WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden's administration has tapped Robin Dunnigan, a career diplomat with a background in energy, to oversee policy for Central and Eastern Europe at the State Department.
Dunnigan, who served as deputy assistant secretary for energy diplomacy in the State Department's Bureau of Energy Resources from 2014 to 2017, will help craft policy toward Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, as well as Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, a spokesperson told RFE/RL.
She had been serving at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna for the past three years, first as deputy chief of mission and most recently as charge d'affaires to Austria.
She took up her new position on September 7.
Dunnigan was an early critic of Russian plans to build a second natural-gas pipeline to Germany along the floor of the Baltic Sea to reroute European exports around Ukraine, depriving Kyiv of about $2 billion a year in transit fees.
Known as Nord Stream 2, the $11 billion project will soon be completed after the Biden administration in May agreed to waive sanctions on its Swiss-based operator in an attempt to deescalate tensions with Germany.
“You have to ask: Why would you support Ukraine with one hand and strangle it with the other,” she told a conference of policymakers in November 2015 as the West supported Kyiv with military and economic aid to help it battle Russia-backed fighters in eastern Ukraine.
“North Stream 2 actually threatens not only Ukraine’s survivability and their resources, but it is a risk to fuel diversification in Europe, especially southeastern Europe,” Dunnigan said at the time.
The Biden administration and Germany reached an agreement in July to help Ukraine handle the economic fallout resulting from the completion of Nord Stream 2, including investing in its energy industry.
The Biden administration recently appointed Amos Hochstein, a former special international energy envoy from 2014 to 2017, to oversee the implementation of the agreement with Germany.
Hochstein, who also served as a board member on Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz, oversaw the Bureau of Energy Resources when Dunnigan served there.
Dunnigan will take the reins for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova policy from Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, who also oversaw policy toward the South Caucasus nations of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.
Erica Olson, the former director for Northern European, Baltic, and Arctic Security Affairs at the State Department, will now handle Caucasus affairs, regional conflicts, and South Europe, including Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus, the spokesperson said.
The moves are part of the regular rotation of staff at the State Department. The spokesperson did not say what position Kent will hold next.
Kent, who previously served as chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv from 2015 to 2018 before returning to Washington to oversee the six former Soviet nations, became a key witness in 2019 in the impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump.
Trump was accused of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymy Zelenskiy to dig up dirt on Biden, his Democratic rival for the 2020 election, and his son Hunter Biden. Trump was impeached but found not guilty by the Republican-controlled Senate in early 2020.
Kent has been outspoken about endemic corruption in Ukraine and repeatedly called on the nation's leaders to pursue investigations against top officials and tycoons.