships in the States,

came back and would say, “I didn’t get to experience that,

and I know I don’t know what it means.”

Bearing witness to the fact that this was a movement

of the people for the people, a movement of dignity,

self-organized—to bear witness to what the govern-

ment’s troops were doing or not doing. … I think it was an

extraordinary time, when you saw resources and people

coming together, and to explain that and to convey that

to Washington was important. [It was important] to say

it’s not just any old protest. And to explain also that there

were some fundamental values that people were support-

ing, and why it was in our interest to help make sure that

there was a space for people who were protesting, that

there was a democratic way to do this. That’s what I think

our role was—and the role of the diplomat.

—Deputy Economic Counselor Elizabeth Horst

The Diplomat’s Role


Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, Dec. 29, 2013.