WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to Ukraine told senators on Tuesday that she does not underestimate the task ahead of her if confirmed.
“I would consider the challenge to be enormous,” said Bridget Brink, a former foreign service officer, during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But Brink, who is currently the US ambassador to the Slovak Republic, said she was encouraged by the “remarkable” international coalition that has come together to “repel Russia’s war of choice in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen”. in my 25 years of service.
Senators from both parties praised Brink’s track record and said there was an urgent need to put her to work.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we get someone there,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
The United States has not had a confirmed American ambassador to Ukraine since 2019, when then-President Donald Trump removed Marie Yovanovitch from her post. The embassy has been run by a series of interim leaders since then.
On the eve of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, US diplomats left Kyiv due to security concerns. Embassy staff work temporarily from Poland; Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the reopening of the embassy in kyiv, but did not give a specific timetable.
Noting that other countries have reopened their embassies, Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, pushed for action.
“We definitely don’t want to be the last at the party,” Risch said. “So we have to move forward as best we can.”
Brink said she hopes the embassy will be up and running in time for her to begin her assignment in Kyiv.
If Brink is confirmed, as expected, his portfolio would include everything from managing military and humanitarian assistance to coordinating U.S. aid to the war crimes documentation effort to eventually help Ukraine rebuild.
“There will be a lot of scrutiny from Washington on all of this,” Risch warned. He particularly urged Brink not to let Ukraine allow the “fog of war” to prevent it from making the necessary domestic reforms.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, also said he fears Ukraine will “win the war and lose the peace” if it doesn’t reject what he calls an addiction to a corrupt mode of operation.
“Their political system must change,” he said.
Brink said the “serious and difficult internal reforms” needed will be “the biggest challenge, the next challenge, for the Ukrainian government.”
Brink spent more than two decades at the State Department immersed in European and Eurasian affairs, including assignments in Uzbekistan and Georgia.
Prior to her current position as ambassador, Brink served as a senior adviser to the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. She speaks Russian and has studied Slovak, Serbian, Georgian and French, according to her official biography.
The day after Russia invaded, Brink traveled to Slovakia’s border with Ukraine in a show of support as embassy staff worked to help fleeing refugees.
“My heart is with every victim of this senseless war,” she said at the time, according to a State Department statement.