WASHINGTON – When Stephen Begin was sworn in as deputy secretary of state, he was in front of an unusual crowd at the State Department – among them were President Trump’s loyalists, but also a mixture of war heroes and Democrats.
Dennis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama and the deputy national security adviser, was present on that day in December. So was John de Negroponte, the former director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush who in 2016 refused to vote for Mr. Trump. There were professional diplomats, congressional officials, and national security experts from both parties who worked with Mr. Pigeon in his various roles in the Senate, the National Security Council, and Ford Motor.
Which raised some crucial questions: How did Mr. Begun navigate the Trump world to land this high position number 2 in the State Department? Could it calm a sharp rebellion between State Department officials who accused the direct head of Mr. Pigeon, Secretary of State Mike Bombo, of Abandon the seasoned diplomats And letting the president’s personal political agenda hit foreign policy?
More to this point, will he even survive?
The job is risky – Washington is full of people who have jumped out of the Trump administration as reputation faded – but friends say they are betting on Mr. Pigeon.
“If anyone can figure out how to navigate it, I think it could be Steve,” said Stephen Hadley, the second national security adviser to Mr. Bush.
It is useful, as friends say, that Mr. Pigeon has the mood of a man who thrives in the background. No one looked like the president, be it the president or the foreign minister. Mr Pigeon is behavioral and moderate, and he is anti-bumbo.
While Mr. Bombo is vulnerable to Mr. Biegun screaming profanity, is a Republican from another era of calm. “He listened,” said Mr. McDonough, the Democratic counterpart of Mr. Pigeon, when the two men served as principal foreign policy advisers to their Senate leaders in their mid-2000s.
While Mr. Pompeo has sought to recreate “ostentation” in diplomacy, Mr Biegun is described as a careful negotiator. Although Mr. Pompeo allowed a shadow campaign of foreign policy to undermine the United States embassy in Ukraine, Mr. Pigeon insisted that “in politics, politics stops at the water’s edge”.
John R. said Pearl, who was one of Mr Obama’s ambassadors in Moscow, said that Mr. Pompo would likely see Mr Pigeon as “someone who can help improve this semi-toxic situation” at the State Department.
“If there is this void or lack of confidence, which I think exists, Steve is in a good position to fill it,” said Mr. Pearl, who worked with Mr. Pigeon on the board of the American-Russian Foundation, which promotes. Entrepreneurship and education with Moscow.
Notably, Mr. Pigeon described Mary to. Jovanovic, the former US ambassador to Kiev who has been ordered to return to Washington and accused of being unfaithful to Mr. Trump, is that he is a “very capable foreign service officer”.
Since Ms. Jovanovich’s first meeting years ago, when they were working on Russia’s policy, “My appreciation was nothing but her growth,” Mr. Begon told Senators at a confirmation session for him in November.
Colleagues say the secret behind Mr. Pigeon’s success so far is that he has earned Mr. Trump’s confidence by enabling the president to be optimistic with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader. The officials said The president twice considered appointing Mr. Pigeon as a national security advisor, but made him the chief North Korean envoy instead. In this mission, Mr. Pigeon tried to move the talks between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim forward when other administration officials wanted to close them.
Mr. Pigeon also refused to join the so-called Never Trumper movement in 2016, which made him among the relatively small number of Republicans with high-level foreign policy experience who were not blacklisted by the White House after Mr. Trump won the presidential election.
John B. said. Bellinger III, former Secretary of State in the State Department: “He is a friend of Republicans and Democrats, treats people well, knows how to work in Washington, knows think tanks, knows the press, and knows the diplomatic community.” The chief attorney who worked with Mr. Pigeon on Mr. Bush’s National Security Council.
Mr. Dijon was born in Detroit to a large family – more than 30 of his relatives attended the swearing-in ceremony in December – and Mr. Pigeon was in high school in Pontiac, Michigan, when History teacher wrote the word “Caesar” On the blackboard in the Cyrillic alphabet. He was immediately fascinated and went to study Russian at the University of Michigan.
Mr. Pigeon lived in Moscow in the early 1990s, when he worked at the International Republican Institute, which promoted democracy with some funding from the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development. But he mostly developed his national security credentials on Capitol Hill – as the first Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and then to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, then the majority leader – and at the White House as a key aide to Condoleezza Rice, who was the first national security adviser to the administration Bush.
He traveled to Russia as vice president of Ford, to negotiate new business ventures, but also stopped short of briefly advising Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008. This position, according to colleagues, revealed his ability to maintain patience under pressure And avoid the ambivalent tone – even when having to explain the simplest foreign policy alternatives to his boss.
In his new job, Mr. Begon will remain the chief negotiator with North Korea – a dual role, he said, that raises “North Korea’s priority to the position of Deputy Minister, and I think this is very important.”
But diplomacy has stalled since Mr Trump and Kim suddenly left a summit meeting in Vietnam a year ago, unable to agree on a path to nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula. Critics say the Trump administration was very willing to continue the talks – and the president is very eager to meet Mr. Kim – even as North Korea builds its arsenal.
Not only was Pigeon trying to negotiate with the North Koreans, but he was also involved in a fight with Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, John R. Bolton, who believed that Mr. Pigeon was pursuing her useless task.
“This idea that they can be persuaded to give up their” nuclear program “was flawed from the start,” Mr Bolton said on Monday. Remarks at Duke University.
However, Joseph Y said. Yoon, the professional diplomat who negotiated with North Korean officials until his retirement in March 2018, said that the new status of Mr. Pigeon could convince Pyongyang that the United States was serious enough about resuming the discussions that it had promoted. Most senior officials are dedicated to detailing.
It is a good sign to the north Mr. Yun, who retired partly because of frustration at the diminished Foreign Ministry’s role in the talks, said Korea. “This will raise the negotiations.”
Mr. Pigeon’s biggest challenge, however, is Russia’s diplomatic quagmire Ukraine.
No senior official has administered this policy since Bolton left the White House as a national security adviser in September, and few have been eager to embrace this bag.
But Mr. Pigeon told his colleagues that he was keen to try to resolve Russia’s undeclared war in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. He killed the conflict More than 13,000 Ukrainian troops and civilians And threatened the sovereignty of Kiev since it began in 2014, the same year that Russia annexed the Ukrainian Crimea.
Ukrainian officials anxiously looked to Washington for more help as Kiev expanded its talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, to ease tensions. Mr. Pompeo visited Kiev last month to indicate the continued American commitment to Ukraine. But the country’s leaders have not yet been invited to a meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House, despite the president’s acquittal of the charges of impeachment that he called on Ukraine to announce an investigation into his political rivals before launching security assistance to Donbass.
Erik Rubin, the former ambassador to Bulgaria who is now the president of the union representing professional diplomats, noted that during the Senate confirmation session, Mr. Pigeon committed to work “to bridge any gap” in the State Department.
“This is not an easy time for our country or for our profession,” said Mr. Robin. “We wish him well.”
Mr Pigeon faces another source of tension with the new 2011 START Arms Control Treaty, which pushed US and Russian nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in nearly 60 years. The treaty is due to expire in February 2021, and people who spoke to Mr. Pigeon believed he wanted to extend it. But Mr. Trump and his aides They have repeatedly indicated that they intend to allow the treaty to expire unless it is extended to other countries with strategic weapons, led by China – and China is not interested.
In his confirmation session, Mr. Pigeon summed up his approach in one line, conveying in one way or another both optimism in diplomacy and absolute realism about the Trump administration’s view of the world, looking at its slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
“I had long believed that America was wonderful,” said Mr. Pigeon.