Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 18, 2022
QUESTION: Joining me from New York, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Madam Ambassador, thanks for joining us. You heard President Biden there warning of a “consequential U.S. response” if Putin uses tactical nuclear or chemical weapons in Ukraine. What might a consequential response look like? And have you seen any evidence that Putin is considering taking such drastic action in response to Russia’s military setbacks?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, first, Jake, thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here. And the President was very clear that he’s not going to define that for us in advance but we have also been absolutely clear in our commitment to Ukraine, to giving them what they will need to defend themselves. And we will do it over the long term until Russia makes the important decision that they need to make to withdraw their troops from Ukraine and stop this unprovoked attack on their neighbor.
QUESTION: Is it so consequential, though, that the United States citizenry should have an idea about what our response might be? Since it might actually – we don’t want things to escalate, obviously, so that the United States and Russia are engaged in a direct one-on-one war.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, the President has also been clear on the fact that the U.S. will not put troops on the ground in Ukraine, but we will give the Ukrainians what they need to defend themselves. We will rally the world, we will rally Europe around supporting the Ukrainians so that they are able to push back on Russia’s aggression.
QUESTION: So in recent days, Ukrainian officials report that they found at least 440 unmarked graves in the newly recaptured city of Izyum, as well as more than 10 rooms apparently used by the Russians to torture people throughout the Kharkiv region. Does the United States believe war crimes were committed in Izyum? And will you confront Russia over these atrocities when the Security Council meets on Ukraine later this week?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we have confronted Russia from day one. From the first day of this attack, we’ve confronted them, we’ve condemned them, we’ve isolated them at the Security Council, and that will continue again until they make the decision to pull their troops out. As for whether these are war crimes or not, we think war crimes are being committed. A legal process has to take place regarding that, but the horrific pictures of those gravesites will always be in our minds as we look at what is happening in Ukraine right now. And they should expect that it will not be business as usual when they arrive in New York tomorrow. They will be isolated. They will be condemned in the Security Council, as well as more broadly in the General Assembly.
QUESTION: By all accounts, Ukraine’s counteroffensive recently has been an astonishing success leading Russian forces reeling and fleeing. Ukraine says they still need longer range missile systems, fighter jets, modern tanks in order to capitalize on this momentum. So far, the Biden Administration has resisted those requests. Why not meet the moment to take advantage of this pivotal time where the Russians are on the run?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we have been in regular consultations with Ukraine about what they need to defend themselves. As you know, we’ve given them over $15 billion in support. They have succeeded in pushing the Russians back. Their commitment to defending their country is just unparalleled. And we have been beside them, giving them the support that they need. But also bringing others into this circle of support – our allies and friends of Ukraine.
QUESTION: You said the United Nations faces a crisis of confidence, and that the UN Security Council needs to reform in order to remain a credible body in the 21st century. How is any meaningful reform possible if Russia is allowed to remain a permanent member of the UN Security Council while conducting an illegal war, openly committing war crimes, forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians into Russian territory?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is why we do need UN reform, and I gave a speech in San Francisco about a week ago where I outlined what this kind of reform would look like. We’re committed to finding a way forward to make the UN fit for purpose for this century. And currently, there is an attack on the UN system. There’s an attack on the Charter, and that’s by a permanent member of the Security Council. I can’t change the fact that Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, but I can continue the efforts that we have succeeded at, and that’s isolating them, condemning them, and making sure that they know and understand it’s not business as usual. And that’s not just from us. They’re beginning to hear that from their friends as well, as I understand President Xi made clear to Putin in their meeting in Uzbekistan this week.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about President Xi because it’s not just Russia. China holds such influence over the United Nations, that the United Nations buildings around the world don’t even allow tours to individuals who have Taiwanese passports. They’re not even acknowledged as human beings. They can’t go on a private tour of the UN. How could the United Nations be a force for self-determination and freedom, if it allows dictators and human rights abusers in the building, but not the citizens of a flourishing democracy such as Taiwan.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We believe that Taiwan should be given the abilities to do whatever other non-state entities can do in the United Nations. And one of those is to be able to come into the UN to visit the building, to participate in the activities that do not require them to be a nation state. And we have pushed that effort, and we’re fighting against these efforts taking place in New York and the rest of the world to support the people of Taiwan.
QUESTION: Thank you so much, Madam Ambassador. Really appreciate your time today.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.