Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Caitríona Perry of BBC World News

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 19, 2023


QUESTION: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, nice of you to join us. Ambassador, thanks for joining us. If we could just go back to what the U.S. President Joe Biden said. He had some very strong words to the international community, really, about the Russian aggression in the – into Ukraine, saying the fundamentals of this whole organization, the UN Charter, have been put at risk. Is there broad support for that?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think the President’s message was – it was actually much broader than that. I think what the world was waiting to hear from the President was what we thought of the SDGs. They also appreciated our views on Ukraine, but he really talked about a commitment to our – to reaffirming the goals of the SDGs, and I think that message went over quite well.

On Ukraine, he was strong and he was clear that this is a brutal attack on a smaller nation. It is an attack on the very values of the UN Charter. It is an attack on the United Nations system. It is something that we have to stand together to fight. He said that President Putin thought that we would lose our patience and move away, and he was very strong in stating that we cannot do that. We have to stand strong. We have to remain committed to fighting this brutal war.

QUESTION: When you’re talking about standing together, though, President Biden is the only one of the five permanent members of the Security Council – the only leader to be here. What does that say about unity and relationships there?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, all of the countries here are represented at senior levels. President Biden’s participation and his presence is a reflection of our commitment, but we’re engaging with a number of countries. There are 140 leaders, I think, and I don’t really know the exact number, who are all here. The other P5 members are represented at senior levels, and we will engage with them at the levels that they are here.

QUESTION: President Zelenskyy will address the gathering in person today, and Joe Biden said the price of peace is what Russia was concerned was Ukraine’s territory, Ukraine’s capitulation, and Ukraine’s children. What is the international community going to do now? It’s a year and a half into this conflict already?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re going to stand strong. We’re going to remain committed to supporting Ukraine until this is over, and the President was clear in stating that there’s no one who wants peace more than Ukraine. We want peace, but peace cannot be at the price of Ukraine giving up its territory, giving up its independence, and giving up its children.

QUESTION: If we move, then, to look at U.S.-China relations, the President again addressing that and the need to manage the competition between the two nations, as he says, so it doesn’t tip into conflict. Is that something that the U.S. is planning for, conflict with China?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is very clear from the President’s statement that we’re not planning for conflict, that we’re working to avoid conflict and we’re working to manage this relationship to ensure that conflict never happens.

QUESTION: You mentioned earlier the SDGs there, which the President addressed at some length as well he called for trillions more dollars are needed to try and make these targets. As you’ve heard from the UN, the targets were way, way, way behind where they should be. What can we do?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we can do what we’re doing here this week. We can recommit to those goals. We can make commitments to ourselves to achieve those goals, and that’s what the President did today, and I think that’s what a number of countries are doing, showing that they are committed to the SDGs. We had a very, very strong declaration that was passed by consensus, and I think that says everything about where everyone is in ensuring that we achieve the SDG goals. Because those goals are about people. It’s about dealing with poverty and dealing with education and supporting women and girls. So they are goals that we all support, and we’re redoubling our efforts to make sure that we get there and in the end deliver to the people of the world.

QUESTION: Climate change, a big part of delivering on the SDGs, obviously, as well – feeds into almost everything, every one of the targets that there are to meet there. What more can the international community do? I mean, pledging support is one thing, but action is critical.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, I think you’re exactly right – action is what is needed. The United States is taking action. We’re encouraging other countries to take more action and recommit to achieving the climate goals, because we know that this is, as the Secretary-General said two years ago – this is an existential threat to the world, and we have to find a path forward to deal with the issues related to climate change, and we need to do it today, not tomorrow. It’s upon us now.

QUESTION: Ambassador, I know your time is precious, so we’ll let you go. Thank you so much for joining us today.