The top U.S. diplomat to Europe Karen Donfried will step down to focus on her family, a State Department spokesperson said on Monday, leaving an important post empty as Washington works to keep its allies focused on supporting Ukraine's war effort, Reuters reports.
The 18-month tenure of Assistant Secretary Donfried, who assumed the role in September 2021, has been marked by the biggest conflict in Europe since the World War Two and the U.S. push to form and solidify a unified Western position against Russia.
She has been among U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's key aides, traveling frequently to Europe to meet with U.S. partners as President Joe Biden sought to repair and re-energize transatlantic ties damaged by the unilateral approach of former president Donald Trump's administration.
In one of her last high-level meetings at the State Department, she confronted Russia's top diplomat in Washington, when he was summoned last Tuesday following the crash of a U.S. drone over the Black Sea after being intercepted by Russian jets.
The incident, the first known direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine, has further damaged already tense ties between the two former Cold War foes.
She was set to leave her post at the end of March, the Department spokesperson said. No decision has been made yet on her successor to oversee the Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs which covers 50 countries that stretch from the United Kingdom to Azerbaijan.
"Karen has deftly managed our relationships with many of our most important allies and partners at a time when Kremlin aggression threatened decades of peace and prosperity," Blinken said in a statement seen by Reuters ahead of publication.
"Her policy acumen, integrity, and drive defined her leadership as Assistant Secretary and represent the highest values of public service," Blinken added.