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Here's what happened when this foreign service diplomat got into a Boise Uber

Kristin M. Kane serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs. She is a career Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister Counselor.
U.S. Department of State.
Kristin M. Kane serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs. She is a career Senior Foreign Service Officer with the rank of Minister Counselor.

Kristin Kane is a U.S. diplomat of the highest degree. For the U.S. State Department, she has served Foreign Tours across the globe. Brasilia, Dakar, Lisbon and Paris is just a short list of her multiple assignments. And while her diplomatic arsenal plays out where you might expect – regarding the planet’s hotspots – sometimes it’s about engaging in the back seat of an Uber in Boise.

“We didn't say we're from the State Department or that I'm a diplomat, but we did say we're from Washington, D.C., and he guessed from the government,” said Kane. “He said, ‘So I pay your salaries.’ And I said, ‘Yes, you do. And that is part of the reason we're out here, because, yes, we are funded by the U.S. taxpayer, and we work on behalf of Americans. And we know that international relations can seem really far away from anybody in the United States, including here in Idaho. But we do want people to know when we're out there trying for better economic security and democratic systems around the world, that we're doing it for the United States and for the American people.”

In a rare sit-down with domestic media, Kane visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the 2nd anniversary of the attack on Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, and her recent visit to Boise.

“We're trying to connect foreign policy to the American people. And then hear from Idahoans, young or older, about what matters to them. And I'm hoping to take that back to Washington.”
Kristin Kane

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. We are pleased to welcome to this broadcast this morning, a visitor from the US State Department. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Kristin Kane is here. Specifically, Ms. Kane serves as principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Global Public Affairs. She has served our nation across the globe, and a short list of her Foreign Service tours includes Paris, Lisbon, Brasilia, Dakar and much more. She also served in the Peace Corps. It should come as no surprise that she speaks French and Portuguese; and for our benefit this morning... English. Welcome.

KRISTIN KANE: Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be in Boise.

PRENTICE: You are here, we should note up front, through the good graces of the Frank Church Institute, and you're spending time with some of our best and brightest: Idaho high school model United Nations attendees. How exciting for them. What's this experience been like for you?

KANE: Well, it's been great. We just arrived yesterday from Washington, D.C. so on a personal peace. First time in Boise… in Idaho. I’m a Westerner, but it's haven't I haven't had the opportunity to be here yet. So, it's beautiful. People are lovely. And they just had so much energy representing their countries from China to Nigeria to Kazakhstan. And I was so impressed that they're interested not just in international affairs, but in serving. So, a lot talked to me about diplomacy, about the Peace Corps and how they can look at having careers in this area. It was great.

PRENTICE: And is your message that much different to them as it would be to people much older?

KANE: Not too much. Last night I spoke to a mostly older crowd. I would say a lot of retired and in some current professionals through the Frank Church Society and we we talked deeper, say complexity. But overall, I'm trying to represent what US foreign policy does for the benefit of Americans. In the case of model UN, we talked about multilateral diplomacy and how that's different and how Americans view the UN and how the US government works within the UN. But overall, we're trying to connect foreign policy to the American people. And then hear from Idahoans, young or oldere, about what matters to them. And I'm hoping to take that back to Washington.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about "what matters." February 24th, a grim anniversary. We're reminded that it was February 24th, two years ago, that Russia invaded Ukraine. Most reports indicate that things are not going well there. You're in a unique position in that you work for the State Department, but you're a communicator for a living. And we've been hearing and reading more about what the media has tagged as America's Ukraine fatigue. Congress struggling to reach an agreement to get more aid to Ukraine. But how do you sustain a level of urgency and push through fatigue, whether it's real or imagined?

Kristin Kane visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice.
Kristin Kane
Kristin Kane visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice.

KANE: Yeah, with the two-year anniversary, we put on a new round of sanctions, which are far reaching across several different countries that do business with Russia, that we think enables the war against individuals who we found directly responsible for opposition figure Alexei Navalny's death, which just underscored the brutality of Putin and the Kremlin. With our European partners, for them, it is almost tangible. They, of course, have this war happening on European soil. What our political director recently called a World War One trench- style warfare in Europe that we could never have imagined would take place in the 21st century. And we've actually seen Europeans come forth with more support for Ukraine than even the United States. I think, um, many Americans think we're sending all this money abroad, and it's just the US, and it's a faraway war. Well, of course it's not a faraway war. When we have Putin saying, writing openly that he would like to go much beyond Ukraine into NATO countries. And it also is something that Europeans again, feel directly and have supported. I'll also mention that so much of US support to date, yes, is for Ukrainians fighting for their freedom for Europe and beyond, but actually comes through US companies across 40 different American states. So, these are pieces of equipment and different war aiding machinery, etc., that are actually produced right here in the United States. So, it's not like we're just writing a check and sending it over there. Two years on, we think that Ukraine has fought incredibly valiantly for, for, for their people and their land and their freedom. They have held off Russia. Um, they have gotten back 50% of the land that Russia has sought to take. They have opened up the Black Sea to get grain shipments out. So crucial not just for Ukraine, but for so many of the countries around the world and north and other parts of Africa that rely on it. And we've seen that this is a strategic failure for Russia. Russia, which has lost, we think, about 200,000 of its own people conscripted, forced to join the military.

PRENTICE: And to that point, Vladimir Putin seems to have mortgaged the present and the future of the Russian people on this conflict.

KANE: I think that's an absolutely correct way of putting it. And we see whether it's  Alexei Navalny or other people who have fled Russia who are speaking out on this. If they can flee Russia, just shut down the way that Americans would primarily communicate with Russians through Radio Free Europe. Radio Liberty, which is part of the overall Voice of America radio establishment. We were doing pretty well, reaching about 10% of the Russian population, which is significant given that that country does not have respect of freedom of the press. But you're absolutely right. And we hope that Russians can access information that is credible and true so that they can see what Putin is doing to their country.

PRENTICE: What will be a turning point, though?  The next package of aid from our country?

KANE: The next package of aid is incredibly important. And as you and I'm sure many of your listeners know, there's been a supplemental package before Congress that our president put forth in in last fall of 2023, and that needs to be passed for Ukraine to be able to continue to fight for its freedom.

PRENTICE: A good many young men and women are looking up to you quite literally today...and over the last couple of days here in Idaho, I'm going to guess this has always been a noble calling for you. Can you convince them that it indeed continues to be a noble calling if they want to... be... well…you?

KANE: I hope so. I talked a lot about - last night and this morning with the kids - about combining a love for international affairs in general and service, which I feel so much being here in, in Boise, whether it's through Frank Church Institute and Society, whether it's visiting the incredible and touching Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, funded by an amazing Idahoan Greg Carr, who's worked to help transform a country where I have served Mozambique. So, I feel that that service and that community, I think we feel that a lot across many communities in the United States. So, I felt that energy from the kids. It's not always easy. And we talked about that too. They were interested in what it's like to be far from home, far from friends and family. But it is, I think, an honor to serve the United States abroad. And while sometimes have been more difficult than others, it continues to be an honor that I really love doing.

PRENTICE: Tell me if this is none of my business, but are there moments when you choose not to tell people what you do for a living in social settings? Because everyone either has an opinion, or wants to just get your ear, on almost anything and everything.

KANE: That is...is sometimes the case. Indeed. And I'll share that whenever I'm in a different city, whether it's in the United States or elsewhere, I enjoy conversations with taxi drivers or Uber drivers. And this morning we had a really interesting conversation with a local Boise Uber driver. We didn't say we're from the State Department or that I'm a diplomat, but we did say we're from Washington, D.C., and he guessed from the government.

PRENTICE: So, did you get the real deal?

KANE: He gave us an earful. He gave us an earful. And he was so polite and apologized and had a lot of negative things, frankly, to say about the government and said,  "But not you guys. Not you guys." But he also said, "So I pay your salaries." And I said, "Yes, you do." And that is part of the reason we're out here, because, yes, we are funded by the US taxpayer, and we work on behalf of Americans. And we know that international relations can seem really far away from anybody in the United States, including here in Idaho. But we do want people to know when we're out there trying for better economic security and democratic systems around the world, that we're doing it for the United States and for the American people.

PRENTICE: She is Kristin Kane, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of State. And thank you for what you do every day, to you and your colleagues. And thanks for giving me some time this morning.

KANE: Thank you so much. Great to be here. Thank you, George.

George Prentice@georgepren

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