Impeachment was challenging enough. Now, the secretary has his own intemperate language to overcome.
Mike Pompeo was already expecting to navigate a political minefield when he landed in Kyiv next week.
But after the secretary of State’s explosion at a respected NPR journalist, his trip just got a little more complicated.
Even before Pompeo’s bizarre outburst, he faced a skeptical welcome in Ukraine—a country shaken by its role in the impeachment fracas in Washington and riven with anxiety about the future of U.S.-Ukraine ties, the hostile presence of Russia, and the simmering resentment inside a U.S. Embassy in Kyiv still reeling from the ouster of its previous ambassador.
So Pompeo, whose own role in the impeachment scandal remains something of a mystery, faces a series of politically perilous questions:
Will he do enough to reassure Ukrainian leaders about U.S. support in their war with Russia? Will that include offering a date for the Oval Office visit that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long sought?
Will Pompeo assuage U.S. diplomats in Ukraine who’ve been upset by his treatment of their embassy chiefs? And can he do all this without irking Trump, a president who rails against Ukraine in private and expresses sympathy toward its arch-enemy, Russia, in public?
Former U.S. officials and others who watch Ukraine are not optimistic that Pompeo’s visit will fundamentally reset a relationship badly damaged by the impeachment scandal. They agree, however, that the secretary of State showing up is better than nothing.