President Obama said Thursday that he is returning to service a career diplomat deeply experienced in eastern Europe to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Obama’s announcement that he is tapping John Tefft for the high-profile diplomatic post comes amid a crucial period in U.S.-Russia relations, which have been severely tested over President Vladimir Putin’s actions in neighboring Ukraine, among other issues. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has been without an ambassador since February.

Senate confirmation is required for the post.

Tefft served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in Obama’s first term. Immediately before that, he was the U.S. ambassador to Georgia during the administration of George W. Bush.

Since 2013, he has been executive director of the Rand Business Leaders Forum at the Rand Corp., a nonprofit that analyzes public policy.

(FILES) A handout file picture taken in February 2002. Moscow said it has approved the candidacy of a new U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Tefft, who is known for his support for the pro-Western nations of Ukraine and Georgia. (-/AFP/Getty Images)

The previous ambassadorto Russia, Michael McFaul, stepped down in February after a turbulent two years in Moscow .