Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
February 10, 2022
QUESTION: Ambassador, 30,000 Russian troops are carrying out military exercises in Belarus. Could this be a prelude to a Russian invasion of Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is not my place to determine what the Russians are doing. But what we see them doing is escalate instead of de-escalate. We’re leaning in on diplomacy, and we’re trying to encourage the Russians to come to the diplomatic table, but the actions that they are taking now in Belarus is a chilling message to the world that we need to pay attention and be prepared for what they’re doing and be ready to respond very, very forcefully.
QUESTION: Russia’s Ambassador to the EU has told the BBC there is still room for diplomacy. Do you agree?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I hope there’s still room for diplomacy. We’re leaning in very, very aggressively on the diplomatic side, as you’ve seen, but in order for that to work, the Russians have to de-escalate.
QUESTION: America has made proposals to Russia for how to de-escalate this crisis with Ukraine. Have you received a Russian response to your proposals yet?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have not yet received a reply from the Russians. There was an initial meeting, as you know, between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov, and in that meeting we were told that we would get a response from the Russians. But in the meantime, they are still moving forward in a very confrontational way in the region.
QUESTION: There has been a flurry of diplomatic activity. The German Chancellor here at the White House, President Macron in Moscow and in Ukraine. President Macron is suggesting that the Minsk Accords, which have brought about a kind of shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine could be the basis for a diplomatic solution. Do you agree?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We want to look at every opportunity, every possibility, for a diplomatic solution, and the Minsk Accords is one opportunity for that. We will be meeting in New York on the 17th of February where the Russians have called a meeting to talk about Crimea* and they’ve indicated that the Minsk Accord will be part of what they want to talk about.
QUESTION: Of course, the Ukrainians are really worried that talk of the Minsk Accords means Russia gets more influence in eastern Ukraine in return for backing their troops off the border.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we want them to back their troops off the border. Part of the agreement was that they would pull back out of Crimea,** and they have not done that. So these discussions will be an opportunity to pressure the Russians to commit to making those agreements work.
QUESTION: This is a very tense moment in Europe with this massive Russian troop buildup. How does it feel for you as a diplomat trying to de-escalate it at this moment?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is tense. But at the same time we’re still hopeful as we work together with our European allies, and we’ve actually been quite unified in our messaging to the Russians. I think they’ve heard clearly from all of the allies, but also very clearly during the Security Council meeting on the 31st that the world wants diplomacy. They do not want confrontation. And the Russians need to adhere to that message.
QUESTION: America was criticized for that chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, for not working with allies. Have you learned from that experience, and are you doing things differently over Ukraine?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: These are two completely different situations. But we worked with our allies on Afghanistan very, very closely and we’re working closely with our allies on this situation, as well.
QUESTION: China and Russia talked in their communique last week about a new era in the world order. Do you worry that this Ukraine crisis could be followed by a stand-off with China over Taiwan?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I am not at the moment thinking about what is going to happen there. We’re addressing this issue today dealing with Ukraine. But I’m not surprised that the Chinese and the Russians are communicating, because what they’re fighting against is democracy.
* to talk about the Minsk Accords
** eastern Ukraine