Q&A: US Ambassador in Ukraine Reaffirms American Support as War Drags On

Kyiv — U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink is reassuring Ukrainians that Washington intends to help them finish the job as the country enters another year of war against Russian invaders. Since the onset of Russia’s full-scale assault on Feb. 24, 2022, Brink said the U.S. has earmarked billions of dollars to Ukraine’s war effort, all under what she says is strict oversight.

In an interview with VOA Eastern Europe Bureau Chief Myroslava Gongadze, the U.S. diplomat reaffirmed that the U.S. remains committed to supporting Ukraine, despite the growing debate in Washington and in European capitals about the future of funding for military aid to the country.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

VOA: You arrived in Ukraine as a U.S. ambassador a few months after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. How did you find Ukraine back then? And how do you find Ukraine now?

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink: I found Ukraine and Ukrainians tough and resilient. And I find it exactly the same today. And I’m really proud we have supported Ukraine. We just have to help you finish the job.

VOA: Today, Ukraine is in dire need of military support. There are delays in Congress for this support. How are you explaining to Ukrainians why it’s taken so long for the U.S. to decide when and how they will support Ukraine?

Brink: Well, what I’ve been explaining to Ukrainians is that there’s bipartisan support for Ukraine in America and in our Congress. I have been doing and the president and everyone in the administration has been doing everything possible to communicate to Congress and also to the American people why it’s important to support Ukraine. And we will continue to do that.

VOA: Despite Congressional inaction to send much needed support, Pew Research Institute had research [showing] 73% of Americans supporting Ukraine as a national security interest for the United States. There is bipartisan, as you said, support in Congress as well. Is Ukraine winning in the U.S. national interest

Brink: Absolutely, yes. As President [Joe] Biden said, we support Ukraine winning this war, making sure that it’s a strategic defeat for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. And I think there’s broad support for that in the Congress and among the American people.

VOA: Conservative voices in [the U.S.] Congress are asking about accountability on U.S. aid for Ukraine. U.S. inspectors recently visited Kyiv. Can you give us some insight [into how their audits went]? How [does] the accountability process work here in Ukraine?

Brink: I can tell you we’re watching like a hawk from the Embassy. About a third of my team is devoted to oversight. We also have three inspectors general who are at the Embassy, as well. And they have a staff of 400 people around the world. So, there is oversight happening, both with the Ukrainians, with us at the Embassy, and also just generally.

VOA: Do they have access to the facilities where those weapons and other ammunition are held?

Brink: They have access to every place that we can get to physically, and to places where they can’t have access, for example, on the front lines, we have developed some alternative means to account for things like weapons.

VOA: What are [those] alternative means?

Brink: I probably can’t say specifically, but we have found ways that we can adhere to the policies and the law, without putting people at risk.

VOA: In the last two years, the United States helped Ukraine a lot militarily, but a lot of money actually stays in the United States. In the rural [communities] that produce those weapons. Do you have some insights into how the money is spent?

Brink: Actually, the money that we are allocating to Ukraine is spent in 31 states across the nation, and that includes Patriot missiles in Arizona. It includes artillery in Pennsylvania. It includes even vehicles from my home state of Michigan. So, this is actually also very important to Americans and American jobs while it also supports Ukraine.

VOA: [The] Ukrainian economy, despite the war and significant downturn, [has] survived. The U.S. helped a lot. What is the outlook for the next year for [the] Ukrainian economy, from your perspective? And what new mechanism are you planning to use to help Ukraine to survive economically?

Brink: This is actually, maybe, one of the biggest successes that Ukraine has had outside of the military sphere. Your economy, the Ukrainian economy, has grown by 5% in the last year. It’s phenomenal. [A] big part of that is Ukrainian ability to continue exports. And that was done even though Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain initiative. Through incredibly brave and creative efforts, a new corridor was created out of the Black Sea ports. And now 760 ships and over 23 million metric tons of goods have set sail safely. And that’s important to the world because it’s getting grain and other supplies out, but also very important to Ukraine’s economy.

VOA: I talked to Ukrainian business, and they are really appreciative of, especially, [the] insurance mechanism the Western financial institutions are using. Are you planning to expand that effort?

Brink: Yes. We’re working together with Ukrainian government as well as other partners to support in every way we can. Increasing exports out of the Black Sea ports, out of the Danube ports, and also improving border crossings and other things to facilitate these exports and ultimately bring money back into state coffers. This is a big part of our assistance, and it’s supporting Ukraine’s ability to sustain itself.

VOA: What is your outlook for the next year, for Ukraine, and for the region?

Brink: It’s the same as when I started. Ukraine must win. The United States, together with partners and allies, are going to continue to support Ukrainians in this objective. And what that means is to reclaim their territories, to move closer to Europe, to the EU and ultimately to NATO; to move toward what Ukrainians want, which is a sovereign, independent, prosperous country that’s integrated into Euro-Atlantic institutions, that will be a strong and important partner for the United States. And that’s what we support.

Anna Chernikova contributed to this report.

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