WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to be the next ambassador to Ukraine, veteran diplomat Bridget Brink, was expected to easily win confirmation to a crucial position that has been vacant for three years after a smooth confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held Brink’s hearing just two weeks after Biden sent her nomination to the Senate, underscoring the desire from both Biden’s Democrats and Republicans to send an ambassador to support Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy as he faces Russia’s invasion.
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.
Brink was confirmed by unanimous voice vote in 2019, when former Republican President Donald Trump nominated her for the position in Bratislava.
Senator Bob Menendez, the committee’s Democratic chairman, said he hoped Brink would be confirmed quickly. “Your appointment… sends a powerful message to the world: We stand with Ukraine, and the free world will not abandon those fighting to protect it,” Menendez said.
Senator Jim Risch, the panel’s top Republican, also said he expected Brink would be confirmed.
Many nominees for ambassadorships have waited months for Senate approval in recent years, reflecting Washington’s deep partisan divisions.
Biden and Congress have been ramping up support for the Kyiv government since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Brink said that, if confirmed, she would seek to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine “as soon as possible.
The top U.S. diplomats to Ukraine returned to Kyiv only on Sunday, an important step toward the resumption of a full U.S. presence in Kyiv, after leaving ahead of the invasion due to security concerns.
Congressional leaders on Monday agreed to rush nearly $40 billion in additional aid – much of it military assistance – to Kyiv. The House of Representatives was due to vote on the aid later on Tuesday, and the Senate was to follow suit within days.
The post in Kyiv has been vacant since Trump recalled then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May 2019.
Yovanovitch later testified as Trump faced impeachment on charges of withholding military aid to put pressure on Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, seen as Trump’s most likely opponent in the 2020 election.
The Democratic-led House impeached Trump. He was found not guilty in the Republican-led Senate.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman)