Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 23, 2022


AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is President Putin’s war of choice. If he chooses to escalate further, Russia and Russia alone will bear full responsibility for what is to come.

QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield this morning with a clear message to her diplomatic colleagues at the UN, and to Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield joins me now. Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us.

So, we saw your condemnation of Russia’s actions. They could not have been stronger. But what could – what will the UN do? The General Assembly does not have, to my knowledge, a resolution or any kind of condemnation on its agenda. And the Security Council is led by Russia this month, which wouldn’t matter in any case because, as a member of the five permanent members, of course, they have the veto. They can veto anything that the Council does.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, this is just a start, Andrea. This meeting is a regular meeting of the General Assembly, but we were able to stand in front of the world and share with the world what we are seeing happening in Russia. And Russia heard strong condemnation, not only from the Secretary-General, but also from Member States. And despite the fact that they happen to be president of the Security Council, we still are able to hold meetings. And as you know, we had an emergency meeting on Monday night to deal with the situation related to Ukraine. We’ve also had an earlier meeting that the Russians – under the Russians’ chairmanship on the 17 of February where Secretary Blinken spoke – and we had a meeting on January 31.

So, Russia is not in a position to block the Security Council. They may have a veto, but as I’ve said over and over again, the cannot veto our voices. They cannot stop the world from hearing about their aggression and the actions that they’re taking to compromise the UN Charter and to threaten Ukraine’s borders and their sovereignty.

QUESTION: The President, very clear on Friday night that his expectation was that Vladimir Putin go all the way to Kyiv, that this was more likely a large invasion, not just in the east where there are Russian separatists and he could try with a false pretext to justify moving in. Well, now we’ve seen from yesterday not only declaring their independence and creating – the day before – security arrangements with them, but also going farther and talking about going farther throughout Donbas, throughout the Ukrainian strongly-held Ukrainian sections of Donbas. He’s not withdrawn troops, to our knowledge. He still has landing ships – larger warships on the Black Sea. He can virtually control the air through his S400s in Belarus. Do you see any sign that he’s not going to launch a massive invasion?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We see no signs of the Russians withdrawing. We see no signs that they are leaning toward finding a diplomatic solution to the way forward. What we see is continued Russian aggression. We see continued efforts by the Russians to blame Ukraine for the situation. And also we’re beginning to see cyberattacks, we’re seeing misinformation. So right now, everything points to the fact that Russia intends to continue to invade Ukraine even further, and as the President said, everything we’re seeing suggests that they may be moving toward Kyiv.

QUESTION: There’s reporting now from Bloomberg that the sanctions that we’re expecting later today on NordStream 2, they include against the builder of the pipeline itself – [inaudible] and some of the other oligarchs. There’s no sign that the sanctions will deter Vladimir Putin. He seems ideologically committed, saying that Ukraine should be part of Russia.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we have been clear that these sanctions will hurt, and as Russia starts to feel the impact of these sanctions, we are looking to see their response. And hopefully their response will be to come back to the negotiating table, because the sanctions will hurt. And what the sanctions – what we’ve been able to do with the sanctions is get a unified position from the rest of Europe, as well. Others have joined us in these sanctions, including, we worked very, very closely with Germany on the NordStream 2, and Russia will feel the impact. The people of Russia need to be asking Vladimir Putin, how far is he willing to go to sacrifice Russian lives in this war? So, again, we have not taken diplomacy off the table. We’re still ready as the President noted, to find a way forward through our diplomatic means, if the Russians will accept that. But we’re also ready to continue to ratchet up these sanctions and our response to this Russian aggression.

QUESTION: Ambassador Crocker wrote a very alarming letter earlier this week to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle –


QUESTION: Excuse me. Bachelet. Apologies there. That letter outlined potential, you know, horrific actions against resistors, against journalists, other Ukrainians who might be on the lists already. How concerned are we about that? And is there anything the U.S. can do, or the UN can do?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re clearly concerned. And that’s why Ambassador Crocker sent that letter to the High Commissioner, and it is why we have been warning over the course of many weeks of the dire consequences of a Russian invasion in Ukraine. And I will also add that it’s important that we are now back on the Security Council* and we can use that bench at the Security Council* to make sure that we hold Russia accountable. So this letter was just a start of making sure that this is on the agenda of the Human Rights Council, but we will continue to engage with the Council, engage with the members, and also engage here in New York with the Member States to hold Russia accountable for any actions that they take in Ukraine.

QUESTION: Do you think the U.S. under some circumstances should be supporting, not just arming and training, but supporting the insurgency in more material ways?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re working with NATO and supporting our NATO Allies on the border. And as you noted, we’re doing training and providing equipment. We’ve not taken anything off the table, but right now there’s no insurgency. The government of Ukraine is still standing and prepared to – as you’ve heard from their president and we heard today from their foreign minister – they’re prepared to fight back.

QUESTION: And finally, I think the President and other officials had been warning for 10 days at least for Americans to get out of Ukraine while they could still get out commercially, while they can still cross borders. And that U.S. troops would not go in, and that those troops in Poland are there to help refugees that might be coming out, but they’re not going to cross in and risk crossing into a non-NATO country. That said, will the President of the United States really be able to permit Americans to be at risk? Americans who get trapped there?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Andrea, this is why for days we have been encouraging Americans to get out when it’s permissible to get out. We can’t fly American troops into a conflict zone to get out Americans who made the decision not to leave when they were encouraged to leave. And we’re still encouraging Americans to get out now. We don’t know what the situation will be like on the ground. We’re assisting any Americans through our embassy employees who are still working to support Americans. And we will do everything possible to support American citizens, but they need to also be responsible and make the right decisions to move when it’s permissible.

QUESTION: Ambassador, it’s very good of you to take the time. Thank you so much for your updates today.



*Human Rights Council