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US ambassador 'developed poor relationships' with Singapore ministries, threatened embassy staff: State Department audit

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Jonathan Kaplan (left), during a Senate confirmation hearing on Oct 20, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo: AFP)

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02 Mar 2024 12:14PM (Updated: 02 Mar 2024 01:26PM)

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SINGAPORE: A report by the US State Department's internal watchdog has revealed several shortcomings by the US ambassador to Singapore, including unauthorized spending and ineffective dealings with the Singapore government.

The audit by the Office of Inspector General found the Ambassador Jonathan Kaplan did not "model integrity, plan strategically, collaborate, or communicate" and recommended a review of his conduct and performance.

The report, dated February 2024 and released on Friday (Mar 1), also uncovered morale issues at the US embassy in Singapore, many of which the report directly attributed to Mr Kaplan.

Embassy staff cited by the report described fear and direct threats of reprisal from Mr Kaplan. Employees described his mannerisms as "belittling and intimidating" and also accused him of speaking "disparagingly about US government employees and the (State) Department".

On foreign policy, Mr Kaplan was said to have "developed poor relationships" with some Singapore government ministries to the extent that, in some cases, his actions "hurt progress" on State Department goals and objectives.

"Specifically, it was described that the Ambassador often was unprepared on issues and made statements that were counterproductive to a section’s work," said the report.

It described staff noting that Mr Kaplan ought to have held more meetings at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which the ambassador told the Office of Inspector General that such meetings were "unproductive with only an exchange of talking points and no real discussions".

The audit also found that Mr Kaplan had limited contacts with Singapore's traditional media. It said that at the time of inspection, he had held only two press events since arriving in Singapore in December 2021.

Mr Kaplan's response was that there was "no need" to deal with Singapore's traditional media and that he preferred to use social media. The report noted that his official Instagram account had 825 followers as of March 2023, a number that has since grown to 4,770.

Claire's Observations:  how, in the name of Heaven, did this guy get his job?!?  Is complete tone-deafness a requisite to deal with foreign dignitaries and your own staff?!?  Was he a major Biden contributor whose money exploits as a fund raiser landed him his position?

I found the answer this morning with a Google search:  "According to the Campaign Legal Centre, he (Kaplan) donated more than US$100,000 to Democratic campaigns in the 10 years before his appointment."  That's $10,000 per year.

Looks like money - wisely spent in campaign donations- can "earn" one an ambassadorship, in the US of A.  Forget any nuances in language, culture, or history of the country to which you are assigned; this is "pay for play", writ large.