WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Ukraine promised senators Tuesday she would work to make Russia's invasion of that country a “strategic failure,” in a war-zone appointment that for the time being will focus more on coordinating Western weapon shipments for Ukraine's forces than on diplomacy.
Bridget Brink, who has spent the majority of her 25-year diplomatic career in former Soviet republics, spoke to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ahead of what's expected to be her easy Senate confirmation.
The post has been vacant since former President Donald Trump abruptly forced out Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in 2019. She later became a key figure in the first impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Committee Republicans and Democrats alike Tuesday emphasized getting Brink confirmed and in place in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, as soon as possible, as Ukraine's forces are in their fourth month of battling invading Russian troops, with the help of an extraordinary campaign of military and financial support by the United States and European allies.
“It's absolutely crucial to have an ambassador,” Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, told Brink. The United States closed its embassy in Kyiv in the weeks before Russian forces rolled in to Ukraine in a so-far unsuccessful attack on a pro-Western Ukrainian government eager to ally with NATO and the European Union.
Brink told senators she would work to fully reopen the U.S. embassy in Ukraine's capital and take up her work in the country, but said she could give no timeframe for that. She noted the outside of the embassy complex appeared to have what she called superficial damage.
Russian forces have launched occasional strikes on the capital but failed in their initial attempts to surround and lay siege to the city.
Advancing U.S. strategic interests in Ukraine “means being present,” she said.
Much of her work as the war rages will involve working with U.S. and other military leaders overseeing the billions of dollars of weapons and aid that the U.S. is pouring into the country, as Russian forces regroup to try to take control of more of Ukraine's east and south.
“Most people assess that these next few weeks and maybe longer are critical to the outcome of this war of choice” on Russia’s part,” Brink said.
“What we are trying to do as an administration is move security items as fast as possible to Ukraine,” Brink said.
Serving U.S. strategic interests in a stable, peaceful Europe means working to ensure “that Russia’s effort to dominate Ukraine is a strategic failure,” she told senators.
Brink's nomination is expected to move quickly to a vote by the committee and then the full Senate.
The administration's ambassador nominations have begun moving relatively quickly through the Senate. Ambassador nominees for South Korea, Chad and Australia getting their Senate hearings or winning confirmation in recent days.
That's after long months in which three Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida, blocked action on dozens of appointments to pressure President Joe Biden on unrelated issues. Objections included Hawley's demand that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin resign over U.S. handling of its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press