Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 15, 2022
QUESTION: Ambassador, we just got off a press conference from German Chancellor Scholz with Putin, him saying that some points in Russia’s demands are worth discussing. Do you agree with that?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have been clear from the beginning that we are willing to discuss Russia’s security concerns, Ukraine’s security concerns, and Europe’s security concerns. So yes, we are prepared to do that at the diplomatic table. And that is the only place where these concerns can be addressed in a successful way. It can’t be addressed if Russia continues to escalate and threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty.
QUESTION: Russia announced today it would pull back some forces participating in military exercises. Yesterday we saw Minister Lavrov saying that Russia will continue the dialogue with the West. Does this qualify as the de-escalation the West has asked for?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We would welcome the Russians pulling back some of their troops. But we’ve not seen any evidence of that, and we’ve been clear on the diplomatic front. So we want to continue to lean in aggressively to find a diplomatic solution to Russia’s security concerns, and we’ve been clear that we’re prepared to do that at the negotiating table.
QUESTION: So you say that there is no proof in the announcement that they are actually pulling back?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They have announced that they’re pulling back, but we’ve seen no evidence of that. But we would welcome that if that is the case.
QUESTION: A U.S. official said a few hours before this Russian announcement that Russian units were instead moving closer to the Ukrainian border. Could you be more specific about that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we know there are over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. So despite what they’ve said about pulling back 10,000 troops out of Belarus, they still have over 100,000 on the border, and they are moving those troops closer to the border. So that’s not de-escalation. That is escalation, and it’s confrontation. And we need to continue to push the Russians, as Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated that they want to continue to pursue a diplomatic solution. That is exactly what we want as well, and we will continue to push forward on finding a diplomatic way to address these issues.
QUESTION: But the interesting thing is that the American Government keeps on warning the world about Russian troops, about an imminent invasion, in a striking – in an increasingly alarming tone; to be more specific, an invasion would take place tomorrow. How sure are you about this?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we’ve taken a two-pronged approach to this. One, we’re clear-headed about what we are seeing. We’re transparent with the world about what we’re seeing. But at the same time, we’re hoping. Up until the moment that the Russians decide to pull back, we’re still going to work for a diplomatic solution.
So yes, we are being open and transparent about what we’re seeing. But we are continuing to work to find a diplomatic way forward to avoid this happening and to encourage the Russians to move toward de-escalation and finding a diplomatic way forward.
QUESTION: But is there any proof that an invasion is imminent?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The proof will be provided by the Russians themselves. We are providing the information that we’re seeing while continuing to support a diplomatic approach. But only President Putin and the Russians themselves know exactly what they’re going to do, and it is in their control to pull back and not do this. So our hope is that they will choose diplomacy and not confrontation.
QUESTION: What do you think of President Zelenskyy’s call to be less alarmistic because it would scare off people and companies in Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I can’t speak for President Zelenskyy. I know that we have had a number of discussions with him, and we’re working with the Ukrainian Government to help them to prepare for such an eventuality. And we’re providing our strong support to our NATO neighbors on the border.
QUESTION: But isn’t there a risk of losing the public’s confidence because, in all frankness, as the West, it isn’t the first time that governments in the West have lied about imminent attacks in other countries?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, this is not about the West. It’s about Russia. It’s about the fact that in 2014, Russian troops moved into Crimea and they’re still there. It’s about the fact that Russia has a hundred-plus thousand troops on the Ukrainian border. The facts are there for the world to see, and we’re working to try to address these issues in a diplomatic way.
QUESTION: How big is the chance that Russia will invade tomorrow?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It depends on what the Russians themselves choose. As I said, we will keep working to find a diplomatic way forward. The fact that Foreign Minister Lavrov said he wants to pursue diplomacy has also been noted, and we will continue to work with them on that.
QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thank you very much for your time today.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.