Biden appoints Russia expert for Pentagon job
The Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs is an important position that includes flights with the Secretary of Defense to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It also ensures that the Pentagon's policy imperatives are passed on.
The American Axios website reported that US President Joe Biden nominated Celeste Wallander as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, a crucial position and one of his last remaining positions in foreign policy.
By selecting Wallander, the president and CEO of the Russian American Foundation, Biden is strengthening the Pentagon team with an academic and Russian expert who both parties in Congress respect.
“Celeste brings great experience in and out of government from both at the Pentagon and the National Security Council, but also in the think-tank world and in academia,” said David Kramer, a former senior State Department official in the second Bush administration.
"She has deep policy expertise in key regions, experience in getting things done in the Pentagon, and a track record as a gifted manager and leader," said Michèle Flournoy, an ex-Pentagon official under President Obama. "She will bring excellent judgment and proven experience in defense diplomacy to the job."
The importance of the position goes back to the fact that the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs usually travels with the Secretary of Defense to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It also ensures that the Pentagon's general - and specific - policy imperatives are conveyed to foreign governments.
The assistant secretary also assists in approving arms sales and managing relations with foreign militaries.
Wallander will need confirmation of her appointment by the Senate.
The site said that Biden's appointment of Colin Kahl as Under Secretary of Defense sparked controversy due to his past activity on social media but was eventually confirmed in the Senate.
Wallander received her BA from Northwestern University and her Ph.D. from Yale University.
As director of Russia on the Obama-era National Security Council, Wallander proposed a range of options in the summer of 2016 to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from further meddling in the US presidential election, David Shemer writes in his book "Fraud".
More recently, Wallander has claimed that Putin is responding to the challenge of opposition leader Alexei Navalny from a position of weakness rather than strength.