Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with CNN Brazil’s Basilia Rodrigues

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Brasilia, Brazil
May 4, 2023


QUESTION: So now here we are with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and we have a lot of issues to talk about. Ambassador, it’s been the first visit in Brazil with a high-ranking American official since the recent statements of President Lula about the role of the United States in the war. How can this position – the position of Lula – damage or not damage the relationship between the two countries, Brazil and the United States?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We expressed our disappointment with the President’s statement, and I also made that clear during all of my meetings here in Brazil. But that said, you know, the disappointment was based on the fact that we know that Brazil is a strong democracy. Brazil voted to condemn Russia’s invasion. Brazil voted to condemn Russia’s annexation, and they supported the resolution passed in February asking to support peace in Ukraine. And so, we know where Brazil stands on these issues, and what we have said is, if they are to play a role as a mediator, they have to be neutral, and they have to be in conversations with both sides.

So, during my meetings, I encouraged that Brazil engage with the Government of Ukraine. I understand that there are some plans for a visit to Ukraine and that they will be following up on those discussions. But let me be clear about one thing: Russia cannot be rewarded for their invasion of Ukraine, and no discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.

President Biden has said over and over, “nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” And that’s the position that we stand firmly on.

QUESTION: That’s a good point because we need to know about Brazil; what’s the role of Brazil in this situation? Is Brazil still able to be a peace broker in the war? Does Brazil want to be this neutral agent? Or is Brazil not a fair candidate to mediate talks between Ukraine and Russia? Do you think Brazil is ok or it’s not able?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We encourage all countries who are seeking a peaceful path forward for the situation in Ukraine to engage. We support diplomacy, so we’re not discouraging Brazil. We’re just encouraging that they be neutral in this effort, that they engage with both sides, and we encourage their efforts.

QUESTION: Do you think Russia will feel the pressure to stop the war? And is it an unprovoked conflict or not? Who is right in the end? Russia or Ukraine? Is there a correct side?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: There is a correct side. Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia put 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. They threatened Ukraine, and then they moved those troops into Ukraine. Ukraine did not attack Russia. Ukraine is not inside of Russia. Russia is inside of Ukraine. And Russia has been condemned by more than 140 countries in the United Nations for their unprovoked attack on Ukraine. And that’s what we have to remember. It is an attack on Ukraine; it’s an attack on the very values of the UN Charter that we all hold dear.

So, our message to Brazil is any efforts towards negotiation has to be based in the Charter. It has to be based on the values of the UN Charter, which is the protection of the sovereignty of countries and the integrity of their borders.

QUESTION: How do you see the recent attacks with drones against Russia? Is Washington behind the attacks as it is claimed by Russia? We know about fake news; we know about the information war that the world is living. So, I would like to know, how do you see the recent attacks with drones against Russia and what was the role of Washington in this situation?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Certainly, there was no role that the U.S. played on this, but I don’t have any specific information on this. Now, I would say, as you said, we know that Russia is capable of misinformation and disinformation. Ukraine says they did not attack Russia, but I don’t have any new information to share on that.

QUESTION: The United States is not related to it?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: No. The United States did not attack Russia, and Russia knows the United States did not attack.

QUESTION: I would like to talk about your visit here in Brazil. How will you restart the program against racism, an important, huge issue for both countries? Why didn’t the United States do it before, during the last government, the last president? What happened?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t speak for what happened during the last president. I just know that this is an initiative that both of our countries now are committed to revitalizing. And I was pleased to be part of the efforts in Salvador – 

QUESTION: Did you like Salvador?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I loved Salvador – to announce the restart of JAPER with Minister Franco, and I was accompanied by our Special Representative for Racial Justice Desirée Cormier Smith. And this is an extraordinary new start. It is a commitment that President Lula has made, and it’s a commitment that President Biden has made. And I came here to move that forward. Special Representative Cormier Smith will be coming back to Brazil on the 23rd of May to start the discussions on the steps that we will be taking bilaterally to implement the JAPER.

QUESTION: And your visit here in Brazil?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I had an amazing visit here in Brazil. I feel very, very confident that following on to President Lula and President Biden’s meeting I have helped to revitalize our relationship, reaffirmed our common interests, our common goals, and really set a path forward for additional engagement on issues of mutual concern to both of our countries. 

QUESTION: One more question. So, Ambassador, in your schedule here in Brazil, did you have an opportunity to talk about the Fundo Amazônia? What’s the importance of paying attention to this matter for our country and for the world? And how can the United States help us?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As you know, the President announced $500 million to the Amazon Fund. He expressed a strong commitment to engaging on climate issues here in Brazil; I had the opportunity to talk about those issues here. I met with an extraordinary woman today who was awarded with the U.S. Embassy’s recognition for her work on climate change. And I look forward to our countries working together.

I saw a message that Brazil is the lungs of the world, and for that reason we have to support the Amazon Fund and support Brazil’s efforts to save the Amazon for the future of other generations. 

QUESTION: How was this (inaudible) with Black people in Brazil? I’m curious.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I had an amazing opportunity to engage with the Afro community in Salvador, and it reminded me so much of my own experiences growing up in the United States. It reaffirmed again to me that there are areas where both Brazil and the U.S. have challenges, and that we can work on those challenges together. And that can happen between the Afro community and African Americans in the United States. The JAPER will help us move that agenda forward.

QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. I do appreciate your time. Thank you for the interview.