Trump’s state department purge sparks worries of ‘know-nothing approach’ to foreign policy

Thomas Countryman was on his way to Rome for an international meeting on nuclear weapons on Wednesday when he found out he had been summarily removed from his position. The senior diplomat turned around and got on the first flight back to Washington.

It was a sudden and unceremonious end to 35 years as a foreign service officer, the last four months of it as the acting undersecretary for arms control and international security. But Countryman was not alone. The Trump White House carried out an abrupt purge of the state department’s senior leadership last week, removing key officials from posts that are essential to the day-to-day running of the department and US missions abroad.

The purge has left a gaping hole at the heart of US diplomacy: the incoming secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has yet to be confirmed and the Trump team has not named candidates to fill several levels of leadership under him. Its only nominations so far have been ambassadors to China and Israel. All further nominees to senior posts will take months of security vetting and confirmation.

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