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Why the Biden Administration Has Not Picked an Ambassador for Ukraine

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: January 24, 2022
The White House hasn't yet appointed an ambassador to Ukraine. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

While tensions are flaring between the United States and Russia over the Ukraine issue, some are flabbergasted that Washington is yet to appoint an ambassador to Ukraine. It has been over a year since Biden assumed power but the American Embassy in Kyiv has remained without an ambassador for the entire period.

When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki  was asked in a Jan. 4 press briefing about the matter, she insisted that the position of Ukrainian ambassador remains vacant because Biden hasn’t found the “right” person. 

“He absolutely plans to nominate an ambassador to Ukraine. Just like any position, he’s always looking to find the right person to nominate to fill the role — an important one,” Psaki said. When a reporter asked whether the president has interviewed anyone for the post, Psaki responded by stating that she’s “not going to get into more details about a personnel process.” 

Many lawmakers are flustered as to why Biden hasn’t yet appointed an ambassador to Ukraine, especially since the European country is facing the threat of a Russian invasion. Moscow has reportedly stationed around 100,000 soldiers near Ukraine’s borders. 

Republican Senator Ted Cruz blasted the president over keeping the ambassadorship open for too long and has asked that a nomination be quickly put forward. William Taylor, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, finds the situation “inexplicable.” 

Even when Taylor contacted some high-level people in the Biden administration and discussed the issue, he couldn’t receive an answer.

“I’ve continuously raised to State Department officials the urgent need for this post to be filled in Ukraine… Putin’s persistent provocations along the Ukraine border and increasing belligerence underscore the importance of having a U.S. ambassador seated in Kyiv to support our Ukrainian partners at this critical moment,” Democrat Senator Jeanne Shaheen, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, told NatSec Daily.

One of the potential candidates for the post of ambassadorship to Ukraine is Bridget Brink, who is presently the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia and is a veteran of the Foreign Service. The current chargé d’affaires in Kyiv Kristina Kvien is another name that is being floated around. A third possibility is Geoffrey Pyatt, who led the Ukraine mission between 2013 and 2016 and is presently the U.S. ambassador to Greece.

Writing for The Washington Post, David J Kramer, the director of European and Eurasian studies at Florida International University’s Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, blamed the Biden administration for being “unusually slow” in filling out candidates for national security positions that require Senate confirmation. In the case of an ambassador to Ukraine, the Senate is under no fault, he pointed out.

“Among the names apparently being considered by the White House is a career Foreign Service officer who is currently an ambassador elsewhere. That means the person already has been vetted and approved by the Senate for the person’s current posting and would likely gain quick approval if ever nominated for the Kyiv position. The White House delay in settling on a nominee is simply inexcusable at this point in the administration,” the article claims.