Espreso. Global

"There is no Plan B for American aid to Ukraine": Espreso's interview with US Ambassador Bridget Brink

3 April, 2024 Wednesday

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Ukraine Bridget Brink in an exclusive interview with Espreso told about the chances of the Congress to support the bill on assistance to Ukraine, possible signing of a security agreement and ways to improve the investment climate

You came to Ukraine at the end of May 2022. How does the situation in our country differ then from now?

Well, it's completely different. When I arrived in May 2022, the streets were virtually empty, and there were checkpoints all over the place. As I came in by car, I witnessed a lot of destruction. Now, despite two years of Russia's brutal war against Ukraine, there's been incredible progress. 

Fifty percent of the territory has been retaken back by Ukraine's brave defenders. Ukraine has been able to export through the Black Sea ports, sending over 1,000 ships and over 33 million metric tons of grain and other cargo. And for two very tough, but incredible winters, the Ukrainians have been able to preserve power and electricity to the entire country. Those are really big achievements. And despite the fact that Russia continues its war, we are seeing that the economy has not only survived but has grown, with 5% growth in 2023 and projected growth in 2024. 

So obviously, it's a tough moment and a tough situation. But we are committed to standing with you and staying with you. What I've seen so far is incredible resilience from every single person in the country, committed to winning this fight against Russia.

Let's talk about US aid. Right now, we are dependent on this money very much, and unfortunately, the draft law from the White House proposing to give Ukraine about six billion dollars has been stuck in the House of Representatives. But from what we know now, the Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, is going to put it to the vote after the representatives come back from their Easter vacations, around April 9th. What do you personally think? Will they vote for it, and if they do, will there be any innovations, as Speaker Johnson spoke about?

I'm confident that our Congress will support the Supplemental for Ukraine. It's the responsibility of Congress to determine the timing of that, but my confidence comes from the fact that, in addition to the US president and the entire administration, Ukraine has the support of bipartisan members of Congress. Many of them have visited Ukraine, including Senator Schumer, who was here in Lviv just a couple of weeks ago with a delegation, among many others from both sides of the aisle. But even more than that, it reflects the support from the American people. We know what this fight is about — it's about freedom, ensuring that Russia and Putin cannot do this again in other places. It's about supporting Ukraine's fight for its existence. 

And what about innovations?

As for innovations, that will be up to Congress. We have made a case based on the president's proposal, and that's what we stand by. As Jake Sullivan said just a few days ago in Kyiv, there's no Plan B. That’s what we support.

There's no Plan B. But a lot of American politicians talk about Plan B. They say okay. We are talking about Plan A because that's the main plan. But what about Plan B?

There's no Plan B.

So we'll have plan A.

We support plan A.

In early March, you mentioned in your interview with CNN that the United States of America has come to a crucial moment in supporting Ukraine, and that people in Washington have to double down to help Ukraine. Did those people on Capitol Hill listen to you?

I would say not yet, but I'm confident that our Congress will reflect the will of the American people and the strategic interests of the United States, which is to help Ukraine.

Let's talk a little bit about Russia. Just a few weeks ago, they held something they called presidential elections. We in Ukraine call it the farce, and president Putin once again won. What do people in the United States of America think about what was held in Russia?

We have assessed that the election is undemocratic, and I don't have more to say on that. We will not recognize any elections in the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

A few weeks ago, in February, President of France Emmanuel Macron said that he did not rule out the possibility of having Western troops on the territory of Ukraine someday. Well, I do understand that most Western leaders didn't agree with him, but what about the United States of America? I understand there will be no American troops in Ukraine, but can we at least hope for signing some kind of agreement with the United States of America, the same as we signed with Great Britain and France already?

Yes, absolutely. 

Okay, can you say what would be included in that agreement? 

Not yet. It's still under negotiation, but I anticipate that we're close.

But when?

I don't have a timeline yet to relay, but I can say that it is under serious discussion with your government.

Let's talk about corruption in Ukraine. You once said that for the Western investments to come to Ukraine, we need to have an independent judicial system, free media, and no corruption. Is there any progress?

Well, I would say that your president, reflecting your own population and your own democracy, has set out an ambitious goal to integrate into the EU and NATO.

An important part of that is having a very strong democracy, one that includes a vibrant and free media, vibrant civil society, strong institutions, checks and balances, and an independent judiciary. That is the vision of your president, reflecting your population, and it's one that we strongly support from the US perspective.

In this vein, we have supported and continue to support all the steps that have been taken to deal with some of the challenges that have existed in Ukraine. This includes fighting corruption, raising levels of corporate governance to international standards, and justice sector reform. All of this is very important in achieving this overarching goal. It's also crucial for business, as we heard from Secretary Pritzker during President Biden's efforts to accelerate your economic recovery. Having standards and a strong rule of law where businesses can be confident that their investments will be protected by laws and rules is critical. We hear this all the time, so it's incredibly important to achieving that goal, as I see and understand it, which aligns with the aspirations of the people of Ukraine.

Madam Ambassador, and my last question for you today, a few weeks ago, actually, sometime ago, Republican Senator Graham visited Ukraine, and he said that he changed his mind as to whether it is appropriate to have elections, namely the presidential elections, in Ukraine right now. He says that the elections might be held. What is the official position of the American authorities on this?

Ukraine is a sovereign democratic country, and this question is up to Ukraine.

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