President Biden plans to nominate Bridget Brink to serve as the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the White House announced Monday. The move is intended to fill a position that has remained officially vacant for three years — and is now even more crucial during the Russian invasion.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on the heels of a visit to Kyiv that Brink, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, is “deeply experienced in the region” and “will be a very strong representative for the United States in Ukraine.”
The announcement came as Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in the first high-level U.S. visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began.
The officials said U.S. diplomatic operations would resume this week in Ukraine, in a first step toward reopening the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Brink’s “decades of experience make her uniquely suited for this moment in Ukraine’s history,” the State Department said in a statement Monday.
Ukraine has not had a U.S. ambassador since 2019. Brink’s nomination is intended to fill a diplomatic void that has remained since President Donald Trump unceremoniously removed Marie Yovanovitch from the position in 2019 — a move that was scrutinized during Trump’s first impeachment inquiry.
Brink, whose Foreign Service career spans more than 26 years, is no stranger to escalating tensions in Eastern Europe.
From 2015 to 2018, she served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, with a close eye on ongoing tensions within the territory of the former Soviet Union. She also served in Uzbekistan and Georgia, two other former Soviet republics, and held an assignment on the White House National Security Council.
Brink supported Slovakia’s entry into NATO in 2004 and became the U.S. ambassador to the country in 2019, a position she currently holds.
During her 2019 swearing-in ceremony, Brink recounted the significance of seeing the Berlin Wall fall in 1989 as a student at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She also emphasized what she described as an “enduring transatlantic link” that ran through her family.
Her husband’s grandmother, she said, survived the Manchester Blitz of World War II, while Brink’s own grandfather, a doctor, treated Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was the American commander of the war in Europe.
“According to family lore, my grandfather took General Eisenhower’s blood pressure, and it was a bit high,” Brink said in her speech. “‘General,’ he said, ‘lie down for a few minutes and think happy thoughts.’ He did, and my grandfather was able to report that General Eisenhower passed his physical. The rest, so they say, is history.”
As U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, Brink said her priorities were to “continue our strong cooperation in the defense sector, look for ways to increase trade and investment and speak loudly and clearly for the shared values that underpin the transatlantic bond.”
“This is a big task, and one lesson I have learned in government is that nothing is ever done alone,” she added.
Moscow has often cited the expansion of the transatlantic alliance closer to Russia’s borders as the rationale for the country’s invasion of Ukraine. If confirmed, Brink would have to navigate the challenges of maintaining Western countries’ response to Russia while making sure the conflict does not escalate to the point of nuclear warfare. Russian officials have threatened to move nuclear weapons to the Baltic region if NATO keeps expanding.
The pipeline from ambassadorship candidacy to confirmation is often delayed by an unwieldy mix of bureaucracy, politics and legal requirements. But having already been confirmed by the Senate for her current posting could expedite her expected appointment to Ukraine.
Early in the Russian invasion, Brink visited Slovakia’s border with Ukraine, where she said she witnessed the “heartbreaking scene” of refugees fleeing violence.
“My heart is with every victim of this senseless war,” she wrote in a statement.
— Missy Ryan contributed to this report