Ambassador to Albania: Who Is Donald Lu?

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The next ambassador to the Balkan nation of Albania will be a career diplomat who has spent the balance of his career working with formerly communist nations. Donald Lu was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 25, and if confirmed by the Senate as expected, he would succeed Alexander A. Arvizu, who has served in Tirana since November 10, 2010.


Born circa 1966 in Huntington Beach, California, Donald Lu earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in International Relations at Princeton University in 1988 and 1991, respectively. Lu served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1988 to 1990, where he helped to restore hand-dug water wells and taught health education and latrine construction. 


Joining the Foreign Service in 1990, Lu served early career foreign postings as a political officer at the consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan; as a consular officer at the embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia; and as a special assistant to Ambassador Frank Wisner and then political officer at the embassy in New Delhi, India.


Lu served as special assistant to the ambassador for the Newly Independent States from 2000 to 2001, and then as deputy director for the Office of Central Asian and South Caucasus Affairs from 2001 to 2003.


From 2003 to 2006, Lu was deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Lu then served as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan, including a stint as the chargé d’affaires from July 2009 through July 2010, when the office of ambassador was vacant.


In September 2009, Lu dispatched a diplomatic cable to Washington in which, quoting a prominent local politician, he compared Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to the two young mafia dons of The Godfather films: the impulsive Sonny Corleone and his calculating younger brother Michael. Lu wrote that Aliyev’s foreign policy—which he characterized as based on “restraint and a helpful bias toward integration with the West” represented his inner Michael, while his “increasingly authoritarian” domestic policies channeled Sonny. He even called Aliyev’s father, Heydar, who was president for the decade prior to his son, “the ‘Vito Corleone’ of Azerbaijan.”


Lu returned to India in July 2010 to serve as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in New Delhi.


Lu is married to Dr. Ariel Ahart, a public health specialist. They have two children, Kipling and Aliya.  Lu speaks West African Krio, Urdu, Hindi, Russian, Georgian and Azerbaijani.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Official Biography

Donald Lu Nominated as Ambassador to the Republic of Albania (Asian American Press)


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