U.S. Ambassador to Moldova: Who Is James Pettit?

Sunday, August 03, 2014

On July 15, 2014, the Senate Foreign Relations committee heard testimony from James D. Pettit, whom President Barack Obama had nominated as U.S. ambassador to Moldova on May 22. If confirmed, it will be the first ambassadorial posting for Pettit, a career Foreign Service officer.


Pettit was born in North Dakota, moving to Hamburg, Iowa, with his family when he was 7 and to Council Bluffs, Iowa, at age 15. His father, Jack Pettit, was a Presbyterian minister. Pettit graduated from Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs in 1974 and attended Iowa State University, graduating in 1978 with a degree in international studies and Russian. His first professional job after college was as a letter of credit specialist in the international division of First American Bank in Washington, D.C., beginning in 1979.


Pettit joined the Foreign Service in 1981, with his first posting as a consular officer in Guadalajara, Mexico. He got to put his Russian to work for the first time in 1983, when he was moved to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow as a general services officer and political officer.


In 1986, Pettit was sent to Taiwan as consular officer in the American Institute, which serves as a de facto embassy in that country. He returned to Washington in 1988 as a desk officer in the State Department’s Office of Cuban Affairs. In 1990, Pettit was moved to a similar role in the department’s Taiwan Coordination Office.


Pettit returned to Moscow as deputy consul general in 1992, serving there for two years. It was during that period that there was a constitutional crisis in Russia, with fighting in the streets. Pettit and his wife Nancy and two children, along with other embassy personnel, were forced to remain in an underground shelter for two days.


After that tour, he took a break to study at the National War College in Washington, where he earned an M.A. in National Strategic Studies in 1995. He remained in the capital, working first as director of the Washington Processing Center for the Soviet refugee program and beginning in 1997 as chief of the Post Liaison Division in Visa Services, which provides guidance and supervision to Foreign Service posts on visa matters and coordinates between posts.


In 1999, Pettit went to Vienna as the consul general in the U.S. Embassy to Austria. He returned to Moscow in 2003 in a similar role in the embassy there. Much of his time was spent working with American companies who had difficulties getting permission for their employees to travel to the United States. Pettit moved to Kyiv, Ukraine in 2007 as deputy chief of mission in the U.S. Embassy.


He returned to Washington in 2010 as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, where he has served since.  


In 1981, Pettit married Nancy Bikoff.


Pettit speaks Russian, Spanish, German and Mandarin Chinese.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography

Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (pdf)

Being a Diplomat: Pettit Heads U.S. Largest Consulate (by Tom McMahon, Daily Nonpareil)

State Department Cables from Ukraine (WikiLeaks)


mcv.- 6 months ago
Well written Pál Marosi, well written! În North America (they) don't even have a clue where Europe ends (nevertheless the difference between "Eastern Block" and "Eastern Europe").
Pál Marosi 6 months ago
I can only agree with most of the comments. As a Hungarian citizen I can say that these so called "professionals" from the US come here to Eastern Europe and they don't have a clue about local history. They make outrageous remarks insulting the host nations and their history. He calls Moldova a young country which can get advice from a 250 year old state like the USA, while in fact Moldova is older than the so called USA. Even my school's building is older than the USA. They lecture us on human rights, corruption and language diversity, while in fact they are not much better than most of the states. Just an example, Microsoft bribed Romanian gov. members and the USA did nothing against Microsoft. He is talking about language diversity, just to shine his Russian language knowledge in public events and television interviews. Hawaii and Puerto Rico have their own history and language. According to Mr. Pettit's "logic" one can ask why the US is there in those countries? I call upon my Romanian friends not rely blindly anymore on the USA.
s.dan 6 months ago
From what I gather, the peace plan for Moldova promoted by this individual is a perfect copy of the plan drafted by Putin's team in 2003. Worst of all, he is making a mockery of the soviet ethnic cleansing and mass deportantions that took place in that part of the world during the '40s and 50s by marveling at Modova's multiethnicity. My wife's family has witnessed those horrors first hand but he is probably not interested in learning the truth. Is this individual (BTW, sponsored with our tax dollars) expressing a position that is the result of him spending too much time speaking Russian in Moscow or is it the capitulation of our country in face of the combined assault on the world stage of the "JV team" and a resurgent Soviet Union? Anyways, such a divisive figure should be promptly recalled.
Petre Melesteu 6 months ago
I respect that an embessador has to promote the interest of his country. But in the "just happened" statements Mr Pettit are astonishing a large comunities from MD and RO, as more as the practical prejudice inflicted is overpassing the hipotetic benefit we could identify. And what worries me is that I see no American interest protected here as those declarations are disapointing exactly the pro-american comunities throwing them in MD in a pre-electoral debate with a gift given to the pro-russian, traditionalists supporters of the Transnitrian conflict. Not to mention that this seems to be the effect of an incomplete perception (may be a long therm? who are the specialists? on which basis are building your strategies????)of the local modern and contemporan history and also of the subtle social processes happening (as in the last 15 years the percentage of the moldavians recognising their origin after 50 years of identity and history mistification). I should suggest to get in contact with Mr Larry Watts (https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Watts) and Mr Dungaciu (https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Dungaciu) which can give an alternative perspective over those facts and also make your specialists understand how far away has been Mr Pettit Intervention. Take in consideration that are election time in MD soon. And such un-necesarilly shrill statements seems to me odd in the diplomatic behaviour. We are disapointed and frightened about how worked and may work in the future the departments that should provide professionalism and accuracy. Department of our ally has appointed specialists that were supposed to push over wining the game and not throw it in a conflictual stage. Hope someone starts and serious internal analysis and even if will be difficult to pull back words or a persson, maybe someone decides to take care about some hobbyies or health or anything else and decides to retire. Or be retired.
Harry F. 6 months ago
As a US citizen I am appalled by the pro-Russian stance this Department of State clerk has adopted in the matter of heritage and identity in the Republic of Moldova. He is the full embodiment of the terrible decisions that this administration has made in its inafamous ambassador nominations.
Gigel Chiazna 6 months ago
Mr. Pettit has gravely offended moldavians and romanians with his recent declaration with the occasion of Moldavia's Independence Day by ignoring well known historical facts that even the russians are acknowledging. To put it shortly, Moldavia (country) si a slice of Moldavia (region of Romania) and share common history up to soviet occupation following the war. Mr. Pettit should be retracted from Moldavia if US cares about it's image in the face of both romanians and moldavians. Unless, his declarations are part of US politics in which case, probably Romania is already sold to Russia one more time.
Tudor Stefanescu 6 months ago
The comments done by Mr James Pettit in regard to Moldova is a insulting to real history of Romania I think hi spend to much time in Rusia... Please remove him from ther and send him to take same history classes
relu cutare 2 years ago
His Romanian is pretty good, too. Best of luck, Mr. Ambassador!

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