“She saw the war”: What awaits Biden’s ambassadorial election in Ukraine?

It helps that the election of President Joe Biden — career U.S. Field Service officer Bridget Brink — has the unwavering support of her predecessors.

“Bridget has a lot of managerial experience, a lot of leadership experience,” Marie Yovanovitch, Washington’s last ambassador to Ukraine, told POLITICO. “She knows how to put teams together and lead them to success. And I think she will. She is very strong.”

“She’ll be great for the job,” William Taylor, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, said in a phone interview. The high-stakes situation she will find herself in in Ukraine will only motivate her to step up her game, he said. “In a war zone, it just increases the intensity, it increases the importance, it increases the focus,” he said.

Biden’s announcement to appoint Brink to head the US diplomatic mission in Ukraine followed a secret Sunday visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to Kyiv, where they met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a secure, windowless room in his fortress secretariat. Blinken told reporters after safely returning to Poland that he had promised Zelenskyy that American diplomats would return to Ukraine this week and that the new ambassador would arrive soon.

“They will then start looking at how we actually reopen the embassy itself in Kyiv. I think that will happen over a couple of weeks would be my expectation,” Blinken said, suggesting US diplomats could only go as far as western Ukraine for now. “We’re doing it on purpose, we’re doing it carefully, we’re doing it with the safety of our staff first, but we’re doing it.”

If confirmed by the Senate, Brink would become the first American ambassador to Kyiv since Yovanovitch was abruptly removed by former President Donald Trump in 2019, a move that drew heavy criticism during his first impeachment trial. Brink currently serves as US Ambassador to Slovakia, a post she was unanimously confirmed to hold in 2019.

Interviews with Democratic and Republican senators on Monday again point to an early confirmation. Republicans in particular said they are keen to see a Senate-confirmed ambassador on the ground as they urge Biden to restore the US diplomatic presence in Kyiv, calling Brink a qualified and consensual choice for the job.

“This is a moment when we must act decisively and quickly, with strong bipartisan support,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who was in Ukraine earlier this month and recently met with Brink in Slovakia, in an interview on Monday. “She has the votes to be confirmed at this point.”

“We have to take the lead there,” Sen. Thom Tillis (RN.C.), who was in the area last week, told POLITICO. “These confirmed positions are very, very important. Cannot stress the value enough when traveling abroad.”

Steven Pifer, who served as US Ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000, joined the widespread vote of confidence. “She’s bright. She’s well informed. She’s also a person who could be identified as a person in the fast lane,” he said, recalling her rapid rise through the ranks of the State Department.

“Having the American flag back [in Kyiv] would be a great political message to Ukrainians,” he said. Borrowing from Yovanovitch, he called Brink a “good manager”.

“That’s going to be important,” he added, “because it’s not going to be easy to get things working again.”

It is still unclear when the US will send diplomats back to Kyiv. But wherever Brink is based in Ukraine, be it in the capital or in western Lviv, she will take on the role “in a completely different situation” than any of her predecessors, Yovanovitch said.

Yovanovitch served as ambassador to Ukraine during the war, but during her tenure, the Russian military operation was less intense, limited, and confined to the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. After all-out fighting from spring 2014 to winter 2015, the war devolved into a war of attrition, with troops mostly pelting each other with small grenades from a labyrinth of WWI-style bunkers and trenches.

Brink will be Washington’s top diplomat in Ukraine while the country is under heavy attack from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces. While the Kremlin has withdrawn troops from the Kyiv area, it continues to bombard cities across Ukraine with powerful rockets and bombs, while its ground forces concentrate on much of the territory to the east and south. Russian missiles underscored the danger overnight on Sunday and Monday, hitting five rail lines – vital links for the delivery of humanitarian aid and military supplies – including one in Lviv, just hours before Biden announced Brink’s nomination.

A Russian speaker whose career has focused primarily on Europe and Eurasia, Brink is a household name in Ukrainian circles. She was Assistant Secretary of the Office of European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department for three years, where she worked closely with Yovanovitch while he was in Kyiv.

“She and I bonded and she was my main point of contact in Washington when I first arrived in Ukraine,” Yovanovitch said. “She was my daily partner, calling back and forth and emailing back and forth.” In March 2017, Brink got a first-hand look at the devastation Russian-backed forces were wreaking on eastern Ukraine and met with victims in the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

“She was in the Donbass,” Yovanovitch said. “She saw the war.”

Brink’s greatest task will be to make the Biden administration’s efforts to help Ukraine defeat Russia the starting point. The unprovoked war has killed thousands of civilians, displaced some 5 million others and leveled entire cities in just 61 days. Taylor said few people are as willing as Brink to take on such a challenging role at a critical moment. “She’s very experienced,” he said. “She knows the region, she knows the problems.”

The day after Putin launched his all-out invasion of Ukraine, Brink visited the Slovakian border, where she said in a statement She witnessed “the heartbreaking scene of Ukrainian women and children” fleeing the Russian attack.

One thing Brink is unlikely to have much to do with, at least in the short term, is the role of arbiter between Zelenskyi’s government and ruling party and the competing political factions and recalcitrant former presidents who often quarrel. On an unprecedented scale, Russia’s war has quashed longstanding squabbles between rivals and smoothed out the chaotic and complicated world of Ukrainian politics as the country bands together to defeat a common enemy.

“While the war goes on – until the Ukrainians win – I bet this unit will win. The heads of the so-called opposition are now supporting the President,” Taylor said. But eventually Brink will have to enter the chaotic and grim world of Ukrainian politics.

“Ukraine is a real democracy. When they win and when they’re back in the rebuilding and when they’re back in the reform effort and when they’re back in the EU bid and all those political issues, politics will come back. Because there is real democracy, there is real debate,” Taylor said.

A foreign official who worked with Brink and spoke to POLITICO on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues, described her as “dedicated and hardworking” and “a what-are-we-doing-today-around-the-world.” -to rescue”. kind of person.”

“She knows how the Washington machine works and because she’s so close [Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria] Nuland, she’s very well connected. She knows the people in the White House well and gets things done,” the official said.

If Brink has one flaw, the official said, it’s “that she has this view that there’s good and bad. Things are not black and white in Ukraine. That could be their disadvantage.”

How quickly Brink can take up the new post as ambassador depends largely on how quickly the Senate can confirm her. On Capitol Hill, senators from both sides of the aisle expressed support for getting them to Ukraine quickly.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will “prioritize” Brink’s nomination and “move it as soon as possible.” But it requires the approval of all 100 senators to quickly confirm a candidate; Otherwise, it could take up to a week for the procedural hurdles to be cleared.

“I don’t want to see it [senators] Somehow I used this nomination as a bargaining chip,” said Daines. “Ambassador Brink has made it clear that she wants diplomatic representation to be restored in Ukraine.”

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (DN.J.) said he will attempt to hold a hearing on her nomination as soon as Biden formally submits it to the Senate, and Democrats predicted a quick confirmation.

“If you have ‘Ukraine’ in the title of anything these days, you stand a chance of expedited approval in the United States Senate,” joked Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “This is a career official who has no political red flags. … I’d be surprised if we couldn’t get 100 people to do the right thing here.”

A joker could be Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who tried in 2020 to subpoena Brink as part of his investigation into President Hunter’s son and possible conflicts of interest. Brink eventually sat down for a voluntary interview with Johnson’s investigators.

Johnson told POLITICO on Monday he hasn’t made up his mind yet: “I’d have to look at what she did in our investigation. It’s been a few years.”

When asked what she would tell Brink about the role she is preparing for, Yovanovitch said she “wouldn’t presume to give her any advice.”

“I think she knows exactly what to do.” “She saw the war”: What awaits Biden’s ambassadorial election in Ukraine?

Fry Electronics Team

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