Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 20, 2022
QUESTION: Do you think that there is still room for a diplomatic breakthrough in Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely. Otherwise there’s no purpose for the meeting. So we are still aggressively pursuing a diplomatic solution, and this meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov is part of that effort. So we would not be holding the meeting if we didn’t think that there was still a chance to find a way forward that leads to de-escalation and to a diplomatic solution for Ukraine and for us.
QUESTION: Russian officials say – they repeat that there is no plan to invade Ukraine. Which evidence actually do you have that, in fact, they are preparing for an invasion?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine – that’s probably the strongest evidence that we have. Training and maneuvers on the border. All of these show plans for aggression. And while we are continuing to look for a diplomatic solution, we’re being prepared and we are prepared to respond to any aggressive action that the Russians might take.
QUESTION: If diplomacy fails, there will be sanctions. But we know that Russia can cut off gas to Europe. Which contingency plan the Biden Administration has put in place?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Our plan is to work closely with our allies to support any actions that might be taken against them, including the possibility of the Russians taking actions on the pipeline. But my view is that would equally hurt Russia, so it would not be in their interest to cut off Europeans’ access to the pipeline.
QUESTION: In addition to sanctions, the United States has any military option on the table?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we have been working with the Ukrainians since 2014. We’ve provided them over $2.7 billion in support of their military. Just this week Secretary Blinken announced additional assistance to the Ukrainians. We’re also supporting training and assisting their military, and we’re working very, very closely with NATO and with allies in the region to provide a unified response to the Russians.
QUESTION: Actually today, now, Ukrainian Foreign Minister expressed concern about the distinction that President Biden yesterday said between a full invasion and a small attack. They say it can sound to the Russians like a green light for an operation. Can you clarify this important point?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, the President has made clear we will respond aggressively to any actions that the Russians take. But what the President was explaining is that we’re looking at all of the options that we’ve seen in the Russian playbook over many years. So it may not be immediately a military attack, but he did not say we’re not going to respond to any actions they take. They need to be assured – and I want to assure you – that we will respond aggressively to whatever the Russians do if they move aggressively toward Ukraine again.
QUESTION: Last question, Ambassador. There is still a possibility that Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin will hold maybe a virtual meeting to try to solve this crisis?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I have not seen anything on another meeting between President Biden and President Putin, but I know that the President is prepared to take any effort toward a diplomatic solution and work with our counterparts to have those discussions. He has already instructed all of us to use diplomacy first. So I’ve been aggressively engaging with my colleagues here in New York, including planning a meeting this week with my Ukrainian counterpart. But I’ve met with all of the members of the P5, including the Russians, to express our concerns.
QUESTION: Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.