New chief for US Embassy in Prague as wait for ambassador continues

The lack of a fully-fledged US ambassador in Prague has attracted stern criticism from diplomatic circles.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 23.03.2022 15:02:00 (updated on 23.03.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

The U.S. Embassy in Prague is getting new leadership during some of the tensest global circumstances in living memory.

Michael Dodman will take up the post of chargé d’affaires at the embassy, returning to the Czech Republic after previously working in Prague from 2004 to 2008. Dodman is a seasoned diplomat whose previous Czech diplomatic posting included dramatic debates on plans to place American military radar systems in the Brdy hills southwest of Prague, eventually shelved as a result of stern local opposition.

Dodman later served at U.S. missions in Iraq and in Karachi, Pakistan. Most recently, he was U.S. ambassador to Mauritania.

He will replace Jennifer Bachus as chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Malá Strana. A chargé d’affaires serves as an embassy’s chief of mission in the absence of a fully-fledged ambassador.

The Czech Republic has now been without a full U.S. ambassador since the departure of Stephen King on the same day as Joe Biden was sworn in as U.S. President in 2020. Czech government officials slammed the lack of an ambassador prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as global diplomatic tensions reached breaking point.

Although it doesn’t solve this long-term problem, the appointment of Dodman is being praised in political circles.

“He was with us during the debate on American radar. He was also here during the economic crisis. It will definitely be an improvement,” Alexandr Vondra, a Civic Democrat (ODS) MEP and former Foreign Minister told Lidovky.cz.

Fully-fledged ambassadors are highly influential figures with close ties to their nation’s leadership. The continued lack of an ambassador in Prague therefore suggests a lack of connection between the Czech government and the Biden administration.

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But the Czech Republic isn’t alone in lacking a permanent U.S. ambassador since the change of regime in the States. Republican party representatives have been blocking diplomatic nominations in the U.S. Senate, and although nearly 40 new ambassadors were finally approved in December, the Czech Republic wasn’t included in this first raft of approvals.

It’s uncertain how long nominations will continue to be blocked. But the arrival of a new chargé d’affaires with experience of crisis situations and previous knowledge of the Czech Republic is being seen as a step in the right direction.

“At least someone is now coming to us who will be able to provide some direction and understanding as a first step,” Vondra said.

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