Diplomat’s appointment comes as Washington aims to show unified front in support for Ukraine
The US Senate on Wednesday backed the confirmation of diplomat Lynne Tracy as Washington’s next ambassador to Russia, as tensions between the two nations remain frayed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Ms Tracy’s confirmation came on an extraordinary day for US-Ukraine relations, as Washington seeks to display a united front for Kyiv’s defence. The Senate voted 93-2 in favour of her confirmation.
Most notable in the day’s events was the visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was expected to address a joint session of Congress later in the evening. It was his first trip outside Ukraine since the Russian invasion.
Senators were also hopeful that they would be able to send a government-funding bill to the House of Representatives that includes an additional $45 billion in funding for Ukraine’s defensive capabilities.
“President Zelenskyy could not arrive at a more crucial moment for the Senate,” Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor.
“By passing this omnibus and confirming a new ambassador, we can send President Zelenskyy back to Ukraine with the message that the Senate, the Congress and the American people stand unequivocally behind the people of Ukraine”
Meanwhile, the State Department announced a new $1.85 billion military aid package that includes the Patriot Air Defence System, which has the capability to shoot down enemy aircraft and missiles.
Ms Tracy’s confirmation to the post comes on the 300th day of the war as the Russian offensive remains stalled by Ukrainian forces.
“Even as [Russian President Vladimir] Putin presses forward with this brutal war, The United States needs an ambassador who can represent us in Moscow,” Bob Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said before the vote.
Ms Tracy will be the first woman to serve in the role if Russia accepts the nomination.
During her confirmation hearing last month, Ms Tracy said Russia’s war against Ukraine “has shattered European security and undermined global economic activity”.
Ms Tracy also said she would work to help secure the release of US detainees Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel.
The diplomat said the US would remain committed to supporting and defending Ukraine, and impose sanctions on Russia.
But Russia appeared to be sceptical of her confirmation to the ambassadorship.
“Does she definitely want to come to us?” asked Maria Zakharova, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.
She said the US diplomat must show she is willing to work constructively to avoid “irreparable damage in relations with our country”.
Ms Tracy, the US ambassador to Armenia since 2019, will replace John Sullivan.