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
August 8, 2023


QUESTION: Thanks for joining us, Ambassador. If we can turn first to the situation in Ukraine. We’ve seen Russia striking civilians there while holding a blockade of food exports in the Black Sea. Much-needed food relief for countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, and others. In fact, the situation that the former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder in the New York Times called a war zone as relevant to NATO as western Ukraine. Is there any hope for relief in the Black Sea as you see it to restore the grain deal?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I continue to be hopeful. The Secretary-General, the United Nations, Türkiye have been working diligently over the course of the past few weeks to push the Russians and urge the Russians to get back into the grain deal. It is in the interest of the Global South community, it is in our interest, and it is in Russia’s interest to get back into this deal. So, we remain hopeful, but it really is in the hands of the Russians to make the right decision to resume allowing for Ukrainian grain to flow through the Black Sea.

QUESTION: Why do you think it is that the UN Security Council has been unable to get a handle on the ongoing Russian aggression, a clear breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is clearly a breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty. It undermines the very foundation of the UN Charter, the foundation of all the values that we believe in. The Council has been consistent in condemning Russia’s actions. Their actions have been condemned very strongly in the General Assembly. We had more than 140 countries vote to condemn Russia, to condemn their actions in Ukraine, to condemn their annexations, and to call for peace.

And in the Security Council itself, you hear every single country calling on Russia to do the right thing; condemning their actions in Ukraine, their attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty. So, it is really in Russia’s hands to end this war today. They can end the war today. They can return Ukrainian territory to Ukraine and allow for the free flow of wheat to the rest of the world.

QUESTION: But those condemnations as well-meaning and as loud and as frequent as they have not led to any actual action on the part of Russia. How significantly do you think their veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council has hindered the ability to bring about any permanent accomplishments?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, their veto power hasn’t protected them from the condemnation. It has not protected them from the isolation that they are feeling in the Security Council. And we will continue to keep the pressure on Russia until they withdraw their troops from Ukraine. And I know that they are feeling that pressure every single day and we cannot let up until they end this unprovoked war of aggression on the Ukrainian people. President Biden has said over and over again that we will stand with Ukraine as long as Ukraine needs us, and we will.

QUESTION: Now I did see peace talks in Jeddah over the weekend. Although there was no significant resolution at all to come from that. Do you think the UN can broker a deal between Russia and Ukraine?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think that a deal can be brokered. It has to have Ukraine’s active participation in that process, and it can’t give Russia their – what I like to refer to their ill begotten wealth – their annexation of Ukrainian territory that they took in this unprovoked war. So right now, efforts are being made. We support efforts to find a path to peace. But Russia has to be a willing participant in that. And in participating, they have to withdraw their troops from Ukraine.

QUESTION: And speaking about the Security Council, the U.S. obviously holds the presidency of that for the month of August. One of your priorities is food insecurity, specifically ending famine forever. What are you asking from other UN nations in terms of achieving that goal?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we are asking other countries to commit to doing everything possible to end famine. There is no reason for 700 million people to go to bed hungry every single night. There is no need for famine like conditions in the Horn of Africa. We have the resources, we have the tools to end this crisis, and we have to commit to doing it. And I was very pleased that we had 91 countries this past week sign on to a communique demanding that food not be used as a weapon of a war. And the Security Council condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

QUESTION: If we can turn to look at the situation in Niger now, the Acting Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Victoria Nuland visited there on Monday. She described the situation on the ground as not comporting with the constitution. Now officially calling it a coup of course has serious legal implications – not least that most U.S. aid would have to be stopped. But if the Biden Administration considers actions there not to be in line with the constitution and the delegation was physically stopped from seeing the president in person, is that not a coup?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is certainly an attempt at a coup. But we still believe that President Bazoum is the recognized elected leader of Niger. And we will continue to push for his release. We have supported the efforts of ECOWAS. They have also called for his release, and they’ve called for the military to stand down.

QUESTION: But if those present there at the moment are not allowing your delegation to visit with the president, they also have refused a visit from an ECOWAS delegation, that is a very serious situation. How concerned are you about the safety of President Bazoum?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is a serious situation. And we are concerned about his safety. We have stayed engaged with him over the course of his detention. We have spoken with him on the phone several times. I have been in touch with him, as has the Secretary of State and others in the region have reached out to him. And we will keep pushing for his release. ECOWAS will be having a meeting, I think on Thursday, where they will discuss the situation I think more aggressively, talk about how they can find a path forward that will get President Bazoum released.

QUESTION: And specifically, what is the next step that the U.S. can take?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Right now, what we have decided to do is temporarily hold back on all of our support and aid that goes through the Government of Niger. We are still providing direct humanitarian assistance to the people, but we want to be clear that this current effort is not going to be supported by the U.S. government.

QUESTION: Well, thank you for joining us. We’ll leave it there for now. Ambassador Linda Thomas-greenfield, thank you.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, it was great to be here with you.