Tom Countryman spent 35 years as a United States diplomat. In January of 2017, he was the State Department’s acting secretary for arms control when he was suddenly asked to step down by the new Trump administration. A week later, he retired.
Countryman, who joined St. Louis Public Radio reporter Rachel Lippmann on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, said that he was not necessarily bothered by the nature of his exit, but two years later he is worried about the Trump administration’s general attitude towards the foreign service.
“I am happy to be retired and pursue other interests,” he said. “What concerns me far more is the message of disrespect that the White House chose to send in its first week, and has chosen to reinforce repeatedly over the past two years – the message of disrespect and disdain for loyal Americans who have sacrificed a lot in order to serve the United States in a very difficult profession.”
Countryman emphasized how important he considers the career civil servants who work under elected officials to be.
“I believe that public service and the millions of Americans who chose public service over the more enriching, more lucrative professions are really the backbone of the United States government and are more crucial to its success than the elected officials who go in and out,” he said.
Countryman, who spent the last seven years of his career focusing on nuclear proliferation and arms control, also discussed concerns regarding lapsing nuclear weapons treaties and President Donald Trump’s negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
A graduate of Washington University, where he majored in economics and political science, Countryman is back in St. Louis this week for a Thursday evening forum titled “Diplomacy, Security, Treaties and Peace.” The event is free and open to the public.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 11, 2019
Where: First Unitarian Church (5007 Waterman Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108)
Listen to the full conversation:
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