U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Nov. 8 to meet with top Ukrainian leaders.
Mr. Buttigieg, 41, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other senior government officials to discuss the country’s economic recovery and the impact of the war on its supply chains.
He and the senior leaders spoke about “advancing Ukraine’s economic recovery and efforts to return Ukraine to economic self-sufficiency, including via supporting investments in transportation infrastructure and reforms that will support a return to private-sector-led growth,” according to a U.S. Transportation Department (DOT) statement.
Elsewhere during the visit, Mr. Buttigieg announced the appointment of a senior-level adviser in Kyiv who will provide the country with technical assistance and “share best practices on infrastructure project delivery.”
Robert Mariner, who has previously worked for the U.S. Air Force and Navy on transportation in an engineering position and has “decades” of experience, has been selected for the role of transportation advisor to Ukraine, the department said.
Mr. Mariner served at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as a transportation counselor.
“The U.S. Department of Transportation, in coordination with the State Department, has coordinated similar advisory roles in U.S. embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the department said.
DOT assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs Annie Petsonk accompanied Mr. Buttigieg on the trip, which officials said was part of the Biden-Harris administration’s “steadfast commitment to Ukraine,” which has been at war with Russia since February 2022.
Last week, the Biden administration announced it would provide $425 million worth of additional military aid and equipment to Ukraine to meet its battlefield needs amid the ongoing war.
After landing in Kyiv, Mr. Buttigieg wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that he has been in “close contact” with his Ukrainian counterpart, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, since Russia launched its invasion.
He said the two have regularly discussed the conflict’s impact on global supply chains, particularly regarding ports and rail infrastructure.
The former Indiana mayor added that Mr. Mariner will provide technical assistance to help with Ukraine’s rebuilding efforts.
“It’s one of countless ways the U.S. continues to stand with the people of Ukraine for the long haul and ensure its connection to the world,” Mr. Buttigieg said.
Republicans Seek to Slash Buttigieg Pay
Mr. Buttigieg’s visit to Ukraine came just one day after the House of Representatives approved a measure aimed at slashing his taxpayer-funded salary to $1 per year.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) under the Holman Rule, which allows amendments to appropriations legislation that would cut the salary of federal employees to $1.
The legislation was in response to concerns among GOP lawmakers that Mr. Buttigieg was taking taxpayer-funded trips on private planes, including to swing states such as Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
Mr. Buttigieg is currently facing a lawsuit filed by a conservative watchdog group, Americans for Public Trust, over the trips that were allegedly paid for using taxpayer money.
In a statement to the New York Post, a DOT spokesperson said: “The Secretary travels by commercial airline the vast majority of the time and has directed that travel and logistical decisions be grounded in efficient and responsible use of taxpayer dollars.”
“The exceptions have been when the Department’s career ethics officials, who have served under both Democratic and Republican administrations, determined that the use of a 9-seat FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] aircraft would be either more cost-effective or should be approved for exceptional scheduling or security reasons,” the spokesperson added.
Reuters contributed to this report.