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VOA Interview: US Ambassador to Ukraine Brink

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, left, speaks with VOA in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 16, 2022.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said she set out five immediate goals upon her return to Kyiv in a discussion with VOA this week in Kyiv.

Brink, who was confirmed as ambassador to Ukraine in May, discussed U.S. support for Ukraine, priorities and the challenges amid Russia’s ongoing invasion with VOA Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze.

She said she set five immediate goals in reopening the U.S. Embassy in May, from helping Ukraine defend itself to reopening the embassy.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VOA Interview: US Ambassador to Ukraine Brink
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VOA: Can you tell us how you came here during a time of war? And what are the challenges right now in front of this country and in front of the United States supporting this country?

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink: I can't tell you how proud I am to be here and to be back as the U.S. ambassador and to be working with a fantastic team of Americans and Ukrainian staff, so the challenges in front of Ukraine and us are enormous.

When I came I, I set out five goals, immediate goals that we had, and the first is to help Ukraine defend itself. The second is to help ensure accountability and justice for war crimes and atrocities.

The third is to help ensure that humanitarian assistance, especially U.S.-funded assistance, gets to targeted recipients, especially in conflict zones. The fourth is to oversee this massive amount of U.S. assistance and to provide the appropriate oversight from here at post in Kyiv.

And the last and the most fun is to bring our team back together, the Americans and the Ukrainian that make up the embassy and to rebuild our platform. So yes, the challenges in front of Ukraine are very big and in front of all of us, but we are really determined and ready to meet them.

VOA: President (Joe) Biden yesterday announced the additional funding for Ukraine. The United States have been the biggest supporter of Ukraine militarily and financially. You mentioned overseeing how the money is used in this country. What kind of system do you have right now to oversee the money?

Brink: So, there are long-established systems for all of the assistance that we give, including security assistance. And what we're doing now is just making sure … we are playing the appropriate role we need to play here in Kyiv but working with the Ministry of Defense and other parts of the Ukrainian government, so it's important for that. We're here for that and other reasons. But I'm confident that we will be able to do this.

VOA: Is there any special envoy to oversee the support that the United States is giving to Ukraine?

Brink: The way we are doing it is that we'll have our embassy — and so, I'm really happy to be here as the ambassador — and then I will have specific staff and including senior staff that are dedicated to these goals, and more.

VOA: And (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy kind of hinted that the United States is not giving enough or is giving too late. How would you comment on his position?

Brink: Well, I would say that since the beginning of the war and even before, we have been totally focused on getting Ukraine the security items in the weapons that they need as soon as possible. And this is actually my number one focus in coming here. I do think that there were some problems early on, and I'm just here to make sure that everything that we are doing is directly supporting Ukrainians on the front lines and also helping Ukraine improve its battlefield position, which we also believe will help its negotiating position at a time when that is appropriate.

VOA: How is your relationship with the Ukrainian government right now? Do you work on all the levels of Ukrainian government?

Brink: Yes, I think one of the things that I've noticed more than anything having been a diplomat for 25 years is the overwhelming and positive support that I have received from the government, from people outside of government, from the population, and also the support from back home, including the public in my part of the Midwest.

So, I'm really grateful for that. ... I think we understand this is incredibly important for Ukraine and Ukraine's future in existence, but I believe it's also incredibly important to European security and to the United States that we do not allow borders to be changed by force.

VOA: How do you generally see this war? And there's different tactics and different strategies that the United States and other Western countries are using, and, obviously, the United States is taking leadership in building this coalition against Russia. However, Ukrainians are suffering, and as the war is prolonged, how do you see it ending? Do you see a possible peace negotiation?

Brink: Well, (U.S.) Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken has said we are leaving it up to the Ukrainians as to at what time Ukraine would want to negotiate at the conclusion of the war. I know that President Biden has pointed out how President Zelenskyy has said all wars end in negotiation. But again, we're leaving that timing and content up to the Ukrainians.

VOA: What are the United States’ expectations from Ukraine at this point? Before the war, there were talks about the anti-corruption efforts and so on. What are they looking for?

Brink: I might put it a little different way. I think those of us who are such strong supporters within the U.S. government, within the American population, for Ukraine, support Ukraine because we see, or we think we see, and understand the future that Ukrainians want. And that is a future where Ukraine is free, independent, prosperous, sovereign and gets to decide its own future. To us, as Americans, it really appeals to also who we are. So, what I would hope, what I plan to do and what we are doing is supporting Ukraine in this immediate task of prevailing in its effort to defend itself that is crucially important. I think everybody would agree. And I think the government here and the people here would agree that another important task is and will be and will remain the reform effort, which will secure Ukraine for a future for Ukrainian children and their children.

VOA: And this war is not only about Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for a bigger goal, for democracy. Is Ukraine fighting for European values as well? If Ukraine fell, what could be the consequences?

Brink: Well, Ukraine won't fail, and we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. And as I mentioned, this is obviously very important to Ukraine, and it's also really important to European security. It's really important to America, because, as President Biden has said, it's both morally outrageous what has happened, this unprovoked, unjustified attack on a sovereign nation. But it also is in America's vital interest to have peace and security in Europe. So, this is something that has repercussions that go well beyond Ukraine. And for this reason, we all understand very much what's at stake. And that's why we're here to help Ukraine prevail.

VOA: And one more question about the rebuilding efforts in Ukraine. How do you see this process going forward? And do you already have a set coalition to do that?

Brink: Well, I know there's a conference that's coming up in Lugano (Switzerland) in July to talk about this process. I believe that my government in my country will want to support Ukraine in every way possible. I think we will also want Ukraine to take the lead in terms of how best to do that reconstruction. And from what I hear from the government leadership, it's very focused on reform. Focused on building the Ukraine for the future, which I think is something we all can support.