The U.S. ambassador to Estonia,James D. Melville Jr.’s abruptly resigned on Friday, telling friends that he cannot abide President Trump’s apparent hostility toward institutions that have stabilized Europe since the end of the Cold War.
Estonia is one of several formerly Soviet-controlled countries that have joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — essentially allying with the United States and Western Europe, whose militaries protect Estonia against Russian aggression.
Ambassador Melville’s resignation comes at a crucial moment for independent countries along Russia’s western border — amid the possibility of military conflicts. Read his resignation letter in full.
I suppose this is as good a time as any to tell my friends that I’m leaving Estonia one month from today, on July 29, to retire from the Foreign Service and begin life as a private citizen after 33 years of public service.
I’ve always admired the professionalism of my colleagues in supporting U.S. Government policy as articulated and directed by our elected leaders and their administrations, without regard to partisan politics. A Foreign Service Officer’s DNA is programmed to support policy and we’re schooled right from the start, that if there ever comes a point where one can no longer do so, particularly if one is in a position of leadership, the honorable course is to resign.
Having served under six presidents and 11 secretaries of state, I never really thought it would reach that point for me.
I truly believe and have said many times, national interests don’t change from one administration to the next. Senator Vandenberg made a great point 70 years ago when he said “politics stop at the water’s edge.” I’ve spent the vast majority of my career on US-European relations and issues, and I’ve always been very proud of the U.S. role in the aftermath of World War II, of rebuilding a Europe that ideally would be “whole, free and at peace.” From the Marshall Plan, through the Cold War and until very recently, supporting Europe’s integration was a fundamental element of U.S. foreign policy which directly undergirds democracy, peace and prosperity.
The E.U. and NATO are the gorgeous and vital fruits of that policy and the world is a much, much better place for their existence. I believe that to my marrow.
For the President to say the E.U. was “set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank,” or that “NATO is as bad as NAFTA” is not only factually wrong, but proves to me that it’s time to go.
It takes no courage on my part to do so and I can’t hold a candle to my friends who have honorably resigned without the benefit of the full pension I have waiting for me. The truth is I’ve had a full tour in Tallinn and intended to retire upon the confirmation of a successor. Since there’s no longer anyone in sight for that role, I suppose I could have stayed on for many more months.
I do love Estonia, its wonderful people and beautiful landscape. Tallinn is one of the nicest cities on earth and I’ve got the best public housing I’ve ever had. But on balance, I’m glad not to be staying, for all the reasons I’ve just explained.
So I leave willingly and with deep gratitude for being able to serve my nation with integrity for many years, and with great confidence that America, which is and has always been, great, will someday return to being right.