Top Russia Official at Pentagon Resigns After Obama Meets with Putin

Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama
Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama / AP
September 29, 2015

Evelyn Farkas, the top official at the Pentagon overseeing military relations with Russia and Ukraine, will resign at the end of October, according to a senior defense official.

Politico reported that Farkas will leave her position as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia after working in the Department of Defense for five years. The move comes just a day after President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss Moscow’s recent military buildup in Syria.

"She has advised three secretaries of defense on Russia policy, providing steady counsel on how the U.S. should respond to Russia’s aggressive actions and has been deeply involved in securing $244 million in support for Ukraine," the senior official said of Farkas’ forthcoming resignation.

"In addition, Evelyn has brought fresh thinking to Southeast Europe policies--supporting Montenegro’s interest in joining NATO, expanding defense cooperation with Georgia, and increasing multilateral cooperation with the three Caucasus nations."

A separate senior official at the Defense Department said that the Pentagon will be left "weaker" when Farkas resigns.

"There are not a lot of Europe experts in this administration who have a long record of accomplishment. There’s no doubt this leaves the Pentagon weaker in terms of its policy-making on European issues," the official said.

There has been consistent debate within the Obama administration on whether to provide Ukraine lethal aid to combat Russian aggression. While the president opposes such action, some officials, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter, have indicated they would consider it.

Farkas’ resignation comes less than a year after Obama pushed former secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to resign after he called for a stronger U.S. response to Russian action in Ukraine.