Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
January 28, 2023
QUESTION: Africa has become a diplomatic battleground since this conflict began. And it’s been a little irritating I imagine, for the U.S. and EU and other Western nations that African nations, many of them, choose to sit on the fence. They choose not to vote with other Western nations – many other parts of the world – in outrightly condemning Russia for invading Ukraine, and for many sorts of reasons, such as Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said, we want to make our own enemies we don’t want to inherit other people’s enemies. And I asked Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield about that position of Africans why they choose to kind of, hedge their bets here. This is what she talked about.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We want to work with African countries to address the challenges that we all face. We want African leadership on some of those challenges, particularly those that are taking place on the continent, and we want to see how we can work together to address climate change, to address security, to address food insecurity which so many countries are dealing with right now because of the war in Ukraine.
QUESTION: The Russian foreign minister has also been in Africa; he was on a charm offensive. Is this to counter what the Russians are trying to do here in Africa?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I would argue the opposite: they’re probably trying to counter what we are doing. We have been on this continent since the beginning. We are the largest contributor to humanitarian assistance across this continent.
QUESTION: African nations are – many have chosen to abstain whenever there’s a vote to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the UN. Do you understand why many African nations choose to sit on the fence in this conflict?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’ve heard their explanations for why they want to do it. They have said to me they want to be neutral. My message is to those who have made the decision to abstain is that we have a responsibility in the UN system to protect the UN Charter and Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine goes against that.
QUESTION: Russia has an Africa summit in St. Petersburg this July. Should African leaders be there standing next to President Putin?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, you’ll have to ask African leaders whether they should be there. And I hope if African leaders go, they will be strong in their condemnation of what Russia is doing in Ukraine.