US Ambassador Lynne M. Tracy. Photo courtesy of US Embassy in Armenia official Twitter account
Hours before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was expected to arrive in Washington for a historic visit, senators voted to 93-2 to confirm veteran diplomat Lynne M. Tracy as the new ambassador to Russia.
Some viewed it as a signal of the American commitment to war-torn Ukraine as it confronts the Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer opened the chamber's session by saying that Wednesday's passage of a fresh $45 billion military aid package for Ukraine and confirmation of the new US ambassador to Russia would send a strong signal that Americans stand "unequivocally'' with the Ukrainian people.
Tracy, a career member of the Foreign Service who previously served as ambassador to Armenia, "will be tasked with standing up to Putin,'' Schumer said.
The only two votes against Tracy came from GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, both of whom have been skeptical of the administration's support for Ukraine.
Tracy will oversee an embassy in Moscow that has been decimated in terms of staffing as US-Russia ties have plummeted over the war in Ukraine along with several long-standing and unrelated diplomatic disputes over personnel and facilities and compounded by disagreements over arms control.
Tracy, who speaks Russian, previously served as a senior adviser for Russian affairs in the State Department's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, as the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Moscow. She also held several posts in Central and South Asia.
The previous US ambassador to Moscow, John Sullivan, left Russia in early September in a departure that had been expected but was accelerated by the failing health of his wife, who died a day after his return to the United States.
Tracy is well-regarded within diplomatic circles and received a State Department heroism award from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009.
While leading the US consulate in Peshawar in Pakistan's insurgency-ridden border regions, Tracy survived an attack on her by a gunman that left her vehicle riddled with bullets, but insisted on going to work that day and staying on post, even as security concerns compelled the consulate to trim its staff.
Tracy also received the State Department's distinguished honor award for her work as the embassy deputy in Moscow.