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Smooth sailing seen for Biden Ukraine ambassador pick in U.S. Senate

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By Reuters
Smooth sailing seen for Biden Ukraine ambassador pick in U.S. Senate
Smooth sailing seen for Biden Ukraine ambassador pick in U.S. Senate   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2022

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, veteran diplomat Bridget Brink, is expected to easily win confirmation to a crucial position that has been vacant for nearly three years, Senate aides said.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee scheduled Brink’s confirmation hearing for Tuesday, just two weeks after Biden sent her nomination to the Senate.

A Michigan native who speaks Russian, Brink is currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. She has been a career diplomat for 25 years and has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the State Department and White House National Security Council.

Both Biden’s fellow Democrats and Republicans said they did not anticipate her having problems winning confirmation, pointing to the unusually short time between the announcement of her nomination and her confirmation hearing, which would have required bipartisan approval.

Brink was confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019, when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for her current position in Bratislava.

Many nominees for ambassadorships have waited months to be confirmed by the Senate in recent years, reflecting Washington’s deep partisan divisions.

The post in Kyiv has been vacant since Trump recalled then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May 2019.

Yovanovitch later testified in hearings as Trump faced impeachment on charges of withholding military aid in order to put pressure on Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, seen as Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives impeached Trump. He was found not guilty in the Republican-led Senate.

Biden and Congress have been ramping up support for Zelenskiy’s government since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

Congressional leaders on Monday agreed to rush nearly $40 billion in additional aid – much of it military assistance – to Kyiv.

Aides said they did not expect that lawmakers from either party would want to deprive Zelenskiy of an ambassador in the midst of the war.