Diplomatic relations between the US and Bulgaria were first established in 1903. The earliest documented Bulgarians to come to the US were Protestant converts, recruited and groomed to be missionaries back in their native country. Immigration boomed from 1903 to 1910, when 50,000 Bulgarians came to America seeking economic opportunity. Early immigrants congregated in the Northeast and Midwest, with 7,000 living in Detroit by 1910, thanks to the burgeoning auto industry. The National Origins Immigration Act of 1924 severely limited further migration, until the Soviet invasion of 1944. Between 1944 and 1949, before Bulgaria’s borders were closed, thousands fled to Western Europe and America, through circuitous, arduous routes.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Bulgarian government contributed troops to the NATO contingent that supported the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Bulgaria deployed about 400 soldiers to the multi-national force under Polish command. The Bulgarian troops were withdrawn by the Socialist-led coalition government in December 2005, but in 2006, the Bulgarian Parliament voted to send 120 soldiers and 34 support staff to guard the Ashraf refugee camp north of Baghdad.
In 2007, the United States had a trade deficit with Bulgaria of more than $100 million. The US imported $426 million worth of goods while exporting only $306 million. Metallurgical grade coal is the biggest US export to Bulgaria, selling more than $100 million worth between 2006 and 2007. Exports on the rise include industrial engines (from $778,000 in 2006 to $14.1 million in 2007) and petroleum products (from $872,000 in 2003 to $19.2 million in 2007). At the same time, the US imports even more in petroleum products from Bulgaria ($92.2 million in 2007). Those imports that have been on the decline from Bulgaria include apparel and household goods (from $108.7 million in 2003 to $22.3 million in 2007) and iron and steel mill products (from $60.1 million in 2006 to $1.7 million in 2007).
According to the State Department, Bulgaria has a reasonably good human rights record. However, there were problems in some areas: “Severe police abuses, including beatings and other mistreatment of pretrial detainees, prison inmates, and members of minorities; harsh conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrest and detention; and impunity. There were limitations on freedom of the press; some restrictions of freedom of religion and discrimination against religious minorities; and corruption in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Other problems included: societal violence and discrimination against women and children; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; violence and discrimination against minority groups; and child labor.”
Charles M. Dickinson
Appointment: Apr 24, 1901
Appointment terminated, Jun 30, 1903
John B. Jackson
Appointment: Jun 5, 1903
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 19, 1903
John B. Jackson
Appointment: Mar 8, 1905
Termination of Mission: Presented recall, Jun 4, 1907
A senior Foreign Service officer with 31 years of experience in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East, Marcie Berman Ries was nominated by President Barack Obama in May 2012 to serve as ambassador to Bulgaria. Over the course of her diplomatic career, Ries has been a specialist in national security and political-military matters while dealing with issues related to NATO, strategic and theater arms control, the Balkans and Iraq.
Born in 1950, Ries attended Oberlin College in Ohio, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in 1972. She attended graduate school at Johns Hopkins University and earned her Master of Arts from the School of Advanced International Studies in 1974. She is also a graduate of the State Department’s Senior Seminar and attended the Department of Defense’s Pinnacle Course.
She joined the Foreign Service in 1978 and served as the political officer in the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Returning to the U.S. in 1981, Ries served as an international relations officer in the Office of Strategic Nuclear Policy until 1983.
She was posted to Turkey from 1984-1986 as a political officer in the U.S. embassy in Ankara. From 1986 to 1988, Ries served in Malta and as the Vatican Desk Officer.
She was stationed in Washington, DC, beginning in 1988 as the deputy head of the political section in the Office of European Regional Political Military Affairs. In 1990, she was the French Desk Officer until 1991, when she was a Pearson Fellow while working as an assistant to U.S. Representative Dante Fascell (D-Florida).
In 1992, Ries was sent to Europe to serve as the State Department’s deputy political counselor in the U.S. Mission to the European Union (EU) for four years.
She transferred to London in 1996 and spent the next four years as a political counselor in the U.S. embassy.
From 2001 to 2003, Ries was the director of the Office of UN Political Affairs in the State Department.
She went back to Europe in 2003 and was chief of mission in Kosovo. She spent part of 2004 as the State Department’s senior advisor for post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization before becoming U.S. ambassador to Albania, while her husband, Charles, was ambassador to neighboring Greece.
Three years later, Ries and her husband moved on to Iraq, where she was minister-counselor for political-military affairs in Baghdad and he headed the embassy’s economic team. Among her other responsibilities, she led the U.S. delegation that met with the ambassador from Iran when he visited Iraq.
Back in Washington, Ries was principal deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. In this capacity, she was responsible for policy and management of relations with NATO, the EU and Western Europe, as well as strategic planning and personnel.
Prior to her appointment as ambassador to Bulgaria, Ries served in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance as deputy assistant secretary for nuclear and strategic policy. She was responsible for the management of the offices of Multilateral and Nuclear Affairs, Strategic Affairs, and the Nuclear Risk Reduction Center. Further, she served as the deputy START negotiator for the strategic arms reduction talks with the Russian Federation.
After leaving the State Department after 31 years, Charles Ries joined the RAND Corporation as a senior fellow in February 2009, but took a leave of absence from July 2010 to January 2011 to serve as executive vice president of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. In April 2012 he was named vice president, international at the RAND. The couple has a son and a daughter. Marcie Ries’ languages include Turkish, Spanish and French.
Marcie Ries Biography (State Department)
Marcie B. Ries (NNDB)more