Biden’s Ukrainian ambassador pick in U.S. Senate smooth sailing

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© Reuters. A photo shows the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, on February 12, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

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Patricia Zengler

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden has been nominated to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, veteran diplomat Bridget Brink, after a smooth confirmation hearing on Tuesday. Confirmation for a key position that has been vacant for three years is expected to be easy.

Just two weeks after Biden submitted his nomination to the Senate, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held Brinker’s hearing, underscoring both Biden’s desire for a new nomination under Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Send an ambassador to support him in the face of a Russian invasion.

Brinker, a native of Wolverine, speaks Russian, and is currently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. She has been a career diplomat for 25 years, working in Uzbekistan and Georgia, and has held various senior positions in the State Department and the White House National Security Council.

Brinker was confirmed by a unanimous vote in 2019 when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for the Bratislava post.

The committee’s Democratic chairman, Senator Bob Menendez, said he hoped Brinker would be confirmed soon. “Your appointment … sends a powerful message to the world: We stand with Ukraine and the free world will not abandon those who fought to protect it,” Menendez said.

Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the panel, also said he expected Brinker to be confirmed.

In recent years, nominees for many ambassadorial positions have waited months for Senate approval, reflecting deep partisan divisions in Washington.

Support Kyiv

Biden and Congress have been ramping up support for the Kyiv government since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Brinker said she would seek to “reopen the U.S. embassy in Ukraine as soon as possible” if confirmed.

The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine only returned to Kyiv on Sunday, a major step toward restoring a full U.S. presence in Kyiv after leaving before the invasion over security concerns.

On Monday, congressional leaders agreed to provide Kyiv with nearly $40 billion in additional aid — much of it military. The House is scheduled to vote on the aid later on Tuesday, and the Senate will follow suit within days.

The position in Kyiv has been vacant since Trump recalled then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Mary Yovanovitch in May 2019.

When Yovanovitch later testified, Trump faced impeachment for withholding military aid to pressure Zelensky to investigate Biden, seen as Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives has impeached Trump. He was acquitted in the Republican-led Senate.

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