Weeping Warlick waves goodbye to his first love

James Warlick

“Leavin’, on a jet plane”

The US Ambassador to Bulgaria, James B. Warlick, Jr., bid a tearful adieu to Bulgaria earlier today.

In an emotional press conference at Sofia Airport, he broke down in tears as he thanked and hugged his embassy team.

I’ve remarked before on his ambassadorial style; this last act was a pure embarrassment.

Loaded down with Bulgarian honours – the Stara Planina (first class) from the Bulgarian President, and a decoration from Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov – Warlick returns to Washington, to a position as Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the office of the Secretary of State (Ma Clinton).

He began well. He impressed Bulgaria with his command of the language on his first public appearance in early 2010. He’s probably done some good and useful work in fostering Bulgaria – US ties and interests. He’s assisted several cultural projects, as acknowledged and praised by the Bulgarian Minister of Culture, Vezhdi Rashidov. He lobbied for US energy companies, got involved in the fracking debate, and so on…

So, why was he recalled early, before his normal term of 3 years had passed? Understandably, Warlick played that question down since the news of his departure broke a few months ago, refusing to comment.

But there’s no doubt he got up people’s noses here – parliamentarians, lobby groups, and, judging by the reactions of my own (Bulgarian) friends, the public in general. He indulged in some notorious spats with the nationalist Volen Siderov and a former Interior Minister, Roumen Petkov. I recall he was the first ambassador over here to comment on the latest EU progress report on Bulgaria. It was noticeable that European ambassadors maintained an appropriate silence.

He undoubtedly strayed, totally undiplomatically, into commenting on Bulgarian national and domestic policy. On one occasion, he was even the subject of a public rebuke (tactfully disguised, of course) by the previous President, Georgi Parvanov.

And there was the ridiculous charade of his playing a cameo role in a popular Bulgarian soap, something that may have got up Washington noses.

We’ll probably never know what he managed to accomplish ‘behind the scenes’ during his truncated tenure. But we’re all fully aware of his love of self-publicity, being seen at all the best venues and social gatherings of Sofia, waving sycophantically on TV at PM Borisov… it was endlessly embarrassing.

He once famously said, in one of his innumerable TV interviews, that “he never wore a mask”. If you bother to search Google Images, all you will see is exactly that – a vacant, grinning mask. Until today, that is, as he blubbed his way to the airport departure lounge.

Oh, yes, one more. The other day, he declared “Bulgaria will stay forever in my heart, as any first love would.” I wonder what his wife, who coincidentally ends her term as US Ambassador to Serbia (not a million miles away from here), had to say about that?

Anyway, to cheer James up, here’s an appropriate bit of schmaltz.

 

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