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US Ambassador to Ukraine says Washington will support Kyiv ‘for as long as It takes’

Bridget Brink, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine (U.S. Embassy in Slovakia/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States will continue to “support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” expediting military aid in the country’s battle against invading Russian military forces, says the U.S. ambassador to Kyiv.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, Bridget Brink said she was “really proud” of the fact that the United States was “the largest provider of security assistance to Ukraine.”

“And that includes long range artillery, anti-air defense, coastal defenses, a lot of ammunition and much, much more. So, we are now providing assistance through a presidential drawdown, which is a very fast way to provide it. And we’re doing it about every other week [which] is what we are on a schedule for and we will continue supporting and helping Ukraine with the security assistance for as long as it takes,” Brink added, referring to a presidential authority to provide military assistance.

Brink’s comments come after the White House announced on July 22 that the United States is sending an additional $270 million in security assistance to Ukraine, a package that will include additional medium-range rocket systems and tactical drones.

The latest tranche brings the total U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine by President Joe Biden’s administration to $8.2 billion since Russia launched its unprovoked attack on its western neighbor on February 24.

The new package includes four high-mobility artillery rocket systems, or HIMARS and will allow Kyiv to acquire up to 580 Phoenix Ghost drones, both crucial weapon systems that have allowed the Ukrainians to stay in the fight despite Russian artillery supremacy, according to John Kirby, the White House National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications.

U.S. officials are coordinating closely with their Ukrainian counterparts on weapons deliveries, Brink said.

“So, I can tell you that, at every stage of this, with the closest coordination with our Ukrainian partners, we are doing everything possible to give Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines what they need as soon as they need it,” the U.S. ambassador said.

Brink said it was up to Ukraine to decide “what victory is” as President Biden and his administration have made clear.

“We’ve always said, and the president has said, we’re not going to tell Ukraine what victory is or force Ukraine into a position of giving up territory or something like that. That is not what we are going to do,” Brink explained. “What we like to see, what we support for Ukraine is a sovereign, independent, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine. So, all of this assistance and all of this support is to help Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government achieve that goal.”

Crimea ‘Playbook’

Russia was relying on its “playbook” from 2014 when it seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and began to foment unrest in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine, providing arms, fighters, and financing to separatists.

“It’s outrageous that Russia is trying to annex territory of Ukraine. But it’s no surprise, we saw this happen in Crimea in 2014. And it seems like it’s the same playbook,” said Brink.” So, efforts are taking place in Kherson and other parts that are occupied by Russia now to do things such as give citizens passports, require Russian language in the schools and administration, install proxy leadership in those administrations. We think it’s outrageous, and it’s not in accordance with international law.”

The U.S. National Security Council said on July 19 that it had intelligence that Russia was preparing to annex all of the Donbas as well as land along Ukraine’s southern coastline including Kherson and Zaporizhzhya.

This would formalize Russian control over more than 18 percent of Ukrainian territory in addition to around 4.5 percent that Moscow took in 2014 by illegally annexing Crimea.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on July 20 that Russia’s ambitions in Ukraine now went far beyond the eastern Donbas region to include a swath of land in the south and “a number of other territories.”

Lavrov claimed that Russia’s new territorial ambitions were driven by the course of the war. But in the early stages of the invasion, Russia tried to occupy much of Ukraine’s south and capture the capital, Kyiv.

In her interview with RFE/RL, Brink also denied that sanctions against Moscow weren’t working.

“I think they’re already having an effect. And sanctions, the way sanctions work, is the effect also takes place over time. So, it is clear based on GDP [gross domestic product] output, basically, based on inflation, and other indicators that the sanctions are already having an impact,” Brink said.

The White House has said that Russia’s default on its foreign debt on June 27 – the first time since the Bolshevik revolution more than a century ago — showed the power of Western sanctions imposed on Russia since it invaded Ukraine.

Brink, who speaks Russian, has been a career diplomat for 25 years and has worked in Uzbekistan and Georgia as well as in several senior positions across the U.S. State Department and the White House National Security Council. Before taking up her post in Kyiv, Brink served as U.S. ambassador to Slovakia.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine on May 19, the same day that the Senate confirmed Brink’s nomination. The embassy had closed earlier this year due to security concerns.