US Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said she set five immediate goals for her return to Kyiv during 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 challenges related to the ongoing Russian invasion with VOA’s Eastern Europe bureau chief, Myroslava Gongadze.
She said she set herself five immediate goals when the U.S. embassy reopened in May, ranging from defense assistance to Ukraine to reopening the embassy.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: Can you tell us how you got here during the war? And what are the challenges at the moment in front of this country and in front of the United States which supports this country?
Bridget Brink, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine: I can’t tell you how proud I am to be here and to be back as the United States Ambassador and to work with a fantastic team of American and Ukrainian employees, so the challenges in front of the Ukraine and us are huge.
When I arrived, I set five objectives, immediate objectives 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 aid, especially US-funded aid, reaches intended recipients, especially in conflict zones. The fourth is to oversee this massive amount of US aid and ensure the proper oversight from here to the post in Kyiv.
And the last and most fun is getting our team together, the Americans and the Ukrainians who make up the embassy and rebuilding our platform. So yes, the challenges in front of Ukraine are very big and await us all, but we are really determined and ready to take them up.
VOA: President (Joe) Biden yesterday announced the additional funding for Ukraine. The United States has been Ukraine’s biggest supporter militarily and financially. You talked about monitoring how the money is used in this country. What kind of system do you have right now to watch the money?
Edge: So there are long-established systems for all the help we give, including security help. And what we’re doing now is just making sure that … we’re playing the proper role that we have to play here in Kyiv, but working with the Ministry of Defense and other parts of the Ukrainian government, so that’s important for that. We are here for that and for other reasons. But I am convinced that we will be able to do it.
VOA: Is there a special envoy to oversee US support for Ukraine?
Brink: The way we do it is we’ll have our embassy — and so I’m really happy to be here as an ambassador — and then I’ll have specific staff and including senior staff who are dedicated to these goals, and more.
VOA: And the (Ukrainian) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy somehow hinted that the United States was either not giving enough or giving too late. How would you comment on his position?
Edge: Well, I would say that since the beginning of the war and even before, we have been totally focused on providing Ukraine with the security elements in the weapons that it needs as soon as possible. And that’s actually my number one goal coming here. I think there were a few issues early on, and I’m just here to make sure that whatever we do directly supports Ukrainians on the front lines and also helps Ukraine improve their position on the field. of battle, which we believe will also help his negotiating position when the time is right.
VOA: What is your relationship with the Ukrainian government at the moment? Do you work at all levels of the Ukrainian government?
Edge: Yeah, I think one of the things I’ve noticed more than anything after being a diplomat for 25 years is the massive, positive support I’ve had from government, from people outside of government, from the population, and also support from home, including the public in my part of the Midwest.
So, I’m really grateful for that. … I think we understand that it is extremely important for Ukraine and its future, but I think it is also extremely important for European security and for the United States that we do not allow the borders be changed by force.
VOA: How do you generally see this war? And there are different tactics and different strategies that the United States and other western countries are using, and obviously the United States is taking the lead in building this coalition against Russia. However, Ukrainians are suffering, and as the war drags on, how do you see it ending? Do you envisage a possible peace negotiation?
Edge: Well, Secretary (of US State) Antony Blinken said that we leave it up to the Ukrainians to decide when Ukraine would like to negotiate at the end of the war. I know President Biden pointed out how President Zelenskyy said all wars end with negotiations. But again, we leave this moment and this content to the Ukrainians.
VOA: What are the US expectations of Ukraine at this point? Before the war, we talked about anti-corruption efforts and so on. What are they looking for?
Edge: I could say it a little differently. I think those of us who are such strong supporters of Ukraine in the American government, in the American people, support Ukraine because we see, or think we see, and understand the future that want the Ukrainians. And it is a future where Ukraine is free, independent, prosperous, sovereign and can decide its own future. For us as Americans, it really appeals to who we are. So what I hope, what I plan to do and what we are doing is to support Ukraine in this immediate task of winning their defense effort which is of crucial importance. I think everyone 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 the future of Ukraine for Ukrainian children and their children.
VOA: And this war is not just about Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for a bigger goal, for democracy. Is Ukraine also fighting for European values? If Ukraine fell, what could be the consequences?
Edge: Well, Ukraine will not fail and we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes. And as I mentioned, that’s obviously very important for Ukraine, and it’s also very important for European security. It’s really important for America, because, as President Biden said, it’s both morally outrageous what happened, this unprovoked and unwarranted attack on a sovereign nation. But it is also in America’s vital interest to have peace and security in Europe. So this is something that has repercussions that go far beyond Ukraine. And for that reason, we all understand very well what is at stake. And that is why we are here to help Ukraine win.
VOA: And one more question about the reconstruction efforts in Ukraine. How do you see this process evolving? And do you already have a coalition to do it?
Edge: Well, I know there is a conference being prepared in Lugano (Switzerland) in July to talk about this process. I believe that my government in my country will want to support Ukraine in any way possible. I think we will also want Ukraine to take the lead on how best to do this reconstruction. And from what I hear from government leaders, they are very reform-oriented. Focused on building Ukraine for the future, which I think is something we can all support.