Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 23, 2023
QUESTION: The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, she leaves for Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya tomorrow. I spoke to her this morning at United Nations Headquarters here in New York City, and I began by asking her if this shuttle diplomacy by Russia and the U.S. is forcing African countries to choose which side they’re on when it comes to the war in Ukraine.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We never have asked African countries to choose sides. What we have said to Africa about Ukraine is that this is an attack on the UN Charter. So if they are going to choose a side, they have to choose to support the UN Charter, to support Ukraine where Russia has started an unprovoked war that is an attack on their territorial integrity, an attack on their sovereignty, and as I said, an attack on the UN Charter – and that’s the side that we’ve asked countries to choose.
QUESTION: But the fact that you’re going to Africa, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is there, and so is the Russian foreign minister – doesn’t this show that there’s a big global push for both sides trying to get support over the war in Ukraine as it enters almost a year and has a terrible impact?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I find it interesting that Lavrov is there just ahead of the Secretary of Treasury. He went to Uganda just ahead of my trip to Uganda. But, Laura, this is not my first trip to Africa. This is my third or fourth trip to Africa since I became the Permanent Representative here in New York. And my life story, my career has been focused on Africa.
QUESTION: Inflation in Ghana, where you’re going, is at 54 percent. That country is really suffering from rising food and fuel costs. The war in Ukraine is having a disastrous impact on African economies. What are you going to do about that when you’re there?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, certainly that’s one of the reasons that Janet Yellen is there. But I was in Ghana last year, late last year, as they were about to move onto the Security Council, and one of the things I discussed with them is how to address the impact of this war on their economy. I met with farmers, a woman in particular – who told me that she was only able to plant one acre of her five acres because the price of fertilizer was too high.
So we are working with these countries to address issues…
QUESTION: But what would really help African countries would be if the war in Ukraine would come to an end. What is your message going to be to African leaders about how long this war is going on?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, first of all, my message to Russa is end this war by pulling your troops out of Ukraine, and that will be the first step to addressing these issues. But in the meantime, until they do that, we have to ramp up the pressure on Russia in a unified voice here in the United Nations – 143 countries condemned Russia’s annexations; 141 countries condemned their attack on Ukraine. And we will continue to build on that to increase the pressure on Russia so that they don’t try to nit-pick countries off.
QUESTION: President Biden promised African leaders in December that they would be – they would have a seat at the table in every global conversation of consequence. The African Union has called for a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine. That’s what African leaders want. But you can’t promise them that, can you?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Only Russia can promise them that.
QUESTION: But the U.S. is prolonging the war by arming Ukraine, so the…
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Russia is prolonging the war by continuing to attack Ukraine. Ukraine has to defend itself. If Ukraine doesn’t defend itself, it’s over. It’s ended. And so we have committed to helping the Ukrainians defend themselves against this unprovoked attack.
QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thanks so much for joining us.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.