Former Ukrainian Ambassador Pens Memoir, Predicts Ukrainian Victory

May 8, 2022 by Kate Michael
Former Ukrainian Ambassador Pens Memoir, Predicts Ukrainian Victory

WASHINGTON — Still reeling from the way in which her assignment as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine ended, Marie L. Yovanovitch voiced her support for Bridget A. Brink, Biden’s new nominee for the position, while offering her own unique insights on American relations with the embattled country.

“It was otherworldly, what happened during my… last months in Ukraine,” Yovanovitch told The Wilson Center audience during a recent conversation about her newly released memoir, “Lessons from the Edge,” which she described as a story of Ukraine, Russia, diplomacy, immigration and family, and education.

Nominated to the Ukrainian ambassadorship by former President Obama in 2016, two years after Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region, Yovanovitch was introduced to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in his candidacy. 

She wasn’t afforded the opportunity to work with him, however, as she was removed from her post by Trump in 2019 under accusations of working against the president as he sought information concerning Hunter Biden’s business entanglements in Ukraine. 

Despite what she described as “shock… and concern” within Ukrainian society when Zelenskyy was elected, Yovanovitch — watching from afar after being “yanked out” of her post — was surprised by his “strong start with a very good pro-reform government” before she says he “began struggling and losing popularity” in advance of the Russian invasion. 

“Ukraine gets a little bit of a bad rap before Jan. 24,” she admitted, citing rampant corruption despite a series of reforms. Yet “clearly the Ukrainian people knew what they were doing when they voted him in with 73%,” she said.

“He reflects the Ukrainian people. He unites the Ukrainian people. He inspires them, and I think he inspires the world.”

But according to Yovanovitch, Ukraine will need more than inspiration from its charismatic leader to combat the Russian invasion..

“Putin’s war of choice about Ukraine is about Ukraine, but I think he has broader goals,” she told the Wilson Center audience. 

To help fight against this, Yovanovitch believes the U.S. should help Ukraine to further modernize its military, providing it with equipment and training for defense. 

Calling out the U.S.’s Ukrainian Training and Equipment Program, in effect since 2014 providing close to $6.5 billion in security assistance for training and equipment to help Ukraine preserve its territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO, Yovanovitch admitted, “In hindsight, I wish we had equipped them even more.”

She also proposed to use frozen Russian assets for Ukrainian reconstruction, an idea that has gained momentum in political circles leading all the way up to the Oval Office. 

Harboring an intense personal dislike for Putin she told Business Insider she drinks her morning coffee out of a mug with a choice three-word message for the Russian leader. Yovanovitch predicts the Ukrainians will prevail because theirs is an existential fight. 

“The Ukrainians know why they are fighting. They are motivated and know what they are doing. I don’t think the Russians do.”

“In the beginning — pre-Feb. 24 — I think that Putin probably thought [his] was a very well laid out foreign policy, bolstered and buttressed by his views of history, which are completely not accurate.

“But the American military has this expression that war plans fall apart at first contact with the enemy, and that is exactly what I think happened with the Russian military and Putin’s plans,” Yovanovitch said.

And still, the fighting drags on.

But while it may seem like a conflict happening far away, Yovanovitch warned that Russian actions in Ukraine have longstanding implications with global reach that will inevitably redefine the international power structure. 

“The Russia question will be how history remembers this era,” Yovanovitch said. 

Kate can be reached at [email protected]

 

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