U.S. ambassador to Ukraine: 'It's going to be a long, grinding, tough war' The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine has been through a lot in recent years. It's just reopened and Ambassador Bridget Brink is overseeing a massive U.S. assistance operation with a limited staff.

U.S. ambassador to Ukraine: 'It's going to be a long, grinding, tough war'

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The U.S. Embassy in Ukraine has been through a lot over the past three years. Former President Donald Trump recalled Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in 2019. She became a central figure in Trump's first impeachment. A number of acting ambassadors followed. Then the embassy just closed outright in February, right before Russia invaded. It reopened last month, right before the new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, arrived. She spoke with NPR's Greg Myre, and Greg is with us now. Good morning.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So Ambassador Brink is working to get the embassy up and running in the middle of a war. I mean, besides just the logistics of that, what are the kinds of challenges is she facing?

MYRE: Yeah, this is a very large embassy in normal times that had a lot of people working there, but only a relatively small number have come back so far. And we hear a lot about U.S. military support for Ukraine, but Ambassador Brink noted the U.S. is providing billions of dollars to help the Ukrainian government keep running, to help with the country's humanitarian needs. And so there's these billions of billions of dollars in a vast range of programs, all with the complications of a war going on. And I asked her about this dichotomy - one moment you're working on normal embassy business, and the next it's punctuated by a sharp reminder that it's a country at war.

BRIDGET BRINK: On the one hand, it seems a little bit normal in that some shops and restaurants are starting to open, and you can get some goods here. But on the other hand, throughout the day there are air raid sirens, and it's against a threat that's very hard to guard against and still quite a dangerous environment. And in this situation, we still advise Americans not to come to Ukraine.

MYRE: Could you give me a little detail of what a day is like?

BRINK: Well, I could use about 48 hours, if not more, in each day. I really like to get out and see things. We've been able to get to sites of atrocities. One thing that really strikes me is, you know, the first time I went to see the president or whenever I go to see a minister, I mean, you go and you visit, but the offices, they're all barricaded. They're all dark. You have to walk along dark hallways with no light and go up dark elevators because, for reasons of security, they don't keep the lights on. Very heavily armed people are everywhere. We think it's very important for us to be here, to be doing everything we can to help Ukraine defend itself.

MYRE: Could you provide a little more detail on this effort to help with war crimes sites?

BRINK: The U.S. is involved in terms of making it a policy priority and also, you know, my personal effort with the leadership here and then our funding to support expert advice and people who have done this before in other places. We are funding some initiatives to allow the prosecutor general to gather and preserve evidence. So we're helping on multiple levels and will continue to do so.

MYRE: The U.S. has been very clear - it's up to Ukraine to decide how and when it wants to negotiate, how it wants to address this war. But obviously, the U.S. support - militarily, economically, humanitarian - makes a big difference, too. Could you talk a little bit about - just give a sense of that discussion that the U.S. says it wants Ukraine to win, but that would - could mean a longer war.

BRINK: It's very important that we help Ukraine prevail - meaning we help Ukraine defend itself so that borders cannot be changed by force. But what I have seen is chilling. And I think people - and I know the American people - will find it something that we cannot let stand in Europe again. It's reminiscent of the last century and a war which no one ever wants to see repeated. And I just look again at the resilience of the Ukrainian people, from the president to the 10-year-old girl that I met in Irpin who had to hide for 2 1/2 months in a dark, cold, dirty basement with missiles flying and hitting all around her. And her mom said they're going to stay, and they're going to fight to the very end.

MARTIN: So, Greg, Ambassador Brink clearly sees a lot of determination among Ukrainians. She also says borders shouldn't change by force. So, I mean, she's got a responsibility to be clear-eyed in this moment. What was her most realistic prediction of how this ends?

MYRE: Well, I asked her that question, and here's how she put it.

BRINK: My judgment is that this is going to be a long war. It's going to be a long, grinding, tough war. The Ukrainians are fighting inch by inch, yard by yard, kilometer by kilometer. It's incredibly intense, difficult fighting with lots of losses.

MYRE: So the trend lines in the war certainly support this. We're about four months into the war, and both sides say they're very committed to continuing the fight.

MARTIN: NPR's Greg Myre in Kyiv. Thank you.

MYRE: My pleasure.

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