The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

What do most U.N. ambassadors have in common? Decades of experience.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks with reporters while flying from Panama to Mexico on Oct. 18. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool/Reuters) (Pool New/Reuters)

Heather Nauert will be nominated by the Trump administration as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, succeeding Nikki Haley.

However, despite almost two years as the State Department spokeswoman, Nauert struck many as an incongruous pick for one of the top jobs in U.S. diplomacy.

Unlike almost all her predecessors, Nauert does not have a significant background in the Foreign Service or other government service: Instead, she had worked as a reporter and anchor since 1996, mostly for Fox News. She is best known as a former co-host on “Fox & Friends,” one of President Trump’s favored television shows.

“We have never had anyone remotely as underqualified as Heather Nauert,” Daniel Benjamin, a State Department counterterrorism coordinator during the Obama administration, who is now at Dartmouth, wrote on Twitter.

Indeed, when you compare the potential U.S. diplomat’s résumé to those of other top U.N. ambassadors from other nations on the Security Council, Nauert stands out.

Britain — Karen Pierce

Pierce joined Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1981 and was first posted to Tokyo, after spending a period learning Japanese. She had a variety of other foreign postings after that, including in Washington, from 1992 to 1995.

She served as Britain’s Deputy Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York from 2006 to 2009, and from 2012 to 2015 she was permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva (between these two stints, she also earned a master’s degree in international strategy and diplomacy from the London School of Economics).

Her most recent positions were as British ambassador to Afghanistan and director general political for the foreign and commonwealth. She took the top British job at the United Nations in March 2018. “Diplomats and observers agree she has been a robust presence since starting the job in March,” the Guardian wrote in October.

China — Ma Zhaoxu

Like Nauert, Ma once served as head spokesman for his country’s foreign ministry. However, the Chinese diplomat had a longer history with China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, which he joined in 1987. He also held high-ranking positions in Britain and Belgium before being appointed director-general of the ministry’s Information Department in 2009.

After that role, which involved talking frequently to the media, he was China’s ambassador to Australia from 2003 to 2016 and followed that with a 20-month stint as China’s top envoy to the United Nations in Geneva. He took up his post in New York in January 2018.

“Ma is a rising star in the foreign service with fairly broad experience and international exposure at a relatively young age,” unnamed sources told the South China Morning Post before he took the post.

France — Francois Delattre

Delattre joined the French foreign ministry in 1989. He has served abroad a number of times, including as French ambassador to Canada from 2008 to 2011 and as ambassador to the United States from 2011 to 2014. He took up his position at the United Nations in New York after leaving Washington in 2011.

The French ambassador sees himself as a supporter of multilateralism. Writing in the Financial Times this year, he called on the United States to work with other countries in areas such as the Sahel region in Africa.

“Success there and in so many other areas requires all security council members — notably the U.S. — to work with each other. As the world is confronted with unprecedented global challenges, American commitment to our shared values and common solutions has rarely been more critical,” Delattre wrote.

Russia — Vasily Nebenzya

Nebenzya’s diplomatic career dates from the Soviet days — his first postings was as attache of the Soviet Union Embassy in Thailand in 1988. Over this lengthy career, he served abroad a number of times, including at Russia’s Permanent Mission to the U.N. in New York. He also served as deputy permanent representative of Russia to the United Nations office and other international organizations in Geneva.

Before taking up his current position in New York last year, Nebenzya had been serving as deputy minister of foreign affairs for Russia. He replaced Russia’s veteran diplomat Vitaly Churkin, who died after suffering cardiac arrest in February 2017.

Before his appointment, the Moscow Times noted that Nebenzya’s foreign postings characterized “a successful career in the foreign service,” adding that he “has specialized in diplomatic work with international organizations.”