US nominates high-profile career diplomat as new ambassador to Estonia (1)

(Postimees/Scanpix)
9/14/2015 12:15 PM
Category: Politics

The new United States Ambassador to Estonia served as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Berlin. Much-liked Jeffrey Levine returns to US.

James Melville, who has been nominated as the new ambassador to Tallinn by the US, is taking over from Jeffrey Levine.

Some Tallinn-based experts have said that Melville’s appointment indicates a growing international importance of Estonia. Although tiny in size, the country has become a very loyal ally to US and its strategically important location – next to Russia – also matters.

Estonia has also become a significant center for cyber security – NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence is based in Tallinn, for example – and this experience is cherished by the US more than ever.

Hence, Melville’s appointment shows that the US is indeed taking Estonia very seriously.

James Desmond Melville (Photo: US Embassy)

Melville, an American with Irish roots and originally from New Jersey, is historian by profession. His first overseas assignment in the US foreign service was in the US embassy in Berlin, in what was then still the East Germany. He was also on duty when President Ronald Reagan visited Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1987 and gave his “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech.

Melville later served in the US mission to NATO in Brussels, in the American embassies in Paris, Moscow and London, as well as the executive director of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and International Organization Affairs in the US state department.

Prior to his assignment in Estonia, Melville served as the deputy chargé d'affaires at the US Embassy in Berlin. Melville speaks German, Russian and French.

Previous ambassador welcomed US troops and President Obama

The outgoing ambassador, Jeffrey Levine, who has served as the top US diplomat in Estonia since 2012, was well recognized and much liked by Estonians, thanks to his friendly and easy-going nature.

“When I first got the assignment, I set the personal goal of meeting all 1.3 million Estonians in person. Unfortunately, that proved more difficult than expected. Still, and with the help of Facebook and Twitter, I feel I’ve made a small dent and can’t tell you enough how impressed I have been with the people of Estonia and what you all have accomplished,” Levine said in his speech at the US Independence Day celebrations this summer, amusing the crowd.

But when Levine took the position three years ago, no one would have imagined that the security situation in the region would change beyond recognition and American troops on the Estonian soil would become a reality.

“A US military presence in Estonia is not something I would have imagined when I arrived here three years ago. And none of us welcome the events that so dramatically changed Europe’s security environment. But when it happened you asked for the support of your allies – and here we are,” he said in summer, a reference to the fact that more than 4,000 US soldiers, sailors, airmen, National Guard and Marines have rotated through Estonia in response to the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.

His tenure also saw preparing Estonia for the visit by President Barack Obama in September 2014.

S. Tambur

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