The US has made no secret of its wish to push Armenia from Russia’s sphere of influence, and in order to boost its efforts Washington plans to make some staffing changes at its embassy in Yerevan. Specifically, it intends to strengthen its core of “experienced personnel” who have already been trained in anti-Russian activities in other countries.
According to an announcement on the White House website, US President Joe Biden is to propose Christina Quinn as the new US ambassador to Armenia. The announcement describes Christina Quinn as a career diplomat who is currently serving as US Chargée d’Affaires in Ukraine, a post to which she was appointed in January 2020. Her new posting is expected to be approved by the US Senate in September this year.
This is not the first time that the idea of appointing a new head of the US diplomatic mission in Yerevan has been raised – and not just because the term of the current ambassador, Lynne Tracy, is due to expire at the end of the summer. The main reason why the White House has decided on this step now is because of a recent decision by the US government to intensify its campaign to minimize Russia’s influence in Armenia and in the South Caucasus as a whole. The idea to replace the ambassador with a diplomat who already has “combat” experience in Ukraine – and one of the candidates considered was Alan Purcell, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Ukraine, – has been put forward before.
It is clear from a number of circumstances that Washington has decided to step up its activities in Armenia. One of these occurred on July 15, when CIA Director William Burns was sent to Yerevan for urgent talks with Nikol Pashinyan, Armenia’s Prime Minister, leaving Joe Biden to deal with regional issues without his support during his recent Middle Eastern tour.
The current CIA Director was a natural choice for this urgent mission to Yerevan, as he has worked in Russia, knows the country and its language, and is also the Biden administration’s key expert in the South Caucasus and, naturally, the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.
As for the urgency of William Burns’ trip to Yerevan, it was clearly a reflection of the White House’s growing concern about the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasing tendency to support Russia, especially his policy of a “pro-Russian neutrality” in relation to the war in Ukraine – a position that is undermining Washington’s position and spoiling its plans. The White House therefore needed to find a way to provoke a quarrel between Russia and Turkey. Naturally, the easiest way to do this would be by escalating the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, which is where William Burns, a key expert in this area, comes in. Clearly, the US would be able to reignite active hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Moscow to support its ally Armenia, and Turkey to step in on the side of its ally Azerbaijan, after which Turkey might possibly abandon its neutral position and join in with the West’s sanctions against Russia. As if in confirmation of these plans, immediately after William Burns’ visit to Yerevan there was a fierce exchange of fire between troops in Armenia’s Vardenis District and Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar District – the first such clash in many months.
Immediately after William Burns’ trip to Yerevan, Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, also made a trip to the Armenian capital, thus helping to counteract the US’s attempt at intervention.
However, in addition to the visit by the CIA Director, as part of its attempts to bring Armenia within its “embrace,” Washington is also focusing on building up close relations with Armenian religious communities. As part of this initiative, during his Middle east tour Joe Biden visited the Armenian Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where he met with Archbishop Nourhan Manougian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. And, immediately after Joe Biden’s departure from the Middle East, Karekin II, Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, made an “unexpected” visit to the US.
Given the above moves, it is clear that the US has a serious mission for its new ambassador in Yerevan: to promote “US-style democracy” in Armenia. And the Biden administration believes that Christina Quinn is the best person for the job.
To summarize what is known about Christina Quinn, she was born on January 15, 1965, in California, is married, and has a daughter.
She graduated from Occidental College, California, and also studied at the US Army War College and at Stockholm University, Sweden.
After working for some time at the Los Angeles Times, one of the most respected newspapers in the US, she joined the diplomatic service in 1992, and her first posting was in the US Consulate in Paris. That was followed with a posting to the diplomatic mission in the Philippines, where she focused on economic issues.
She then worked at the US Department of State’s Bureau of European Affairs, where she was responsible for issues relating to the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. After that she was posted to the US Embassy in Slovenia.
From 2001-2005, she worked at the US mission to the EU, based in Brussels, and was then transferred to the US embassy in Russia, where she worked for two years.
From 2008-2010, she worked at the United States National Security Council, where she headed the EU and Eastern Europe Department.
She then worked for three years in Britain as an economic adviser at the US Embassy, followed by three years as acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Thailand.
In 2016 she returned to Paris, where she served as Deputy Chief of Mission and economic adviser.
Her experience in Ukraine began in Spring 2019, when she was appointed as Deputy Chief of Mission, and, following the departure of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was appointed Chargée d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Kiev.
It thus appears that Christina Quinn, in keeping with her military education, really does have “combat experience” in Ukraine – which makes her an ideal candidate to carry out the special responsibilities which the White House has assigned to the new head of its diplomatic mission to Armenia.