Follow us on social


Brink delights foreign policy consensus, sails through confirmation hearing

Biden’s nominee for Ukraine ambassador hit all the right notes but left questions about Washington's diplomatic role in ending the war.

Analysis | Europe

Any lingering doubt as to whether Russia’s illegal and lamentable invasion of Ukraine has strengthened the hold that the bipartisan foreign policy consensus holds over Washington can be safely put to rest in light of Bridget Brink’s confirmation hearing Tuesday to head the U.S. diplomatic mission to Ukraine. 

For years, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings have been marked by a kind of unanimity born of a shared set of assumptions regarding Washington's right, duty, and ability to reshape the world in America’s self-image.

Brink’s confirmation hearing bore the hallmark of what one has come to expect of the committee, now led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), namely, precious little debate on anything of actual substance, such as the details of the $40 billion Ukraine aid package being finalized by Congress. As Biden's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Brink herself was the object of fulsome praise from senators, with Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich) at one point calling her “an extraordinary woman.”

Despite 25 years of experience in the foreign service, including several postings in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, her position today, however, is hardly “extraordinary.” In fact, not much was said about the approach Brink is likely to bring with her to Ukraine beyond what we already know about administration policy. She wants to get U.S. weapons to President Zelensky as fast as possible, investigate Russian war crimes, and continue to pressure the international community to sanction Russia, including a full ban on oil and gas imports.

Current and former government officials I have spoken to identify her as a protege of undersecretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Nuland, perhaps the State Department’s premier Russia expert, and among the most forceful and skilled advocates for U.S. global hegemony.

Brink’s opening statement showed that she is — if nothing else, representative of the foreign policy uni-party, expressing pride in Washington’s role of fostering “reforms in young democracies on the edge of Europe.” Brink also pledged to work with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “to continue our commitment to a sovereign, democratic, and independent Ukraine, free to choose its own future.”

Paraphrasing President Biden, Brink proclaimed that “in this battle between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force, freedom must prevail. Ukraine must prevail.”

In response to a question by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Brink noted that having served in the Balkans during a period of protracted conflicts, she welcomes working with the U.S. military officials coordinating aid to Ukraine. Conspicuously missing from these pledges of wartime support was any mention of diplomacy from the career diplomat.

But such a stance is now de rigueur among the diplomatic corps. As a former high-ranking intelligence official told me recently, “As far as I can tell, the State Department, which would normally be the locus of advocacy for a diplomatic solution to this sort of situation, doesn’t appear to be actively pushing for that position at all. Instead, what you hear from senior State Department officials are things like ‘we intend to win’.” The problem with this approach, as the official pointed out, “is that it surrenders agency on the part of the U.S. You mean, we don’t get a call on whether a war that endangers the American people comes to an early end? That is not a situation that I think actually serves the American national interest.”

Interestingly, Brink considers rebuilding Ukraine as part of her forthcoming responsibilities. This is going to be quite a task, not only because of the destruction caused by the Russian military, but because of the massive amounts of ordnance flooding into the country. Is the Biden administration and its high-ranking emissaries like Brink at all worried that, in the process of prolonging the war with these massive aid packages, we are inadvertently turning Ukraine into an international black market arms bazaar?

No such concerns were broached at today’s hearing. If anything, the hearing showed that there is little in the way of innovative or outside-the-box thinking taking place either in the administration or on Capitol Hill. 

But if we have any chance at staying out of the conflict for much longer, diplomacy will at some point have to figure into the mix of policy options available to the President. 

After making an introduction, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) clasps hands with Bridget Brink, nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, at her Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Analysis | Europe
Risks are higher than ever for US- China cyber war


Risks are higher than ever for US- China cyber war


Last month the Justice Department published a press release announcing that seven Chinese nationals have been charged with “conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.”

This announcement came on the heels of warnings from Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly and National Cyber Director Harry Coker that Chinese hackers are making a strategic shift to target critical infrastructure, are likely able to launch cyberattacks that could cripple that infrastructure, and are increasingly exploiting Americans’ private information.

keep readingShow less
When Europe calls for restraint does anyone listen?

Ursula von der Leyen (CDU, l), President of the European Commission, stands at the lectern in the European Parliament building. Josep Borrell, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, sits in the background. The EU Parliament is debating the attack on Israel and preparations for the EU summit at the end of October. REUTERS

When Europe calls for restraint does anyone listen?


The EU has condemned Iran’s April 14 drone and missile attack against Israel conducted in response to Israel’s lethal bombing of the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria on April 1. However, while the condemnation is unanimous, EU officials and individual member states have different positions on the issue.

Those differences broadly reflect the pre-existing divisions on the Middle East since the war in Gaza started last October. Even though the EU is united in its calls for restraint and de-escalation, these divisions are limiting the diplomatic role Europe could play in actually bringing those objectives closer to reality.

keep readingShow less
Can new US envoy help end the war in Sudan?

Refugees from Sudan wait to be transported to the transit camp in the town of Renk near the border after crossing the border into South Sudan, April 4, 2024 via Reuters

Can new US envoy help end the war in Sudan?


On the morning of April 15, 2023 in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan,the country’s de facto national army, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took up arms against one another. Through temporary ceasefires and multiple attempts by foreign countries and international bodies to mediate an end to the war, the fighting persists.

Over the past year, the civil war has created one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. Thousands have been killed and over eight million have been displaced. With over 6.5 million people internally displaced, Sudan is home to the highest number of internally displaced people in the world. Relentless fighting has forced many to leave Sudan entirely, with 1.5 million having fled to neighboring states as refugees.

keep readingShow less

Israel-Gaza Crisis