Alexander "Sandy" Vershbow was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and attended the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School before moving on to Yale College, from which he graduated in 1974. Until October 2008, he was the United States Ambassador to South Korea; he was appointed to the position in October 2005. Before that post he had been the ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2001 to 2005 and the ambassador to NATO from 1998 to 2001. For his work with NATO he was awarded the State Department's Distinguished Service Award.
In March, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Vershbow as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, a position that, if confirmed, will give him responsibility for U.S. policy toward NATO, coordination of U.S. security and defense policies relating to the nations and international organizations of Europe, the Middle East and Africa..
Early in his tenure as ambassador to South Korea he generated controversy by continuing the hard line on North Korea begun by his predecessor Christopher Hill. He pressed North Korea on the issues of human rights and superdollars, calling the government a "criminal regime", and called on them to return to the Six-Party Talks. The South Korean government has asked him to tone down his rhetoric, in accordance with their Sunshine Policy, and one lawmaker even tried to have him expelled from the country. In January 2006 his attempt to meet with the Korea Internet Journalists' Association, which describes itself as 'progressive', was blocked by protestors from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.