Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with James Bays of Al Jazeera

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 15, 2022


QUESTION: Russia now says some of its troops are pulling back. From what the U.S. can see, is that true?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: James, we’ve not been able to confirm that their troops are pulling back. We’ve heard these reports just as you have, but what we know is that Russia still has more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. So the threat is still there. We will keep leaning in on a diplomatic way forward as long as the Russians are willing to continue the discussions at the diplomatic table.

QUESTION: The U.S. and its key allies in the last couple of weeks have perhaps taken an unusual step of releasing real-time intelligence of Russian troop movements and possible false flag operations. Are we already in an information war and do you believe your tactics have boxed Putin in?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have been extraordinarily open and transparent with the public about what we’re seeing. We have a responsibility, particularly to American citizens who are in Ukraine, to let them know that they need to take whatever necessary measures they will require to leave Ukraine while it is permissible for them to get out of Ukraine. But we’re also being open with the rest of the world about what we’re seeing. That’s what our Security Council meeting on the 31st of January was about; it was about laying out to the world what is happening, but allowing Russia to hear from the entire Security Council that we wanted them to pursue a diplomatic solution and not move toward confrontation that would lead to devastating humanitarian crises and the loss of life.

QUESTION: Do you believe that that effort to be as open as possible has meant that Putin has got less room to maneuver now?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t speak for President Putin. I can only speak for the actions that we are seeing, and what we’re seeing is they are continuing to escalate and not de-escalate. But they have a choice. They can pursue diplomacy. They can sit down at the negotiating table or in discussions as they’ve had with our President as well as other leaders and try to work out a way forward to address their security concerns and to address the security concerns of our European allies as well as Ukraine.

QUESTION: When I asked the deputy Russian ambassador to the United Nations in the last 24 hours whether there’ll be an invasion of Ukraine, he laughed at me. Now, you know that if Russia does go ahead and pull out its forces, this will all be dismissed by the Russians as U.S. hype. So you’re someone who sees the intelligence that the rest of us do not see. Is there now and has there been a genuine threat of invasion?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have said over and over and over again that there is a genuine threat of invasion. It’s being reported by all of the news outlets. They’re seeing it as well. And this is not a laughing matter. This is not funny. This is about the loss of innocent lives that would not need to happen if the Russians would choose diplomacy and not move forward to further invade Ukraine.

QUESTION: As you know, oil prices are rising. That’s good news for Russia. And yet just the threat of war has been very, very damaging for Ukraine’s economy. Do you believe that some of the moves that the U.S. has made perhaps have contributed to that damage? For example, your decision to close your embassy in Kyiv. Why close the embassy? Surely it’s the last place the Russians would target, and those diplomats on the ground would be useful eyes and ears if there was an invasion.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we have suspended our operations at the embassy, but we still have diplomats on the ground and we’re still engaging directly with the Ukrainian Government as well as trying to do everything possible to assist American citizens while the situation is permissible. What the Russians should be concerned about is if they take this action to further invade Ukraine, the impact that this will have on their economy. The President has been clear that our response will be swift, it will be forceful, it will be unified with our European allies, and it will be felt very, very intensely in Russia should they make this unfortunate decision.

QUESTION: Ambassador, my final question, and let’s look at a scenario where the Russians don’t currently cross the border into Ukraine. Are you worried about the next time that actually, if Russia’s troops do pull out, they’ll leave some forces, they’ll preposition equipment, meaning they could mobilize next time much faster?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Again, I can’t predict what the Russians will do, but we know their mode of operation. We’ve seen them take these actions before, and they may make a decision not to invade, but they will continue, I know, to threaten Ukraine’s security and to threaten their sovereignty unless we find a way forward to address the security concerns that they claim to have in the region. And so we will continue, again, to lean in aggressively to help them find a way away from confrontation, but at the diplomatic and at the negotiating table to avoid what will be dire humanitarian consequences and the loss of innocent lives.

QUESTION: Thank you very much indeed, Ambassador.