U.S. Ambassador to the Kyrgyzstan: Who Is Sheila Gwaltney?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

On August 28, 2014, President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Sheila Gwaltney, a career Foreign Service officer, to be the next ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic. If she’s confirmed, it will be the first ambassadorial posting for Gwaltney, an expert on Russia and the region.


Gwaltney is from Woodland, California, and attended nearby the University of California-Davis, earning a B.A. in international relations. She did her graduate work at George Washington University, earning an M.A., also in international relations. After college, Gwaltney worked as a program coordinator for Delphi Research Associates in Washington.


She joined the Foreign Service in 1984 and was sent to Panama as a consular/political officer. Gwaltney moved on to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1987.


In 1990 she took a leave from diplomacy as a National Security Affairs Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.


At the conclusion of her fellowship, Gwaltney was sent to St. Petersburg, Russia, as a political/economic officer in the U.S. consulate there. She returned to Washington in 1995 as deputy director in the Office of Russian Affairs and, starting in 1998, served as special assistant to the under secretary for political affairs.


Gwaltney got her first assignment to Kyrgyzstan  in 1999 as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bishkek. She came home in 2002 as director of country affairs for Eurasia in the Office of the Coordinator for Assistance to Europe and Eurasia. Gwaltney returned to that region in 2004 as the deputy chief of mission in the embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine. While there in 2006, she sent a cable warning of possible Russian threats to that country, particularly in Crimea.


Gwaltney returned to Washington in 2007 as senior advisor in the Office of Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, the State Department office that deals with countries coming out of conflict and helping them rebuild their country and society.


She was sent back to St. Petersburg in 2008, this time as consul general. In 2010, Gwaltney was assigned to Moscow as deputy chief of mission. She eventually served as chargé d'affaires, ad interim. As such, she was in charge of the embassy after Ambassador Mike McFaul left, and she handled much of the U.S. response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, events she had warned of earlier.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Nomination Announcement

State Department Cables 2006-2009 (WikiLeaks)


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