U.S. Senators seek quick confirmation of new ambassador to Russia

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 29, 2014 4:30 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's nominee to be the new U.S. ambassador to Russia could be on his way to Moscow in days, Republican and Democratic U.S. senators said on Tuesday, putting aside partisan differences that have held up other nominations for months.

John Tefft painted a dire picture of relations with Moscow as he sailed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

"Our relations with Russia are obviously ... in serious trouble," said Tefft, who has served as the U.S. ambassador to three former Soviet states.

As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered Tefft's nomination, Obama announced wider sanctions on Russian industries over its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine blamed for downing Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 this month.

The White House said on Tuesday Obama had written to Russian President Vladimir Putin to inform him that Washington had determined Russia violated the intermediate-range nuclear treaty.

"In my view we cannot afford to wait to send an ambassador to Russia," said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the committee's chairman.

Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and frequent critic of Obama's foreign policy, said the Foreign Relations Committee should approve Tefft unanimously, with an eye toward winning his confirmation in the full Senate before lawmakers leave Washington on Aug. 1 for a five-week recess.

Tefft served as ambassador to Ukraine under Obama, a Democrat, and to Georgia and Lithuania under President George W. Bush, a Republican.

Dozens of Obama's other nominees to be ambassadors have been held up for months in bitter partisan fighting in the U.S. Senate.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)