Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 22, 2022
QUESTION: Joining us now is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Madam Ambassador, it’s great to have you here this morning.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. I’m delighted to be here.
QUESTION: So, President Putin looks very isolated on the world stage right now, drawing criticism even from President Xi of China, Prime Minister Modi of India. What was it like in the room yesterday? What is the feeling? It does seem the world – the West, obviously – but really the world has gathered behind Ukraine.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, over 190 countries sitting in the room, listening attentively to the President of the United States condemning Russia and the President outlined a positive agenda for the U.S., an agenda that will focus on the crises around the globe. We’re going to be focusing on food insecurity. We’re focusing on climate change. We’re focusing on global health, but we’re also focusing the world on what Russia is doing in Ukraine – their unprovoked war on the people of Ukraine. As the President described it, they want to erase Ukraine from the map. They want to disappear Ukrainians from the world.
QUESTION: One of the things President Zelenskyy has tried to do over the last seven months is to keep the world engaged, to keep his story in front of the world so that the support continues. Is it your sense, sitting at the UN, that the world is still on this? That they’re willing to go the distance for however long this war takes?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s my sense. We have isolated Russia in the United Nations, in the Security Council. We got 141 countries to vote to condemn Russia. We suspended them from the Human Human Rights Council. They hear every single time we’re sitting in the Council condemnation of what they are doing. So they are feeling the isolation. They’re not behaving like a country that’s confident about their place in the world, and we will keep the pressure on.
QUESTION: So obviously another focus for the President yesterday in his speech was Beijing and the message to China, whether or not they’re attempts to have a nuclear program, the economics and, of course, their efforts to soft support some of what Russia is doing. How important right now – and the President often speaks about how this generation is going to be defined by the battle between democracies and autocracies – what is he trying to signal to China ahead of his first meeting with Xi Jinping?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The Chinese have found themselves in an extraordinarily uncomfortable position, and that is trying to defend the actions of Russia and not clearly condemning those actions in the Security Council, and we’ve called them out for that, as well. But we also have to continue to engage with the Chinese in the Council, as well as dealing with them on issues of climate change. So we will continue to consult and work with them in areas where we can, we’re going to compete with them where we need to, and we will condemn their actions when necessary.
QUESTION: Ambassador, yesterday President Biden brought a topic that is a constant in the world, unfortunately, finally brought it into the headlines by mentioning it in his speech: food insecurity. We had Chef José Andrés on with us yesterday, and he was talking about what happens – the ripple effect of when people are hungry, not just in war zones, but in the Middle East, in Africa. Could you speak to what happens among your colleagues? What they talk about, about food insecurity in the poorest nations in the world? What do people do? What can we do for people?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s one of the highest priorities of this Administration. We started talking about food insecurity when I arrived here last year in February. In our first presidency, food insecurity was one of the events we focused on. In May, Secretary Blinken came to New York, we hosted a ministerial where we brought 103 countries to sign on to a roadmap on how we will address food insecurity around the world.
I have traveled in Africa and talked about food insecurity and some of the potential that we see on the African continent for addressing food insecurity. The United States has given billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance. The President announced about $2.9 billion just yesterday that will address some of the development issues, some of the capacity issues, and the humanitarian issues. We’d already given close to $7 billion.
So we’re working with countries to address their food insecurity needs, to feed their people. I heard Senator* Pelosi say to me one day that “food is medicine.” And food is medicine. Food provides nourishment to people around the world. And if they don’t have enough to eat, they’re not going to think about the politics. They’re not going to think about other issues.
So this is an issue that is global, and one that we have to work with the world to address. And the President was clear on that. We hosted during this week a food insecurity summit, co-hosted with the EU, with the African Union, with Spain, and we had dozens of nations participate in that meeting because they all know that it’s something that we have to work together to address.
QUESTION: As you said, President Biden pledging $3 billion more dollars on top of $7 billion that had already been put out earlier this year. I wanted to ask you, Ambassador, about the inspiring scenes in the streets of Iran over the last couple of days. Largely young people go into the streets protesting the morality police – there’s actually something called the morality police in Iran. A woman died in the custody of that group. But really, it’s a taste and a thirst for freedom. Will the United States support these people in their efforts for freedom? Because they have been in the past disappointed by the United States and had their movements squashed by the power of Iran.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, the death of this young woman was extraordinarily sad. It shows what this country is capable of – squashing the expression of frustration that the young Iranians are feeling. So we are supportive of them, of their rights to protest, and we will – they know that they can depend on our voice in condemning the Iranian government, condemning their actions against these young people. And they should expect that if they don’t listen to their youth, they’re going to see these demonstrations continue to happen over and over again.
QUESTION: Pretty extraordinary pictures, aren’t they Mike? You’ve seen a lot over the years in Iran.
QUESTION: You know, Ambassador, as you spoke – and to Willie’s question, to Willie’s point that he raised – can you think of any other member nations in the United Nations that as component parts of their law enforcement involve morality police?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, of course in Afghanistan. We know that the Afghanistan** have morality police, or religious police, that enforce their edicts on people, and particularly women of Afghanistan. And again, this is something that we do condemn. That women make up more than 50 percent of the world’s population. Women’s rights are human rights, and we have to support them wherever their rights are being stamped on.
QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thanks so much for taking the time with us this morning. It’s good to see you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good, thank you. It’s great to be here.