U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the U.S. State Department January 07, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee | Getty Images
Ukrainian officials are preparing for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit next week, according to two sources informed by Kyiv about the trip, which is now scheduled for Jan. 30-31.
Pompeo canceled a previously planned trip to Ukraine and four other nations slated for early January amid escalating tensions between the United States and Iran that led to protests and heightened security in the region.
The State Department declined to comment on Pompeo’s upcoming Ukraine visit.
During the previous plan, Pompeo was scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — the highest-ranking U.S. official to do so since Zelenskiy and President Donald Trump met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. During that meeting, which took place the day after House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry centered on a July 25 phone call between the two leaders, Zelenskiy told reporters he felt no pressure from the United State to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden.
“We had, I think, good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things,” Zelenskiy said. “So, I think, and you read [the transcript], that nobody pushed. Pushed me.”
The trip’s timing is expected to come at the end of a whirlwind two weeks in Washington, where Trump’s impeachment trial has explored the relationship between the administration, its personnel and its decision to withhold congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine for several months.
In September, the Trump administration lifted a hold on nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine for weapons and missile defense systems, shortly after Congress learned of a whistleblower’s concern that Trump was conditioning the money on a corruption investigation into the Bidens.
“It could be coincidence,” White House advisor Kellyanne Conway told Fox News, in response to a question about that timing. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
Congress authorized an additional $300 million in security assistance for Ukraine in its fiscal 2020 spending package. Ukraine experts suggest Pompeo’s visit will seek to reaffirm continued support from Washington, despite the close scrutiny of U.S.-Ukraine ties on Capitol Hill and the absence of leadership at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.
“One thing Ukrainians want to know is when an American ambassador will be formally nominated,” said Ed Chow, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The temporary appointment of former ambassador Bill Taylor, a witness in the House impeachment hearings, expired in early 2020 without a permanent appointment announced.