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U.S. envoy’s residence in Moscow empty during Ukraine crisis

The spectacular chandelier in Spaso House, the U.S. ambassador's residence in Moscow. (Photo: Anne Gearan/ Washington Post) There’s no place like home. The spectacular chandelier in Spaso House, the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Moscow. (Photo: Anne Gearan/ Washington Post)

Russian troops have invaded Ukraine. There are reports that Vladimir Putin has plans to move into heavily Russian eastern Ukraine. And there is no ambassador in place in Moscow. Ambassador Michael McFaul left two weeks ago and there’s no nominee to replace him.

Two weeks is hardly a long tme. But McFaul put the administration on notice many months ago that he was heading home. His wife and kids went back to California last summer so they could be there for the start of the school year.

McFaul signaled his intentions to Washington  around then, we’re told, though he formally announced his departure in early February.

So now there’s no one in position there to protest Putin’s moves. And, given the time it takes to push a nominee through the Senate, there won’t be anyone there for a while.

This is most peculiar, given the large number of qualified Obama mega-fundraisers who have not gotten ambassadorships. Tops on the list could be Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner, reportedly the biggest contributor to the 2012 campaign with more than $3.5 million in pro-Obama contributions. He’s openly gay, which would serve to rattle the intensely homophobic regime.

Or there’s Jeffrey Katzenberg, the DreamWorks Animation CEO and former head of The Walt Disney Studios who ponied up more than $3 million to Obama’s campaign and related organizations. And he produced Shrek and the Lion King.

Both  are obviously very busy, may not have any interest in going overseas and certainly can afford to live in the homes of their dreams. (And it might be a short stay, since recalling an ambassador is an old form of diplomatic protest.)

Still, Spaso House, the ambassador’s home in noveau -Soviet Russia, is a spectacular place to call home for a few years. There’s that stunning, enormous Austrian crystal chandelier in the domed ceiling, 82-foot- long reception hall and the lovely grounds surrounding the 100-year-old mansion.

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Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.



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Colby Itkowitz and Al Kamen · March 12, 2014

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