Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” 

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 6, 2022


QUESTION: Joining us now, U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Madam Ambassador, thanks so much for joining us. You’ve accused the Chinese government of committing genocide against the Uyghur ethnic minority group – torture, forced sterilization, labor camps and more. At Friday’s opening ceremony, with Chinese President Xi looking on, a Uyghur athlete helped light the Olympic cauldron. How did you see that move? Do you agree with those who saw it as essentially as President Xi giving a middle finger to the international community?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We, as you noted Jake, we’ve made our position very, very clear on the situation in China. This is not business as usual. We know that a genocide has been committed there. We’ve called them out on it. The President has called them out on it. And we’ve made clear that crimes against humanity are being committed in China. So, it is important that the audience who participated and witnessed this understand that this does not take away from what we know is happening on the ground there. You’ve reported it regularly on your network, and others have reported this. We have to ensure that we continue to raise these concerns that are occurring in China at the moment.

QUESTION: And how do you interpret the fact that one of the two athletes that lit the torch was from, at least according to the Chinese government, the Uyghur community?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is an effort by the Chinese to distract us from the real issue here at hand, that Uyghurs are being tortured, and Uyghurs are the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese. We have to keep that front and center.

QUESTION: Speaker Pelosi said on Friday that she fears for the safety of any U.S. athlete who might speak out against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses. Do you also fear that American athletes are in danger?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We support our athletes, and we think our athletes are there to perform in the areas that they have been preparing for for four years, and we would hope that the Chinese would not take any actions. But, I will be clear that our goal is to make sure our athletes are safe, and we’re doing everything possible to ensure that.

QUESTION: Can you reassure U.S. athletes that they’re safe and their freedom of speech will be protected?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can reassure U.S. athletes that the United States government will be standing with them in China, and we will be there to protect them.

QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the rest of the world might look at the position that the Biden Administration is taking when it comes to the diplomatic boycott of the Olympics and think that the moral protests cannot be taken as seriously as it should given that the Biden Administration has been less vocal about human rights violations elsewhere? For example, in Yemen, where the U.S. continues to provide maintenance for the Saudi F-15s that are being used to bomb civilian populations in Yemen despite President Biden’s pledge to end that.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, Jake, our commitment to human rights are unquestioned. We rejoined the Human Rights Commission* on day one, or announced our rejoining the Commission. And human rights are front and center in our foreign policy. We don’t play down human rights violations anywhere in the world, including in Yemen. I’ve had a number of meetings in the Security Council where we have raised our concerns about human rights violations there being committed by all sides.

QUESTION: But how seriously can that be taken given that a Saudi pilot might drop a bomb from an F-15 in Yemen killing innocent civilians and then land the plane, and there is the U.S. government there to help them provide maintenance on that very plane?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We call out those efforts, but let me be clear: There are human rights violations being committed in Yemen on all sides. We are dealing with a force there – the Houthis – who have not taken into account any efforts to protect the rights of people who are under their own protection, supposedly. So again, this is a situation where we’re working constantly to address any issues related to civilian injuries and violations being committed of human rights of everyone in that country.

QUESTION: The world saw President Xi meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week at the Olympics in a show of unity. Amid tensions with the U.S., China and Russia committed deepening their countries to strategic coordination in order to have what they called, quote, “a far-reaching impact” on the world. What might that mean to democracy, to freedom worldwide if this Russia-China partnership strengthens?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’ve seen that partnership building up over time. And it says to all democracies in the world that we have to redouble our efforts to protect democracies and to protect attacks on democracy wherever they may happen. So this meeting of President Xi and President Putin, I think, reinforced our resolve that we have to continue to fight for democratic values, whether it’s here in the United Nations or in Ukraine or other places around the world where we see such attacks happening.

QUESTION: Do you think President Xi is watching the U.S. and NATO response to Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine to determine whether or not China should move even more aggressively on Taiwan?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I think, of course, he’s watching it. We saw in the Security Council on Monday, China side with Russia in the efforts to block the Security Council from having a meeting to discuss the situation in Ukraine. So their partnership, certainly, is one that we’ve seen building up over time, and I was not surprised to see this meeting with President Putin take place during the Olympics. But as it relates to Taiwan and China, we are committed to protecting the security and supporting the security of the people of Taiwan while at the same time our policy has always been to recognize the One China policy. So, if China is making efforts toward Taiwan because of what they see happening in Ukraine, these are two different types of situations.

QUESTION: General Milley and Secretary Blinken and other top Biden Administration officials briefed lawmakers informing them that U.S. intelligence estimates that Putin has assembled 70 percent of the military personnel and weapons he needs for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. That intelligence suggests that if Russia does decide to invade, Kyiv could fall within 48 hours, tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians could be killed. How likely do you think it is that this invasion happens?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re still working to discourage the Russians from making the wrong choice of choosing confrontation. This is the reason we held the meeting in the Security Council on Monday last week to have the Russians hear a unified voice from the vast majority of members in the Security Council that they should pursue a diplomatic solution to their security concerns. And we will continue to work on a diplomatic solution, but at the same time we know that the Russians continue to prepare and we will be working to address the security issues.

QUESTION: The Pentagon says that four civilians were killed after ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi blew himself up during a U.S. Special Forces raid in Syria. Syrian rescue teams on the ground, however, say that the civilian death toll is higher and that some of the civilian victims appear to have been killed by U.S. weapons. Is there a commitment by the Biden Administration to investigate the discrepancy and release all the facts to the public?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: As you know, the military is still in the process of doing an after-action review of what took place on the ground. But we know that terrorists, such as this organization, use civilians to protect themselves. And it’s clear – it’s been done before – that there were civilians on the ground. President Biden made clear to our military that he wanted to do everything to protect those civilians, which is why we put troops there instead of using what would have been easier, which would have been an air attack. So again, we’re still reviewing the situation, and we will share that once the review has been completed.

QUESTION: Madam Ambassador, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us this morning.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, Jake.