Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 15, 2022
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Ambassador. It’s very nice for you to take my questions.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Great to be here with you.
QUESTION: Great. I’ll fire right away. It seems like it’s contradicting signals this morning that Russian forces are retreating in some way, and the U.S. is saying that an attack is now imminent. So what is the reality right now?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we would welcome news that Russian troops are actually moving out, but we’ve not seen any evidence of that yet, and they still have 100,000 troops on the eastern border of Ukraine. So we are not going to jump to any premature conclusions about what the Russians intend to do. We’re watching their actions, and their actions suggest that they still are continuing to be aggressive and escalating their approach to Ukraine.
QUESTION: What is the Russians’ intent right now?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Lars, I wish I could answer that question. I can’t get into the minds of the Russian leadership to explain their intent. We can only explain what we see them doing, and interpret their actions for what we see them to be taking. And again, right now their actions show that they are moving toward confrontation and not moving toward de-escalation and accepting diplomacy.
But we are still leaning in aggressively on the diplomatic front. You know that President Biden spoke to President Putin for the third time on Saturday. Secretary Blinken has spoken several times to Foreign Minister Lavrov, and we’re continuing to engage with our European colleagues as well, and they are engaging with the Russians. So we’re leaning in aggressively to find a diplomatic solution.
QUESTION: Over the last week or maybe two weeks we have seen that the U.S. has actively signalized that Russia is about to attack or invade Ukraine. This is also during the Olympics. So I’m wondering why the U.S. is so outspoken about it.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we’re trying to be as open and as transparent as we can with our allies and with our friends, and as well as with other Member States here at the Security Council. And we think they deserve to know what is happening, and we have tried to provide that information as consistently and as regularly as possible, including when we were at the Security Council on the 31st of January under Norway’s leadership where we had an open meeting on the situation in Ukraine.
QUESTION: But I also hear and see that people say that this is dangerous, that the diplomatic rhetoric from the U.S. could make the situation even worse.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The only thing that makes this situation worse is Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. And they have over 100,000, and we’ve said it over and over again: That’s the danger. The danger is a further Russian invasion of Ukraine, their invasion of an independent country and their assault on the sovereignty and the integrity of Ukraine’s borders.
QUESTION: How sure are the U.S. now that there is going to be some sort of a military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we’re just saying what we see, and what we see is that the Russians are being aggressive toward Ukraine. And I can’t, again, predict when or what time the Russian leaders, the Russian president will make the decision to invade Ukraine, but he’s taking actions now that are clear to all of us that his intentions are to invade this country.
QUESTION: And it seems now that intelligence and information from the Western part is that it’s going to happen on Wednesday. So I’m curious about what kind of intelligence are you basing this on?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we’re being very open, as I said, and transparent about what we’re seeing. And again, we can’t predict, we can only suggest what we’ve seen and heard the Russians say. And they’ve indicated that they don’t plan to attack, but everything they’re doing shows that that is exactly what they are planning to do. And they should know that we plan to respond decisively and swiftly to any actions that they take on the Ukrainian border.
QUESTION: Russia is now leading the Security Council at the UN. Are there any talks about the situation in Ukraine right now?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yeah, it’s an interesting time for Russia to actually be president of the Security Council. And yes, we are discussing Ukraine in the Security Council. We had a meeting with the Secretary-General hosted by the Russians yesterday, and the issue of Ukraine came up during those discussions. We have a meeting scheduled for the 17th of February to discuss the Minsk Agreements and how things are going in that sphere, and we intend to raise our concerns about Ukraine at that meeting as well.
QUESTION: Looking back at the close call during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War overall, how dangerous are this situation right now?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: This is an extraordinarily dangerous situation, but the comparisons don’t – comparisons to the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis are – don’t mesh for us. What we have here is that this is an attack on the core values of the UN Charter. It’s an attack on an independent country that has enjoyed its independence and its democracy for over 30 years. It is an attack on the security of all of our partners in the region. So we’re responding in a unified way to what the Russians are doing in Ukraine because it’s an attack on the core values of democracy and the integrity of Ukraine.
QUESTION: Madam Ambassador, thank you for taking my questions.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, Lars.