The position of U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, formerly held by Kurt Volker, the first senior official to step down in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, will likely be discontinued altogether.
The responsibilities of Volker's role are expected to be taken up by other State Department officials whose portfolios include Ukraine, according to current and former U.S. officials who spoke to Foreign Policy.
The demise of the special envoy post, which was part-time and unpaid, is one of the first tangible signs that fallout from the impeachment probe has left a lasting impact on U.S. policy toward Ukraine, now at the center of the brewing political battle over Trump's presidency. The move leaves Kyiv without a clearly designated U.S. diplomat to watch its back in talks as new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pushes for peace five years into a simmering war in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk that has killed more than 13,000 people.
"The signal, to put it mildly, is not encouraging, but quite expected: the U.S. presence in peace negotiations on Donbas is approaching… zero," said Alyona Getmanchuk, the director of the Kyiv-based New Europe Center, in an email to Foreign Policy.
Current and former officials say the position will likely be scrapped in large part because the administration would be hard-pressed to find someone to fill the role given how fraught working on Ukraine policy has become: Those involved have been hauled before Congress to testify in the impeachment probe, allegedly faced bullying tactics from State Department lawyers, or had their careers damaged or destroyed in the process.
One current U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, conceded that the department would have "difficulty finding someone… to touch [the job] with a 10-foot pole."
"Nobody in their right mind would want to step into this particular spotlight," one former U.S. official said. "This is clearly an issue where the scrutiny of the entire world would be upon you. And you have leadership at the State Department that has shown its unwillingness to stand up for its people in even the most basic ways."