John Beyrle

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John Beyrle
John Beyrle official resized.jpg
United States Ambassador to Bulgaria
In office
July 9, 2005 – April 28, 2008
President George W. Bush
Preceded by James W. Pardew
Succeeded by Nancy McEldowney
United States Ambassador to Russia
In office
July 2, 2008 – January 10, 2012
President George W. Bush
Barack Obama
Preceded by William Joseph Burns
Succeeded by Michael McFaul
Personal details
Born (1954-02-11) February 11, 1954 (age 61)
Muskegon, Michigan
Profession Diplomat, Career Ambassador

John Ross Beyrle (born February 11, 1954), a career Foreign Service Officer and specialist in Russian and Eastern European affairs, was Ambassador of the United States to the Russian Federation from July 3, 2008 until January 10, 2012, when he was succeeded by Michael McFaul. He was Ambassador to Bulgaria 2005 - 2008. Beyrle was Ambassador in Moscow during the "reset" of Russian-American relationship, which saw the signing of the New START arms control treaty, agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization, and liberalized visa formalities for American and Russian travelers. Amb. Beyrle retired from the State Department in July 2012 with the rank of Career Minister, the diplomatic equivalent of a three-star general. He serves on the Board of Directors of the US-Russia Foundation, and provides consulting services on Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and other countries of the former Soviet Union.


Beyrle was born on February 11, 1954 in Muskegon, Michigan. His father, Joseph Beyrle, was a decorated World War II veteran, who was one of the very few American soldiers in World War II to serve with both the United States Army and the Soviet Army (with, incidentally, the legendary tank brigade commander Alexandra Samusenko, allegedly the only female tank officer of that rank in WWII).[1] Beyrle received his bachelor's degree from Grand Valley State University, and a Master of Science degree from the National War College. Beyrle completed additional language study in Russian at Middlebury College.[2] He spent the spring semester of 1976 on an exchange program at Leningrad State University.

Following graduation from the university, he served as a Russian-speaking exhibit guide at several of the major exhibits held in the Soviet Union under a program of exchanges organized by the United States Information Agency.

He joined the State Department in 1983, served his first tour as a political and consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow (1983–1985), and later was Deputy Chief of Mission in Moscow (2002–2005). His other overseas assignments included political officer in Bulgaria (1985–1987), Counselor for political and economic affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Prague (1997–99); and member of the U.S. delegation to the Conventional Forces in Europe negotiations in Vienna (1990–93).

His Washington assignments included Acting Special Advisor to the Secretary of State for the New Independent States; Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council (1993–1995); staff officer to Secretaries of State George Shultz and James Baker; and foreign policy adviser to U.S. Senator Paul Simon.

Ambassador to Bulgaria (2005-2008)[edit]

Ambassador Beyrle flew as a passenger on an F-16 during a joint Bulgarian-American training mission at Graf Ignatiev Airbase, 2006

Beyrle became Ambassador to Bulgaria on September 8, 2005, and served in that position until June 25, 2008. During his term as ambassador, Bulgaria signed a Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States allowing U.S. soldiers to train at Bulgarian bases (see article on Bulgarian-American relations). He also oversaw the end of U.S. assistance to Bulgaria from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and made several public speeches urging the Bulgarian Government to step up its fight against organized crime and corruption. In 2007 he made a joint tour of several American cities with Bulgarian Ambassador to the United States Elena Poptodorova, to encourage more American businesses to invest in Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian press was generally very favorable toward Ambassador Beyrle, due in large part to his ability to speak and give interviews in Bulgarian. The daily newspaper Standart commented: "for the first time he explained in fluent Bulgarian why the United States is concerned about organized crime and corruption in Bulgaria."[3]

Before Beyrle left Bulgaria, President of Bulgaria Georgi Parvanov presented him with the Stara Planina Medal, the highest award of the Bulgarian Government, for his contributions to Bulgarian-American relations.

Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2008-2012)[edit]

Ambassador Beyrle with Secretary of State Clinton and Under Secretary of State Burns (left) and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (right) October 13, 2009
Ambassador Beyrle interviewed on Ekho Moskvy Radio, September 11, 2008

Ambassador Beyrle was nominated by President George W. Bush on May 13, 2008 to be the United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 27. He arrived in Moscow to present his credentials on July 3, 2008.[4]

Ambassador Beyrle arrived in Moscow on July 3, 2008 and attended the Fourth of July reception at Spaso House, then returned to the United States for consultations. He returned to Moscow in August 2008, shortly after the brief 2008 South Ossetia War, and immediately began meetings with the Russian government. On September 11 in an interview on the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy he noted that the United States had warned the Georgian government not to respond to provocations and not to send troops into South Ossetia, and he criticized the Russian actions in Georgia, particularly the rapid recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.[5]

He also stated: "The most important step is simply to keep the channels of dialogue open. We are ready to do that, and we see that the Russian side is ready to do that, because there will always be times when our world views don’t agree. But it’s at particularly those difficult moments when we don’t agree that we need to carry on a dialogue; when it’s necessary to talk, to listen well and to hear the meaning of the other side, because without that the possibilities of misunderstanding are very dangerous.".[6]

He formally presented his credentials to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Kremlin on September 18, 2008.

Ambassador Beyrle with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, after the Ambassador presented his credentials (September 18, 2008)

The "Reset" of the Russian-American relationship[edit]

After the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008, Beyrle, because of his Russian expertise, was asked by President Obama to remain at his post in Moscow. He took an active part in the Obama administration's efforts to "reset" the Russian-American relationship and gave interviews in Russian about the new administration's Russia policy on radio station Ekho Moskvy, and the Russian TV channels First Canal and Vesti-24. He participated in the meeting of President Obama with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in July 2009 and the meetings of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Medvedev on October 13. He gave speeches in Russian to explain America's desire for better relations with Russia to university student audiences in Vladivostok, St. Petersburg, Nizhniy-Novgorod and Sochi.[7]

Ambassador Beyrle returns a Czarist medallion stolen from the Hermitage and recovered by a joint operation of U.S. Customs and Russian law enforcement

On U.S. Veterans Day in 2009, Ambassador Beyrle invited a large number of Russian World War II veterans to his residence, Spaso House, to highlight the wartime alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union. He presided over the return to Russia of a medallion belonging to Czar Nicholas II, which had been stolen from the Hermitage Museum in the 1990s and recovered by a joint operation of the Russian Ministry of Culture and Russian Prosecutor's office and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He took part in the second visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Moscow in March 2010, when Clinton met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and discussed arms control, sanctions against Iran and other political and economic issues where the United States wished to obtain Russian support.

Beyrle was the first American Ambassador to Russia to use his own blog, in Russian, to speak directly to the Russian internet audience. On March 30, the day after the bombing in the Moscow Metro which killed thirty nine people, Beyrle laid flowers at the site of the bombing and used his blog to express his reaction: "I am here to express my personal sympathy to the families of the victims of this terrible terrorist act, I want to express the solidarity of the American People with the Russian people in the fight against extremism and terrorism, We must work together so this kind of horrible crime will never happen again."[8]

On October 29, 2010, Ambassador Beyrle celebrated the connections between American and Russian literature and culture by hosting an Enchanted Ball at Spaso House. The ball recalled the Spring Ball of 1935 held by Ambassador William Bullitt, when the house was decorated with live birds, a birch forest, and a real bear. One of the guests at the 1935 ball was writer Mikhail Bulgakov, who used elements of that ball as an inspiration for Woland's Ball in his novel Master and Margarita.[9] Guests at the 2010 ball included theater director Oleg Tabakov, writer Victor Erofeev and sculptors Zurab Tsereteli and Alexander Bourganov.

Crisis and agreement on Russian adoptions[edit]

A crisis over adoptions of Russian children by American families broke out in April 2009, when an American mother, Torry Ann Hansen, put her adopted seven-year-old Russian child, Artyom Savelyev, onto an airplane unaccompanied and sent him back to Moscow, with a note claiming that he was "violent and has severe psychopathic issues" and that she "was lied to and misled by the Russian orphanage workers" about his troubles.[10] Hansen arranged for the airline to supervise him on the flight, and to be picked up at the airport.[11]

President Medvedev denounced the act as "monstrous" and the Russian press reacted with fury, calling for the end of adoptions of Russian children by Americans.[12] Ambassador Beyrle held a sidewalk press conference before the Russian media, and said he was "shocked... and very angry that any family would act so callously toward a child that they had legally adopted."[13] Russia was the third leading source of adoptive children in the United States in 2009, with 1,586 Russian children adopted by American families.[14] The result of the crisis was the negotiation of a new agreement between the United States and Russia calling for closer monitoring of adopted Russian children in the United States. The agreement was signed in 2011.[15]

Wikileaks and leaked diplomatic cables[edit]

Ambassador Beyrle was among the many diplomats whose candid assessments were made public via classified diplomatic cables posted by Wikileaks in December 2010, On December 1, the New York Times released a group of cables dating from 2009 and earlier signed by Beyrle and his predecessors, and commented: "scores of secret American cables from recent years, obtained by Wikileaks and made available to several news organizations, show that beneath the public efforts at warmer ties, the United States harbors a dim view of the post-Soviet Kremlin and its leadership, and little hope that Russia will become more democratic or reliable. The cables portray Mr. Putin as enjoying supremacy over all other Russian public figures, yet undermined by the very nature of the post-Soviet country he helped build. Even a man with his formidable will and intellect is shown beholden to intractable larger forces, including an inefficient economy and an unmanageable bureaucracy that often ignores his edicts".[16]

Beyrle condemned the leaks of classified cables in his blog and in interviews, but noted in an interview with the Moscow Times on December 7 that "We have been heartened by the official reaction we've heard from our Russian colleagues. I think Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov said it best: 'Form conclusions based on actions, not based on words...."If you look at the results that we've accomplished over the last two years in U.S.-Russian relations, they are quite significant and quite positive.".[17]

In his blog on December 3, 2010, Beyrle said: "I see that our partners around the world have taken a balanced approach to this hullabaloo. Therefore, I can safely say that the relationships we have succeeded in strengthening over the past two years with our partners and allies around the world have withstood this minor trial with dignity."[18]

Improvements in Russian-American relations[edit]

During the tour of Ambassador Beyrle in Moscow, there was a notable improvement in the tone of Russian-American relations. The United States and Russia signed the START-2 agreement on the reduction of nuclear weapons, as well as agreement on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and an agreement reducing visa restrictions and providing better monitoring of adoptions. Russia permitted the United States to supply its armed forces in Afghanistan using Russian airspace. Russian law enforcement agencies began cooperating more regularly with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. military carried out several joint military exercises with the Russian military, and U.S. aircraft took part in the Moscow air show. For the first time U.S. soldiers participated in the parade on Red Square marking the anniversary of the end of World War II. Though serious differences remained over missile defense, the occupation of Georgian territory and human rights, the political relationship was less confrontational than it had been in previous years. [19]

References and citations[edit]

  1. ^ Taylor, Thomas (2004). Behind Hitler's Lines: The True Story of the Only Soldier to Fight for both America and the Soviet Union in World War II. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-845-8. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Standart, January 29, 2008, p. 19
  4. ^ RIA Novosti, retrieved July 3, 2008,
  5. ^ Ekho Moskvy Interview, September 11, 2008, in Russian. On Ekho Moskvy website.
  6. ^ Ekho Moskvy, Sept. 11, 2008 (in Russian) on Ekho Moskvy website.
  7. ^ U.S. Embassy Moscow Home Page.
  8. ^ Ambassador Beyrle's blog, U.S. Embassy Moscow Home page, March 30, 2010 - translated from Russian.
  9. ^ U.S. Embassy Home Page, October 31, 2010
  10. ^ New York Times, People in the News, Torrry Ann Hansen, April 13, 2010
  11. ^ Levy, Clifford J. (April 9, 2010). "Russia Calls for Halt on U.S. Adoptions". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ ABC, Good Morning America, April 9, 2009.
  13. ^ Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 2009
  14. ^ New York Times, April 13, 2010
  15. ^ Fox, November 30, 2010
  16. ^ New York Times, December 2, 2010
  17. ^ Moscow Times, December 8, 2010
  18. ^ Ambassador's Blog, U.S. Embassy Home Page, December 3, 2010
  19. ^ U.S. Embassy Moscow Homepage.

External links[edit]