Diplomatic dealings between the United States of America and Ukraine were rather strangely in limbo with the absence till Tuesday of an American ambassador in Kiev. The selection of an envoy will bolster relations between Washington and Kiev after years without an envoy confirmed by the Senate.
A return to America’s diplomatic presence during a war entails new risks for the Biden administration. After months of delay that confounded veteran diplomats, President Biden on Monday announced his intention to nominate for the post-Bridget Brink, the current US ambassador to Slovakia.
A native of Michigan, Ms Brink joined the State Department in 1996 and has served in Serbia, Uzbekistan and Georgia. If confirmed, she will become the high-level interlocutor between Ukraine’s government and the Biden administration.
Thus far, contact has been on a direct basis, in keeping with the gravity of the crisis. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken speaks several times a week with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, and other top US officials are in regular contact with their counterparts.
Even though the United States has been represented by an acting ambassador, analysts say there is no substitute for a designated official in the country to coordinate between multiple departments and agencies.
For now, Ms Brink has no obvious base of operations. The US closed its Kiev embassy shortly be- fore Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and ordered all its diplomats out of the country. None are known to have returned. After a rather secretive US visit to Ukraine last week, Mr Blinken had said that the US would begin to restore its diplomatic presence and hoped the embassy could reopen “over a couple of weeks.”
The return of American diplomats to the country, even to western and central cities hours from the current front lines, inevitably comes with a degree of danger.
Although Russian forces have consolidated to wage a brutal ground war in Ukraine’s south and east, they are still conducting periodic strikes across the country, including a mid-April missile attack in Lviv that killed eight people. Starting this week, diplomats who have been working from eastern Poland will make day trips to the relatively peaceful city of Lyiv in western Ukraine, US officials said. During his visit to Kiev, Mr Blinken said he saw people walking the streets, “evidence of the fact that the battle for Kiev was won and there is what looks from the surface, at least, to be a normal life in Kiev.”