Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine reflects on one-year mark since Russian invasion

Feb. 24 will mark one year since Russia launched a large-scale attack on Ukraine, escalating the conflict that first erupted in 2014.

More than 7,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the year-long war, including more than 400 kids, according to the United Nations.

Our Washington News Bureau spoke one-on-one with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, John Tefft.

Tefft served in the role from 2009 to 2013.

We asked Tefft what outcome he expects from the war and how long he expects it to last.

“I think the honest answer is we don’t know,” said Tefft. “Putin seems determined to try to continue to do this.”

Tefft lived and worked alongside the Ukrainian people while he worked as a diplomat and said watching the destruction and death toll over the last year has been heartbreaking.

“It’s indescribable sadness more than anything else,” said Tefft. “We have a lot of friends still there. I communicate with Ukrainian employees who work at our embassy in Kyiv.”

Tefft calls this a key moment in history.

It’s one that Tefft said other authoritarian leaders are closely watching.

“I think the longer we look at this, I think we see this is going to have not just an impact on Europe and Eastern Europe on Ukraine in particular, but it’s going to have broader implications,” said Tefft.  “In places like Central Asia, the Russians are losing influence there because they are watching this horrible battle and seeing what’s happened, what the Ukrainians have been able to do to the Russians…We’ve got a whole new world that’s coming, and we don’t know yet how that’s going to look. But it’s a critical moment for American leadership.”

The Biden administration has committed around $113 billion in humanitarian, economic and military aid for Ukraine so far.

The U.S. support for Ukraine has been largely bipartisan in Congress and among Americans.

But criticism by some, particularly among Republicans, has been growing, with some questioning if the U.S. is spending too much and whether there is enough oversight of how the money is being spent.

“I would argue that this is one of those really big events in history where we have to go all in,” said Tefft. “Yes. It’s a lot of money. I understand that. But I think it’s going to a really important, strategically important, purpose.”

Ukraine’s Defense Minister has warned they believe Russia is preparing a new major attack that could coincide with the Feb. 24 one-year mark of the start of the war.

Comments on this article