Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 24, 2022
QUESTION: The General Assembly of the United Nations under a huge majority resolution blaming Russia on the crisis in Ukraine. The resolution requests Russia to end the war in Ukraine and stop targeting civilian targets like hospitals, schools, and civilian infrastructure. To further discuss this resolution and international efforts to end the war, especially in the United Nations, joining us through Skype from New York is United States Ambassador to the United Nations Ms. Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Welcome, Ambassador, to our newscast.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.
QUESTION: So, we’ll start with this resolution. What can you tell us about the efforts that led to voting this resolution?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, the resolution that we passed overwhelmingly today was a resolution that particularly was important because it called for humanitarian assistance to be provided to the Ukrainian people. But it also acknowledged the cause of the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, and the cause of the humanitarian crisis clearly is the aggression that Russia is responsible for. They are responsible for the crisis, and we wanted to make sure that we acknowledged that in this resolution, and it was a resounding success.
QUESTION: In a communique a while ago, you talked about the Russian ambassador’s attempt to shed the light on different issues and not on what’s happening in Ukraine. What efforts are deploying to avoid that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we’re what we’re doing – and what we have succeeded in doing – is isolating Russia and making sure that they hear from the entire United Nations system, all UN Member States, from the Security Council, that what they are doing is unacceptable. And we are calling them out for it. So, as you know, yesterday we had a vote in the Security Council on a so-called humanitarian resolution proposed by the Russians and 13 countries abstained. And only China voted for the resolution along with Russia – so it was a failure.
QUESTION: How do you assess China’s role so far at the United Nations when it comes to the Russian war on Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we have continuously made an effort to consult with the Chinese to encourage the Chinese to call out Russia and condemn the actions that Russia is taking in Ukraine. It is clear that what they are doing goes against the principles of the United Nations. It goes against the principles of the UN Charter. It is an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country. And this is not what one would expect by a member of the Security Council.
So, China has not strongly made any effort to call Russia out. We’ve seen that they sided with Russia on this so-called humanitarian resolution. They have abstained on a number of votes that we have held, but they have not called China* out. But we do think China can play a key role because they are directly connected to President Putin, and we would encourage that China use that connection to encourage President Putin to return to the negotiating table with a clear mind to finding a solution and bringing this horrific war to an end.
QUESTION: It’s been one month since the war started. What is the support provided so far by the United States for the refugees within Ukraine or to other countries?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, one month. We – we made note of that this morning in the General Assembly. There have been 3.5 million refugees. More than 10 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes. We’ve watched daily as buildings are being destroyed, hospitals are being attacked, children’s schools are being attacked, and the United States has stood very strongly in support of providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, in addition to providing security assistance. As you may have heard today, the President announced a new – additional money – a billion dollars in humanitarian support for Ukraine. He also announced that we will – are prepared to take 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the United States. But even prior to this, we had provided significant funding to support the humanitarian operations both inside of Ukraine and the humanitarian situation that has developed in the neighboring countries because of so many refugees that have crossed the border.
QUESTION: Also, we know that this war is having a huge toll on women in particular. What should the United Nations do about that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As you know, this week, we’re having the CSW, and we’re focused on the impact of conflict on women. And, certainly, Ukraine is at the top of our agenda along with a number of other areas of conflict where we know that women are victimized more than anyone. So as you look at the pictures of people moving in Ukraine, we’re seeing women moving with their children. They have become very quickly the heads of their households and are being impacted by this war in significant ways. So we have raised this in the course of our discussions at CSW. I raised it in my speech, and I will also be giving a speech tomorrow in which we will address this issue very strongly.
But we’re also looking across the board at the impact of conflict and war on women. We have not forgotten that women are the victims of wars in Yemen, in Syria, in Ethiopia, and women tend to be forgotten sometimes in these conflicts as we’re trying to figure out how to negotiate a settlement. And we want to see women sitting at the negotiating table, as well, so that they can address the needs of women as countries try to address conflicts and find negotiated settlements moving forward.
QUESTION: Some countries, including in the Middle East and the Arab countries, did not have a clear-cut position towards this war on Ukraine. Now the region is also feeling the impact of the crisis. Do you believe that they will change their position at some point?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we all have to – I can’t speak for other countries – and we all have to look at the situation in Ukraine for what it is. It is an attack on the international order. And that attack on the international order has led to a situation where other countries are beginning to feel the consequences. They’re beginning to feel the consequences because, as many countries noted, Ukraine was the breadbasket of so many countries. Several countries have told me that they get as much as 50 percent to 80 percent of their wheat from Ukraine. They’re not able to access that wheat because there’s a war taking place in the country. Ukrainians are not able to plant their crops. Ukrainian boats are not – loaded with wheat – are not able to move out of their ports. So it is really important that we all take a strong stand on this war so that we can get back to a situation where Ukraine can continue to contribute to the well-being of the world and provide the food that we have all come to depend on from Ukraine.
QUESTION: We know this war would have an impact on the supply chains anytime soon. How should we react to prevent such a crisis?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, the first thing is we have to condemn Russia. We have to let Russia know that what it is doing in Ukraine is unacceptable and that there has to be a ceasefire immediately. And Russia needs to withdraw its troops and take them back to the Russian side of the border. So it is important that the war end so that we can start to move forward.
QUESTION: And after today’s resolution, what is the next step?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, there are a number of next steps, but the most important step is to continue the negotiations that the Ukrainian government has been willing to engage in with the Russians. Even as the Russians are attacking them, they’re sitting at the negotiating table trying to work out a solution that will lead to a ceasefire. And we all have to support Ukrainians’ efforts to encourage and urge the Russians to end this attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty.
QUESTION: Since the beginning of the crisis the American administration has been talking about the coordination with NATO and with the allies. What impact does this have on the United Nations?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, certainly we – you’ve seen that we’ve been very coordinated, we’ve been very unified in our responses to the situation in Ukraine and to putting sanctions on the Russians. In the UN, we are also coordinating our efforts, as well, so that we present a strong and unified voice in the United Nations. And that strong and unified voice led to the success that we had today in getting this resolution passed with such a strong vote.
QUESTION: Moving to war crimes, the State Department talked about new proof and evidence. What are the steps that should be taken in the Security Council about that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, certainly, at the moment we’re all collecting the evidence and ensuring that we have the evidence that a war crimes tribunal or court or wherever we decide to pursue this – that they have the evidence that they will need to prosecute these crimes successfully. The Security Council certainly has a role to play in calling out the situation, calling out the crimes, calling out the atrocities that we see being committed on a daily basis in this war, and we will certainly support any efforts that are made by the Ukrainians to ensure that these war crimes** are successful. But to be realistic, Russia is in the Security Council. So it will be very difficult to get any kind of resolution passed in the Security Council as long as Russia is able to veto. But we can isolate them, and the isolation is being felt by them, and I think that has been an important success for the Security Council.
QUESTION: We also have United Nation agents and volunteers on the borders welcoming refugees. What can you tell us about what they have done so far?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, I think we have to really commend the UN humanitarian agencies – UNHCR, UNICEF, World Food Program, other UN agencies – that are on the ground receiving refugees, providing them assistance, giving them what they need to take care of their families. Many of these people are traumatized. And they – some of them have injuries. And it is important that the UN agencies are there to support them. We are providing significant humanitarian assistance – funding resources – to those organizations so that they can do the jobs that we hope that they are able to successfully do in providing support to Ukrainians who are fleeing this horrific war, these horrific attacks on civilian populations.
QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, thank you very much, madam. We appreciate it.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much.
**war crimes prosecutions