Houston Matters

Former ambassador to both Russia and Ukraine offers a unique perspective on the war

John Tefft, the only American foreign service officer to have been an ambassador to both Russia and Ukraine, spoke with Houston Matters while in town for events.


Ukrainian soldiers fire a self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, March 5, 2023.


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Russian President Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine is now in its thirteenth month. Recent fighting has focused on the eastern city of Bakhmut, where heavy losses have been reported for both Russian and Ukrainian forces.

John Tefft has a unique perspective on the ongoing war. He's the only American foreign service officer to have served as ambassador to both Russia and Ukraine. He served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2009-2013 and as ambassador to Russia from 2014-2017.

Tefft was in Houston last week. He spoke at Rice University and the University of Saint Thomas, which is where Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty caught up with him.

In the audio above, Tefft says while Putin has long had a fixation on bringing Ukraine back into Russian rule, he made a key miscalculation: not understanding Ukrainians' desire to maintain their independence.

Former Ambassador John Tefft talks with Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty at the University of Saint Thomas.
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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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