Michele Kelemen

A former NPR Moscow bureau chief, Michele Kelemen now covers the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

In her latest beat, Kelemen has been traveling with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from Asia to the Middle East and Europe, tracking the Obama administration's broad foreign policy agenda. She also followed the two previous Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and was part of the NPR team that won the 2007 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of the war in Iraq.

As NPR's Moscow bureau chief, Kelemen chronicled the end of the Yeltsin era and Vladimir Putin's consolidation of power. She recounted the terrible toll of the latest war in Chechnya and the tragedy of the sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk. She also brought to listeners a lighter side of Russia, with stories about modern day Russian literature and sports.

Kelemen came to NPR in September 1998, after eight years working for the Voice of America. There, she learned the ropes as a news writer, newscaster and show host.

Michele earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Russian and East European Affairs and International Economics.

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5:29am

Sun August 18, 2013
Middle East

Obama Struggles To Find Effective Egypt Policy

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 7:00 pm

President Obama delivers a statement on Egypt at his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard on Thursday.
Pool Getty Images

The Obama administration is in a difficult situation with its Egypt policy.

President Obama, who often talks about free speech and human rights, has cancelled joint military exercises with Egypt but has stopped short of cutting off aid to the Egyptian military. As the violence continues in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities, all sides seem unhappy with the U.S. approach.

In 2009, on his first trip to the Middle East as president, in the same year he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama spoke of a new approach to relations with the Islamic world.

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5:09am

Sat August 10, 2013
National Security

Kerry, Hagel Aim To Ease U.S.-Russian Tensions

Originally published on Sun August 11, 2013 7:43 am

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, walk to their news conference at the Russian Embassy in Washington on Friday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with their Russian counterparts for talks in Washington on Friday, aiming to repair strained relations with Moscow.

President Obama snubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday when he called off plans to go to Moscow next month for a one-on-one summit. He was reacting to Russia's offer of temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

But on Friday, the diplomats seemed eager to show that the dispute is not some new sort of cold war.

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11:33am

Sun August 4, 2013
National Security

Snowden Case Illustrates Decline In U.S.-Russia Relations

Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 6:38 pm

President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Northern Ireland in June.
Evan Vucci AP

U.S.-Russia relations hit a new low this week, when Moscow ignored U.S. requests and gave temporary asylum to a man who leaked classified documents on U.S. government surveillance programs.

Many in Congress are complaining that the Edward Snowden case is just the latest example of how the Kremlin is thumbing its nose at the White House.

The Obama administration famously reset relations with Russia when Dmitry Medvedev was president. But now that Russian President Vladimir Putin is back in the Kremlin, it seems to be having a more difficult time.

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8:21am

Sat July 6, 2013
Political Crisis In Egypt

The U.S. Holds The Aid Card, Yet Egypt Still Trumps

Originally published on Sat July 6, 2013 9:04 pm

Egyptian protesters celebrate in Tahrir Square on Wednesday. The United States has managed to alienate just about every political actor in Egypt.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

The ouster of Mohammed Morsi puts the U.S. in an awkward position: By law, the administration is supposed to cut off aid to a country after a military coup, but Egypt's military has been a key to regional stability. As the administration considers its next steps, it's come under criticism from all sides in Egypt over how it's handling the situation.

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6:05pm

Tue June 25, 2013
National Security

Russia, U.S. At Odds Over Fate Of Edward Snowden

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

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6:08am

Wed June 19, 2013
Middle East

U.S. To Test The Waters With Iran's New President Rohani

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 9:40 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When Barack Obama became president and offered his hand to Iran, that country's elites reacted skeptically. Many said he was a new face, but still represented Iran's great enemy. Now, Iran will have a new face, winner of last week's presidential election, Hassan Rohani. He says he wants better relations with the outside world, so it's America's turn to wonder just how much Rohani could really change in Iran's confrontation with the U.S. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on the evidence so far.

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6:52am

Fri June 14, 2013
Middle East

U.S. To Provide Military Support To Opposition In Syria

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. The Obama administration has shifted policy on Syria with an announcement, last night, that it will step up support for rebels who've been losing ground in recent weeks. The White House says it will start providing direct military support to rebel commanders.

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4:13pm

Fri May 31, 2013
NPR Story

Missile Shipment To Syria Complicates Kerry's Push For Peace

Originally published on Fri May 31, 2013 9:23 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. With the civil war raging in Syria, the U.S. and Russia are making another attempt to get on the same page about how to stop it. Diplomats meet in Geneva next week to try to salvage plans for a June peace conference. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, have run into problems ever since they announced that conference.

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5:30am

Sat May 11, 2013
NPR Story

Kerry's Agenda: Priorities Emerge With Travel

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 8:29 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been in the Middle East, Rome and Russia this week trying to find some kind of diplomatic end to Syria's civil war. He's also been trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Mr. Kerry has been the U.S. secretary of state for just over 100 days, spending more than a third of that time overseas.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on how his tenure at the State Department seems to be shaping up.

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3:44am

Mon May 6, 2013
Europe

Kerry's Visit To Russia A Chance To Talk Syria, Mend Fences

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 9:47 am

Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Russia on Monday — a trip he calls "long overdue."
Alex Brandon AP

Secretary of State John Kerry sets off for what he calls "a long overdue" trip to Russia on Monday, and Syria is likely to top the agenda.

But U.S.-Russian relations are frosty these days. The U.S. is imposing targeted sanctions on Russian human rights violators, while Moscow is preventing American families from adopting Russian children.

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1:52pm

Fri April 26, 2013
Middle East

U.S. Wary As Qatar Ramps Up Support Of Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 4:47 pm

President Obama meets with the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in the Oval Office on Tuesday. The emir is among a series of visiting Middle East leaders urging the U.S. to take a greater role in the Syrian conflict.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

President Obama has been hosting a series of visitors from the Middle East, and all of them have been urging the U.S. to get more involved in Syria.

They have included the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose country has been arming rebel forces in Syria. Obama wants to see such aid go to moderates — but that requires more cooperation with partners like Qatar. Problem is, they don't always see eye to eye.

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5:12am

Sun April 14, 2013
Middle East

Syria Conflict Brings Middle East Leaders To White House

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 3:54 pm

A Syrian rebel patrols the area in the Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern city of Aleppo, on Thursday.
Dimitar Dilkoff AFP/Getty Images

In the coming weeks, the Obama administration plays host to the leaders of several Middle Eastern nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan.

They are coming, in part, to register their concerns about the ongoing violence in Syria and to nudge the Obama administration to do more to tip the balance in favor of the rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad.

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3:45am

Wed March 6, 2013
World

John Kerry, A 'Recovering Politician,' Settles Into Diplomatic Role

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 8:44 pm

John Kerry, on his first trip abroad as secretary of state, walks with French President Francois Hollande after their meeting at Elysee Palace in Paris on Feb. 27. Kerry's nine-day trip took him through Europe and the Middle East.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Secretary of State John Kerry describes himself as a recovering politician. He's just getting used to the fact that he can't speak quite as freely as he did when he was a senator.

"Each word means more, each relationship is played differently," he said in an interview with NPR, at the end of a nine-nation swing through Europe and the Middle East. "As a senator, you just don't have those stakes riding in it."

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5:22pm

Tue March 5, 2013
Middle East

Kerry: We're Trying To Offer Syrian President A Rational Choice

Originally published on Tue March 5, 2013 6:20 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As Secretary of State John Kerry wraps up his first official trip overseas, he's walking a fine line on Syria. Kerry says the Obama administration has been stepping up assistance to rebels who are trying to topple the Syrian regime. But the U.S. is also worried about how all of this will play out. NPR's Michele Kelemen spoke with the secretary of State today in Doha, Qatar, and he said he's taking this one step at a time.

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5:49am

Sun March 3, 2013
Middle East

Amid Egypt's Divisive Climate, Kerry Urges Economic Action

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 11:27 am

Secretary of State John Kerry (center, right) meets with members of Egyptian political parties in Cairo on Saturday.
Khaled ElFiqi AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walked into a chaotic situation in Egypt, the first Arab country he's visited in his new role. The country is in economic and political turmoil, and he is trying Sunday to encourage Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to open up the political process and carry out much-needed reforms. After their meeting, he announced the U.S. would release $190 million in aid to Egypt.

Kerry has also been hearing complaints from opposition figures, who have vowed to boycott upcoming elections.

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5:21am

Tue February 26, 2013
Europe

Kerry Stops In Berlin On European Tour

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 9:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Syrian opposition leaders say they plan to attend a conference this week in Rome. They want to see what the new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has to offer to help them bring an end of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The opposition leaders had been threatening to boycott the meeting, but Kerry is promising he won't leave them dangling in the wind. NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Kerry this week on his first trip overseas as secretary of state. She filed this report from Berlin.

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5:05am

Sun February 24, 2013
National Security

Overseas Trip A Road Test For Secretary Of State Kerry

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 7:34 am

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press prior to talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the State Department in Washington on Friday.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

John Kerry sets off Sunday on his first foreign trip as secretary of state, visiting Europe and the Middle East.

One dominant theme of the trip will be how to resolve the crisis in Syria, where an estimated 70,000 people have been killed over the past two years. Kerry is portraying his trip as a listening tour, and he expects to hear a lot about Syria.

He told reporters recently that he wants to talk with U.S. allies about how to persuade Bashar Assad to agree on peace talks that would end the Syrian leader's bloody rule in Syria.

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6:02pm

Tue February 5, 2013
Europe

Bulgaria Links Hezbollah To Deadly Attack On Israelis

Originally published on Sun February 10, 2013 8:51 am

Bulgarian authorities say they have evidence the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah financed and carried out a bomb attack at a Black Sea resort town last year, killing five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian citizen.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov said it was an extremely intensive investigation.

"The results of that investigation leads to a number of persons who are connected to the military wing of Hezbollah," he said.

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3:26am

Fri December 28, 2012
Politics

Assessing Hillary Clinton's Legacy

Originally published on Fri December 28, 2012 12:04 pm

Hillary Clinton, shown here boarding a plane in Prague earlier this month, is preparing to step aside soon as secretary of state. She hasn't said what she plans to do next.
Kevin Lamarque AP

Hillary Clinton is preparing to leave the Obama administration after four years as secretary of state, earning generally high marks and fueling all kinds of speculation about what she wants to do next.

Her boss, President Obama, has paid tribute to her, calling her "tireless and extraordinary," though illness and a concussion have kept her out of public view for the past two weeks.

"More than 400 travel days, nearly 1 million miles," President Obama proclaimed at a diplomatic reception recently. "These are not frequent flier miles. She doesn't get discounts."

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1:51pm

Fri December 21, 2012
National Security

John Kerry Already A Familiar Face To World Leaders

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 9:21 pm

U.S. Sen. John Kerry (left), who was nominated Friday to be secretary of state, is shown shaking hands with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during a trip to Pakistan last year.
Aamir Qureshi AFP/Getty Images

Long before President Obama nominated John Kerry as the country's top diplomat, the Massachusetts senator was seen as a secretary of state in waiting.

He has been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has frequently jetted off to Afghanistan and Pakistan whenever the Obama administration needed him.

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4:42am

Fri December 14, 2012
Politics

Rice Drops Out Of Race For Secretary Of State

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 6:06 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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6:36am

Tue December 11, 2012
National Security

U.S. Adds Syrian Rebel Group To Terror List

Originally published on Tue December 11, 2012 10:55 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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4:54pm

Thu December 6, 2012
Middle East

U.S., Russia Try To Find Common Ground On Syria

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 6:40 pm

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech at Dublin City University in Ireland on Thursday. She also met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss Syria.
Kevin Lamarque AFP/Getty Images

As Syrian fighting intensifies in Syria, diplomatic efforts are also heating up.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the main international envoy to Syria were all in Dublin for an international gathering Thursday. The meeting came as Syria's opposition tries to get better organized to offer a real alternative to President Bashar Assad's regime.

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5:00pm

Fri November 30, 2012
U.S.

U.N. Ambassador Rice Not The Typical Diplomat

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 8:24 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has had a tough week. At the U.N., Rice had to explain to the world why the Obama administration was part of a small minority voting against the Palestinian statehood bid. She's also been under attack as a potential secretary of state. And as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, her critics seem to be growing in number.

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5:25am

Sat November 17, 2012
Politics

Secretary Of State Speculation Turns Up Heat On Rice

Originally published on Sat November 17, 2012 1:41 pm

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to the media at U.N. headquarters in April.
Seth Wenig AP

President Obama hasn't even named his choice to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who plans to step down at the end of this term. But there's been a lot of heated rhetoric this week over one of the front-runners, Susan Rice.

Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spoke on behalf of the administration on five Sunday talk shows days after the attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. At the time, she suggested the attack began as a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video. U.S. officials now say it was a terrorist attack.

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4:05am

Thu November 15, 2012
Politics

Obama's Visit To Myanmar: Too Much, Too Soon?

Originally published on Thu November 15, 2012 8:15 pm

A newspaper with a front-page photo of President Obama is displayed at a press house in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, on Thursday, ahead of Obama's visit.
Soe Than Win AFP/Getty Images

When President Obama sets off to Asia this weekend to highlight his so-called pivot to the region, he will make a bit of history: Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar.

The country, also known as Burma, was a pariah state for decades, ruled by a ruthless military dictatorship. That is changing, and the Obama administration has encouraged a dramatic reform process in the country. But it may be too early for a victory lap.

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4:38pm

Wed November 14, 2012
World

Obama Defends U.N. Envoy Amid Republican Attack

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 8:16 pm

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is considered a leading candidate to become the next secretary of state. Leading Senate Republicans say they would seek to block her if she's nominated.
Mario Tama Getty Images

President Obama sounds like he's in for a fight over the woman who could be the next secretary of state. Republicans have been blasting U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for the way she characterized the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11.

But the president came to her defense in his news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me," he told reporters.

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4:32am

Wed October 10, 2012
National Security

House Panel To Examine Consulate Attack In Libya

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 6:48 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

A House committee is investigating last month's attack that killed the ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at a consulate in the city of Benghazi. And today, senior State Department officials will be on the receiving end of politically-charged questions. Republicans say that the Obama administration rejected repeated requests for more security.

NPR's Michele Kelemen has more.

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6:50am

Sun October 7, 2012
The Two-Way

The U.N.'s 'Superhero Man': A Rocking Tribute To A Humanitarian

A Norwegian comedy duo managed something rare: to get concert goers cheering for a U.N. official.
YouTube.com

It is not often that a United Nations official gets the crowds roaring. But a Norwegian comedy duo managed to get concert goers cheering for Jan Egeland in this video posted on YouTube, describing Egeland as "a United Nations superhero man" and "a peacekeeping machine":

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7:43am

Sat September 29, 2012
Middle East

U.S. Increases Aid To Syria As Violence Rages On

Originally published on Sat September 29, 2012 3:17 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States will give another $45 million in aid to Syria. That aid will mostly go toward humanitarian assistance, but it will also include communications equipment for the opposition in Syria. The news came at the end of a week of speeches at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, where many raised alarms about the bloodshed in Syria. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

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