"I think it's problematic for the ongoing relationships between Sweden and the United States to have this ambassador position lay vacant for such a long time," Bruce Karstadt, president and CEO of the American Swedish Institute, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, told Radio Sweden.
"It strikes people within our organization . . . as a real puzzle. Sweden is an important partner to the United States on many fronts, and to ignore that relationship in a certain way by failing to appoint an ambassador strikes people as not terribly helpful, and certainly perhaps damaging to the relationship," said Karstadt.
According to the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, it is US Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, who has been blocking the Senate's vote to confirm President Obama's nominee for that diplomatic post and others, including the US ambassador to Norway. The Huffington Post wrote last summer that Cruz said he would block all of Obama's nominees to the State Department in protest of the nuclear deal that the U.S. and other world powers struck with Iran.
Temporary holds, according to the Star Tribune, are a relatively common political tool used to protest administration policy, from Democrats and Republicans, alike.
The Star Tribune quotes Cruz's office as saying that the Senator has been negotiating about lifting the procedural blocks on the nominations, citing a letter written to the Obama administration last summer, outlining concerns about the Iran nuclear deal as one of the reasons he is objecting to political appointments.
In October of 2014, President Obama nominated Azita Raji to be the US ambassador to Sweden, and her nomination went through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last summer, according to the article. The last US ambassador to Sweden was Mark Brzezinski, finished serving on July 1, 2015. At present, Robert Gilchrist is the Chargé D'Affaires.