Representative Victoria Spartan, the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress, is urging the State Department to return its diplomats to Ukraine.
Sparta, an Indiana Republican, sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, saying the US should consider transferring US diplomats to Lviv in western Ukraine to ensure better coordination with Ukraine. . Spartan pointed to the action of the European Union, which returned its diplomatic corps to Kiev.
“As the largest provider of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it is past time for the United States to follow our European allies in kind,” Sparta wrote.
The US and other countries withdrew their diplomats and evacuated embassies and consulates from Kiev in the days leading up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, moving them to the western city of Lviv. Those officials were soon transferred to Poland, en route to Lviv, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suspended all diplomatic services in Lviv just before the Russian invasion began.
In recent days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged more countries to restore their diplomatic presence in the country.
“We need your support, even at the level of symbols and diplomatic gestures. Please come back, everyone who is brave, please come back to our capital and keep working,” Zelensky said last week.
But given the ongoing fighting and concerns about renewed Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, the Biden administration is not taking any steps to open their embassy in Ukraine any time soon, despite other countries beginning to do so, according to two US officials who be familiar with the matter.
What other lawmakers are saying: Sparta’s letter marks a public exhortation for the US to reconsider that position. A Democratic lawmaker supporting the restoration of a diplomatic presence in Ukraine said there are questions from the region as to why the Americans are not there while other countries have moved back.
However, another Democrat said the State Department has good reason to be cautious about returning Americans to Ukraine. While Russia has refocused its war effort on the country’s eastern and southern regions, the Russian Air Force can still attack Kiev and Lviv. While civilian deaths from NATO countries in Ukraine could escalate the conflict with Russia, there are significantly different implications for the United States, the lawmaker said: “It’s a very different security situation and escalating attitude.”
Ukrainian officials and activists watch as other countries reopen their embassies and are frustrated by the US’s cautious stance. The European Union announced last week that it would resume its diplomatic presence in the Ukrainian capital.
Daria Kaleniuk, the co-founder and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, also urges the US to reopen its embassy “urgently”. Kaleniuk believes that the embassy is symbolically important, but it is also important because it makes it easier for conference visits and inbound shipments to take place.
“What I’ve learned is that part of the reason politicians don’t come is because there’s no embassy. So the embassy can’t support them in their arrival,” Kaleniuk said after meeting on Capitol Hill with lawmakers last week. “The lack of a US embassy in Ukraine also negatively affects the ability to purchase advanced weapons. Contractors who build these advanced weapons see that there is not even an embassy in Ukraine and they cannot work on the contracts with Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said Congress may need to approve additional funds for military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, indicating Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was asking for support. will provide for further assistance.
“At the rate we ship them weapons and ammunition, we may have to do an additional” spending bill to continue arming the Ukrainians and “replenishing weapons” to other NATO countries that have sent their supplies to Ukraine,” McConnell said. at an appearance at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in Louisville.
Congress approved about $14 billion in aid to Ukraine last month. McConnell said the Ukrainians can win the war if they are properly supported.
“My attitude about this from the start is that our goal should be to win. To win. And I think the government has been reluctant to say the goal is to win,” he said. “I think our definition of winning is what Zelensky says it is. In other words, as long as they want to fight, we have to give them everything we can to win the fight.”