The new US envoy to Estonia, George P. Kent, has arrived in Tallinn and started work at the US embassy, the daily Postimees writes.
President Joe Biden nominated Kent for ambassador in early September, and he was confirmed by the Senate on 13 December.
After presenting his credentials to the Estonian foreign ministry for processing, Kent met with foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu on 30 January.
According to Estonian diplomatic protocol, Kent will be fully accredited as the US chief of mission after he has presented his credentials to the Estonian president, which should happen in mid-February. Until Kent assumes office, Gabrielle Cowan will serve as the charge d’affaires of the embassy.
During the meeting with the foreign minister, Kent highlighted the excellent relationship between the United States and Estonia and discussed continued cooperation in supporting Ukraine and countering Russian aggression.
An excellent relationship between the US and Estonia
They spoke about continued support to Ukraine, including raising the cost of the war for Russia and holding Russia accountable for crimes of aggression in Ukraine.
“I stressed that the oil price cap that was agreed on in early December was too high and we must lower it to prevent Russia from using the profits for financing its war in Ukraine,” Reinsalu said.
Reinsalu also gave an overview of Estonia’s activities in the Zhytomyr region in Ukraine, which is Estonia’s focus region in reconstruction assistance.
He thanked the United States for its remarkable contribution to the security of Estonia and NATO’s eastern flank. The meeting also covered energy security and finding legal ways of using frozen Russian assets for reconstruction in Ukraine.
Kent has worked as a diplomat in Warsaw, Poland; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Kyiv, Ukraine; and Bangkok, Thailand. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Kent most recently served as deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the Department of State.
No ambassador since 2018
Previously, he was deputy chief of mission in Kyiv, and prior to that, the senior anti-corruption coordinator in the State Department’s European Bureau. He has also served as director for Europe and Asia in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.
Born in Connecticut, Kent holds a BA from Harvard in Russian history and literature, an MA from Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies and an MSc from the National Defense University’s Eisenhower School.
Kent speaks Ukrainian, Russian and Thai, as well as some Estonian, Polish, German and Italian. He is accompanied in Tallinn by his wife, Velida, and their labradoodle, Sultan.
The US has not had an ambassador to Estonia since the summer of 2018, when James D Melville Jr announced that he would resign, citing then-President Donald Trump’s controversial statements on NATO and European allies. Two years later, the Senate approved a new ambassador, William Ellison Grayson, an investment professional from California, who never made it to Estonia due to the COVID restrictions and the change of president.