Former ambassador to Ukraine speaks on ambassadorships, war in Ukraine

Media Credit: Maya Nair | Photographer

The conversation began with Yovanovitch discussing the benefits of being an introvert within her field, which relies on listening deeply to others.

The former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine spoke to guests in the Elliott School of International Affairs on Monday.

Retired U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch spoke to guests about her time in public service, the challenges she faced and the current war in Ukraine. The event was hosted by the Leadership Ethics and Practice Initiative at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasia Studies in collaboration with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace moderated by Sara Huzar, a first-year graduate student studying Europe and Eurasia.

The conversation began with Yovanovitch discussing the benefits of being an introvert within her field, which relies on listening deeply to others.

“One of the most important things in diplomacy is communication and really understanding where the other side is coming from,” Yovanovitch said.

Her introverted tendencies helped within her career, as at events with larger gatherings she strategically chose only a few people to talk to in order to further her diplomatic agenda, Yovanovitch said. Yovanovitch also spoke on the role of self-doubt during her ambassadorships while trying to advance her goals.

“I realized two to three tours in that I was not going to like my first seven or eight months at the embassy because I always felt like I was the most stupid person in the room because I didn’t know any of the answers,” Yovanovitch said.

During this time, however, Yovanovitch said she drew on her work ethic and commitment.

“I just don’t think there’s any question, at least in my view, that hard work and discipline can get you where you need to go,” Yovanovitch said.

Cutting past the self-doubt, Yovanovitch pointed out the challenges often presented to her and other colleagues about accommodating both narrow and larger interests among countries.

“There are overarching goals, but there are also sometimes very narrow goals for particular agencies,” Yovanovitch said. “So how do you bring everyone together to work on the big goals and to support people on some of the more narrow goals?”

Following the conversation between Huzar and Yovanovitch, the conversation shifted to questions from the audience, many of which focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The bottom line is we just need to stand our ground,” Yovanovitch. “The Ukrainians have no choice.”

Yovanovitch believes the Biden Administration is doing a “pretty good job,” surpassing her own expectations.

Lydia Miller, a sophomore in the Elliott School of International Affairs who stated she was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, asked Yovanovitch about refugees only being granted a limited visa within the United States. Yovanovitch said the United States should focus on allowing Ukrainian citizens to one day return to Ukraine since many want to go home.

“They want to go home,” Yovanovitch said. “If we can create those conditions, that would be best.”

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