Lauri Lepik, a long-time member of Estonia’s diplomatic service, was announced to be his country’s ambassador to the United States in February 2017. He presented his credentials on September 8.
Lepik was born October 14, 1960, in Tallinn, Estonia, which was then one of the Soviet Union’s satellite states. He attended Tallinn 7th Secondary School before going to Tallinn Pedagogical Institute, earning a B.A. in library and information science in 1985. Later, in 2003, Lepik earned an M.A. in political science from Humboldt University in Germany.
Lepik’s career began on a more conventional note for someone with his educational background; beginning in 1987, he was research director for the National Library of Estonia. But in 1992, Lepik moved to a post in the State Chancellery, which works on policy and national security issues for the Office of the Prime Minister. Lepik became an adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1995 and the following year had his first posting in Estonia’s Washington embassy, as political advisor, serving for a time as chargé d’affaires and as defense counselor.
Lepik took a leave of absence from the foreign ministry in 2000 because his wife, Riina Kionka, was named Estonia’s ambassador to Germany. While on leave, Lepik worked as a researcher for the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute.
In 2004, Lepik returned to work as the head of the European Security and Defense Policy Bureau in Estonia’s Ministry of Defense. The following year, he was named senior adviser to the security service of Estonia’s mission to NATO and became the delegation’s deputy leader in 2008.
Lepik won his first ambassadorial post in 2011, representing his country in Ukraine and Moldova beginning in November. In September 2012, he moved on become ambassador to NATO. As Russia became more aggressive to its neighbors, Lepik urged that NATO troops be stationed in the Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—as a tripwire to a Russian attack. Indeed, an Estonian military base was converted into a NATO air surveillance base. Lepik remained representative to NATO until being named ambassador to the United States.
With neighboring Russia a constant threat to Estonia, there was concern from some in the region about President Donald Trump’s close relations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Lepik said he was glad that Vice President Mike Pence made a stop in Estonia in the summer of 2017. “That was a highly appreciated visit,” Lepik told The Washington Post. “The administration was engaged, and we were in constant contact.” President Barack Obama had visited Estonia in 2014.
Lepik’s wife, Riina Kionka, who was born in Detroit, is the chief foreign policy advisor to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk. The couple have two children.
Embassy of Estonia
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