WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s nominee to be US ambassador to Ukraine told senators Tuesday she does not underestimate the task ahead if she is confirmed.
“I would assess the challenge to be enormous,” Bridget Brink, a veteran foreign service officer, said at her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But Brink, who currently serves as the US Ambassador to the Slovak Republic, said she’s heartened by the “remarkable” international coalition that’s come together to “push back against Russia’s war of choice in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen in my 25 years in the service.”
Senators from both parties praised Brink’s background and called it urgent to get her on the job.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we get someone there,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
The US has not had a confirmed US ambassador to Ukraine since 2019, when then-President Donald Trump yanked Marie Yovanovitch from the role. The embassy has been run by a series of interim leaders since then.
In the run-up to Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, US diplomats left Kyiv amid security concerns. The embassy staff has been working from Poland temporarily; Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said they will reopen the embassy in Kyiv but has not given a specific timeline.
Noting that other countries have re-opened their embassies, Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, pressed for action.
“We sure don’t want to be last to the party,” Risch said. “So we need to move along as best we can.”
Brink said she hopes the embassy will be operational in time for her to start her mission in Kyiv.
If Brink is confirmed, asexpected, her portfolio would include everything from shepherding military and humanitarian aid to coordinating US assistance to the war-crimes documentation effort to, eventually, helping Ukraine rebuild.
“There will be a lot of scrutiny from Washington on all of this,” Risch warned. He particularly encouraged Brink to not let Ukraine allow “the fog of war” to keep them from making necessary internal reforms.
Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass, likewise said he’s worried that Ukraine “will win the war and lose the peace” if it doesn’t reject what he called an addiction to a corrupt way of operating.
“Their political system has to change,” he said.
Brink said the “serious and difficult internal reforms” needed will be “the biggest challenge, next step challenge, for the Ukrainian government.”
Brink has spent her two-plus decades at the State Department immersed in European and Eurasian affairs, including assignments in Uzbekistan and Georgia.
Before her current ambassador post, Brink served as a top adviser in 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 release.