Ambassador John J. Sullivan, former US deputy secretary of state and former US ambassador to the Russian Federation, is a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington DC and New York offices and co-lead of the firm’s National Security practice. He is also a Distinguished Fellow at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University and a leading authority on national security and foreign affairs.
Ambassador Sullivan advises clients on global risk and foreign policy, as well as US sanctions and export controls, international trade disputes and regulation, foreign investment, and other sensitive issues at the intersection of international commerce and national security policy. In addition to his expertise in foreign policy and, in particular, US-Russia relations, he has worked extensively on trade issues important to multinational companies doing business around the world, including as the US deputy secretary of commerce.
Ambassador Sullivan’s career spans four decades in public service in prominent diplomatic and legal positions under five US presidents and in private law practice at Mayer Brown. Before rejoining the Firm in January 2023, he was the US ambassador to Russia from December 2019 to October 2022. During his tenure, he led the US Embassy through the most challenging period in US-Russia relations in generations.
Prior to his post in Moscow, Ambassador Sullivan served for almost three years as the deputy secretary of state after a bipartisan 94-6 confirmation vote in the US Senate in 2017. In this senior role, he was responsible for both the formulation and conduct of US foreign policy and the management of the State Department’s global operations. He was the acting secretary of state in March-April 2018, among the longest tenures in history of anyone in that position.
In private practice at Mayer Brown, which he first joined in 1993, Ambassador Sullivan has been a member of the Supreme Court and Appellate practice and was a co-founder of the National Security practice. From 2010 to 2016, he served by appointment of the Obama Administration as chair of the US-Iraq Business Dialogue, a government advisory committee of business leaders on US commercial relations with Iraq.
Previously, Ambassador Sullivan held senior positions in the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Commerce in two prior administrations. Until January 2009, he was the deputy secretary of commerce under President George W. Bush, following his service from 2005 to 2007 as the general counsel of the department. In President Bush’s first term, he was appointed deputy general counsel of the Defense Department by Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. In the George H.W. Bush Administration, Ambassador Sullivan was counselor to Assistant Attorney General J. Michael Luttig in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
Ambassador Sullivan received his bachelor’s degree from Brown University and his law degree from the Columbia University School of Law, where he was Book Reviews Editor of the Columbia Law Review. He was a law clerk for Associate Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States, and for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Ambassador Sullivan is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and a Distinguished Senior Fellow in the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Secretary of State's Distinguished Service Award; the Department of State's Distinguished Honor Award; the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency's Ambassador of the Year Award; the Defense Intelligence Director's Award; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Joint Meritorious Civilian Service Award; the Secretary of Defense's Medal for Exceptional Public Service; and the Columbia University School of Law, DC Alumni Association, Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Columbia Law School, JD
Book Reviews Editor, Columbia Law Review; Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar; Teaching Fellow
Brown University, AB, History and Political Science
- District of Columbia
- New York
- US Supreme Court
- US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
- US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- US District Court for the District of Columbia
- US District Court for the Eastern District of New York
- US District Court for the Southern District of New York
- Distinguished Fellow, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, 2022-present
- Distinguished Senior Fellow, National Security Law Program, Columbia University School of Law, 2023-present
- Advisory Board, The Vandenberg Coalition, 2022-present
- Associate Member, American Foreign Service Association, 2022-present
- Chair, US-Iraq Business Dialogue, 2010-2016
- Member, Business Executives for National Security, 2013-2016
- Board of Directors, Air Force Judge Advocate General’s School Foundation, Inc., 2010-2016
- Board of Directors, Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, Inc., 2011-2014
- Adviser on National Security Policy and Member, Justice Advisory Committee, Romney for President, 2011-2012
- Vice-Chair, ABA International Trade Committee, 2009-2011