Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 20, 2022
QUESTION: So many breaking news about Ukraine in the last days. A lot of drills around this country, no common drills in the neighboring Belarus. It’s an open door for a permanent Russian presence in Belarus, which could narrow Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. Are the United States concerned about these drills?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We are. As you have heard across the entire U.S. government, the President spoke about our concerns about Russian aggression along the border; Secretary Blinken is in the region right now raising concerns with our allies and our partners about Russian aggression along the border. These drills suggest to us that the Russians are moving aggressively toward invading further into Ukraine, and for that reason we are working with our partners to send the unified message that we will not stand by and allow this to happen without an aggressive response. And we’ve made clear in a number of diplomatic engagements with the Russians. As you know, we met with them in Geneva – our Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman met with them in Geneva last week, Secretary Blinken is meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov in Geneva, President Biden has spoken to President Putin twice on this.
So yes, we are concerned and yes, we have been absolutely clear with the Russians that should they take any aggressive actions toward Ukraine, that we will respond aggressively and they will feel our response immediately.
QUESTION: Now, Ambassador Greenfield, you stated some days ago that President Biden has instructed the U.S. diplomats to work intensively and pragmatically to find a diplomatic way in order to avert conflict in Ukraine. And I would ask you, the fact that State Department authorized the Baltics to send in Ukraine U.S. military equipment is part of this pragmatic approach?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely. We have to be prepared. We see what the Russians are doing. We are working intensively and aggressively on the diplomatic front, but we’re preparing if for some reason we’re not able to convince the Russians to de-escalate. We can’t prepare after they have made their moves. We have to be prepared before.
QUESTION: As you mentioned, Secretary of State Blinken paid a visit to Ukraine and asked again, from Kyiv this time, President Putin to choose a diplomatic and peaceful path. But in the meantime, the Russians withdrew part of their personnel from the Ukrainian diplomatic missions. So how do you see at the UN these movements, and can the UN react in a way or another?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’ve heard the rumors, the Russians moving their diplomatic staff. But we are still pursuing with them a path toward diplomacy. But also we’re working with our allies and partners here in New York at the United Nations to prepare for – should Russia take any actions, including looking to take this before the Security Council. This is not just an attack on Ukraine. This is an attack on all of our values, on the sovereignty of a country, on the UN Charter. It’s an attack on the values that we all work to build in the UN Charter. And Russia, as a member of the Security Council, has a responsibility to support peace and security around the globe. They can’t be a supporter of peace and security and then, at the same time, be a violator of peace and security on the borders with one of their neighbors.
QUESTION: Ambassador, if I have time for one more question, I would like to ask you: What do you hope to achieve by taking this matter at the UN Security Council? I know that in the past, discussions in the UN Security Council were good, for instance, in the Cuban Missile Crisis, let’s say for an example. But now, in this case, what do you hope to achieve? An isolation, a diplomatic isolation of Russia? Not to mention that they have this veto power in the Security Council. So how do you see this?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Taking this before the Security Council will be part of an opportunity to expose Russia for the actions that they are taking. And while they do have the veto power, their isolation will be felt if the Security Council brings this and we present a united front against the Russians. So the veto power is weakened when we stand united against the Russians on this. And I don’t think any country in the Security Council will sit back and say it’s okay for Russia to invade the borders of another country. In 2014, when they invaded Crimea, when they went into Crimea, we did take it before the Security Council and we got 13 votes in support of actions against the Russians, one abstention, and one no – and that was Russia’s veto. They were completely and totally isolated, and we hope that that is the case this time around as well.
QUESTION: Ambassador Greenfield, thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: – to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much for your time.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.