On Monday, the White House released a statement announcing President Joe Biden’s appointment of Bridget Brink ’91 to the position of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Ukraine.
Brink, a Michigan native, earned a degree in political science during her time at Kenyon. In a series profiling Kenyon alumnae in 2020, Brink credited Professor of Political Science Fred Baumann and Associate Professor of Philosophy Juan De Pascuale with inspiring her as a student. After graduating, Brink attended the London School of Economics, where she earned Master of Science degrees in political theory and international relations.
The announcement came shortly after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv for the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Following the White House’s news, the State Department released a statement explaining and praising Biden’s pick. “The increased U.S. presence demonstrates our support for Ukraine and is part of the U.S. commitment to return our diplomats to our Embassy in Kyiv as soon as possible,” the department wrote. “Her decades of experience make her uniquely suited for this moment in Ukraine’s history.”
Since the war began three-and-a-half weeks ago, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 5,840 Ukrainian civilian casualties consisting of 2,729 deaths and 3,111 civilians injured as of April 26, although they believe the actual figures to be much higher. On April 20, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) estimated 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed; a week before this estimation, Zelensky reported to CNN that Ukrainian officials believed about 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian troops have perished, with 10,000 Ukrainian troops injured. “[It’s] hard to say how many will survive,” he said.
Because of the war, the ambassadorship has become increasingly important after being vacant for three years. Brink’s prolific career in the Foreign Service since 1996 has made her an expert in the politics of eastern Europe. In 2015, Brink became deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and in 2019, she was appointed by then-President Donald Trump to be the United States Ambassador to Slovakia.
Brink distinguished herself for the position after supporting the former Soviet republic’s decision to join NATO in 2004. Her notable contributions include helping Georgia and Turkey implement democratic and economic reforms, as well as helping to open the ultimately successful accession negotiations that approved Turkey’s entrance into the European Union.
“During her more than twenty years in the Foreign Service, Ambassador Brink has spent most of her career focused on advancing U.S. policy in Europe and Eurasia,” the Slokavian Embassy’s website reads. It also notes that, in addition to English, Brink speaks Serbian and Russian as well as basic French and Georgian.
President Sean Decatur also spoke highly of the soon-to-be ambassador. “She is an experienced foreign service officer who I think is going to serve the country and the world well in this capacity,” he said. “It’s good to have such strong leadership in that important post.”