Ambassador James Cunningham

Ambassador James B. Cunningham retired from government service at the end of 2014, and is currently a consultant, a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and an adjunct faculty member at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School.

He served as Ambassador to Afghanistan (August 2012 to December 2014), and as Deputy Ambassador (2011 – 2012). He was Ambassador to Israel (2008 -2011), Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau (2005 – 2008), Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (1999 – 2004), and Acting Permanent Representative to the United Nations for the first nine months of 2001, including on 9/11.

After early tours in Stockholm, Washington, Rome, and the US Mission to NATO, NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner selected Ambassador Cunningham as his Chief of Staff (1988 – 1990). He advised the Secretary General on all NATO issues in the context of nuclear disarmament in Europe, the collapse of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany, and the impending dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union.

Just after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Ambassador Cunningham became Deputy Political Counselor at the US Mission to the United Nations. In 1992, he became the Deputy Director of the State Department Office of European Security and Political Affairs (1992 – 1993) and then Director (1993 – 1995). He served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy in Rome (1996 – 1999).

Ambassador Cunningham was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with degrees in political science and psychology. He is married to Leslie Genier of Mineville, New York. They have two daughters. Ambassador Cunningham is the recipient of multiple awards from the State Department, the National Performance Review’s Hammer Award for Innovation in Management, the President’s Meritorious Service Award (twice), and has received prestigious awards from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Secretary of Defense, and the President of Afghanistan.  In 2016, Syracuse University honored him with its Arents Award for distinguished public service. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society, and the American Academy of Diplomacy. 

The General and The Ambassador