Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Erin Burnett of CNN’s “OutFront”

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 17, 2022


QUESTION: On “OutFront” now, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. And I really appreciate your time, Ambassador. So, President Biden said today about an invasion, and I quote him, “My sense is it will happen within the next several days.” How convinced are you right now that Putin actually plans to attack within the next several days?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: President Putin, the Russians, have all of the forces on the ground that would suggest that they are prepared for an attack any day – 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, troops in Belarus. So, everything is there to suggest that they are making preparations. Now, when that attack will occur, I think only President Putin himself can answer that question. But we see everything that shows that he is ready for such an attack.

QUESTION: So Democratic Senator Tim Kaine pushed back a bit today on President Biden’s comments on an invasion in the next several days. He noted, and I quote Senator Kaine, “That’s not necessarily the view held by some of our European allies.” And also, I will say Ukrainians I’ve spoken to here – regular people – they don’t believe Putin will launch a massive invasion. They’re not panicking. My colleagues along the eastern border, they report the same thing. What’s the disconnect?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I don’t know that there’s a disconnect, Erin. I think we’re all seeing the same things, and how it’s being interpreted may be different from others. But this is a Russian way of operating. They have put these troops on the border. We saw them do this when they invaded Crimea. We’ve seen them do it when they’ve invaded other parts of eastern Europe. So we’re making every plan and making sure we share very transparently with the world what we are seeing. How they interpret that moving forward is up to them. But we want to make sure that we’re transparent about what we see and what we’re analyzing taking place on the ground right now. You know that we had a Security Council meeting today, and Secretary Blinken openly asked our Russian counterpart: Tell us here at the Security Council you do not intend to invade. And they did not do that. So, their intentions are very clear. When they do it will be their decision. But we need to be ready when it happens. And if it doesn’t happen, it means our diplomatic efforts have had an impact, and that they are prepared to come to the negotiating table to find a solution to their security concerns.

QUESTION: You keep using the word “when.” And you’re – it is true; you’ve been incredibly detailed on what you see and been nothing if not transparent with the intelligence. But this idea that an imminent invasion is something, as you know, Ambassador, that we have heard repeatedly over literally a month from the Biden Administration. This – starting on January 18th, Jen Psaki says, “We’re now at a stage where Russia could launch at any point an attack in Ukraine. January 25th, Jen Psaki: “I think when we said it was imminent, it remains imminent.” Admiral Kirby on February 1st: “Putin could move imminently at any time.” And today, President Biden: “My sense is it will happen in the next several days.” Now, thankfully, Ambassador, nothing has happened yet, but are you at all concerned that repeating this line that it’s “when” that it’s “imminent” and nothing happened might cause people to lose faith in U.S. intelligence?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: If nothing happens, then that means a war didn’t happen. And that’s what we are trying to prevent. Secretary Blinken said he was not there to make war; we’re there to find a way forward to peace. And if the Russians – if us exposing what the Russians are doing is successful in stopping them from taking an action, then that’s success. We – you know, if we’re wrong, then that’s good, as well. Because none of us want to see a war happen. We don’t want to see thousands of people die. We don’t want to see the humanitarian crisis that will come as a result of a Russian attack. So, yes, we are going to continue to share with the world very openly what we’re seeing and what our analyses are of the situation on the ground. They still have 150,000 troops. They can move any day. But when they move will be a decision that only President Putin himself will make. But in the meantime, if we can get them to the negotiating table, then we feel that we have succeeded.

QUESTION: So, let me ask you about that. I know Secretary Blinken has asked Foreign Minister Lavrov to meet next week in Europe. But we also know Russia finally submitted – it took them three weeks, right? Just today, I understand you received the 11-page reply to the United States’ list of negotiating points. So, Russia, after three weeks, has replied with an 11-page document. So, Secretary Blinken today said that the United States is evaluating that document.


QUESTION: Ambassador, it’s really important to understand this: His speech was quite definitive on Russia’s plan to invade, but he had just ostensibly gotten their 11-page response. He said he hadn’t evaluated it. But then he went ahead and gave that speech. So I’m wondering, has the United States essentially already dismissed Russia’s reply and accepted that diplomacy has failed?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely not. We are going to continue to aggressively lean in on diplomacy and hopefully succeed with a diplomatic solution. So, we’re – we received their response today, we’re analyzing that response, and we hope we are sitting across the table from them next week to have a discussion on a way forward with their concerns on the table, our concerns on the table, and a way forward that does not lead to a confrontation.

QUESTION: Alright, Ambassador. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time tonight.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much, Erin.