Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC

Ambassador Linda Thomas-GreenfieldU.S. Representative to the United NationsNew York, New YorkJuly 31, 2023


QUESTION: Yesterday, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said this: “Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, but they are not living up to what is required of a permanent member. They have carried out an unprovoked attack on a neighbor. What they are doing undermines everything that the UN stands for. It undermines the Charter of the United Nations, and they are undermining the work of this Council by carrying out this unprovoked war on Ukraine.” Tomorrow, the United States of America, in the person of Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will become president of the United Nations Security Council. Joining us now is the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Thank you very much for joining us again tonight.


QUESTION: So as you take over the presidency of the Security Council, I assume the number one issue before you is still the Russian attack and war on Ukraine.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It is one of the number one issues before us. But during our presidency, we get to set the agenda, and what we will be focusing on is food insecurity – food insecurity that has been exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, food insecurity that’s impacting people around the world. And I will be addressing that issue with Secretary Blinken in presiding in the seat on Thursday to call out Russia but also to raise the concerns about famine and how we can bring an end to famine.

We’ll also be focusing attention on human rights. President Biden said on day one that our foreign policy will be defined by human rights. And so with the 75th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights we will look for opportunities to engage on human rights issues throughout the month.

QUESTION: I want to go to one of those opportunities that Rachel Maddow raised in the last hour in just a moment, but I just want to – on food security, Ukraine is a major exporter of grain, especially to Africa. This war Russia started has interrupted significant amounts of that flow. What can be done about that? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we had an opportunity to address this issue through the Black Sea Grain Initiative that the Secretary-General with the support of the Government of Türkiye was able to formulate with the Government of Ukraine and the Government of Russia. Russia pulled out of that deal last week. They pulled out of a deal that provided the necessary grain, the necessary food, to feed hundreds of thousands of people.

We’re hopeful that the Secretary-General will be able to encourage Russia to rejoin the deal. But in the meantime, we’re working with the Government of Ukraine to find other ways of getting their grain to people in need.

QUESTION: I want to go to that other top point on your agenda that you mentioned, human rights.


QUESTION: As you – and you told me you heard Rachel talking about this – 


QUESTION: – in her previous hour, which is good. I just want to remind the audience about it. Rachel said: In May, in light of Uganda’s new law with the death penalty for being gay, the Biden administration said it would reassess funding. But that hasn’t played out that way, Rachel said. So far, the White House has made no changes.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we cannot punish the people who depend on our support. And while we find what was done in Uganda horrific – it is unacceptable; you cannot criminalize homosexuality and use the death penalty to punish people for who they are – we cannot punish people who depend on our aid, who depend on the programs that provide assistance for them to address the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Uganda. So yes, we are still reassessing how we will respond to the Ugandan government. We’re not going to hold the Ugandan people victims and make them victims of this horrific decision.

QUESTION: And making them victims, it means withdrawing the funding for –

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Withdrawing the support that we provide for people to deal with a number of health issues that include HIV/AIDS.

QUESTION: With your experience in the region, I don’t think we’ve had a United Nations ambassador with more experience in that region. What is your hope for somehow moving Uganda in the right direction on this?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we have worked on this for a number of years. We were able previously to encourage the president not to sign the bill that was put in front of him. He has signed this bill, regrettably, but they have not – 

QUESTION: The president of Uganda.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The president of Uganda. I’m sorry. 


AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: But he has not implemented the bill thus far, and we are hoping that he does not implement this bill. And we will keep trying to find a way forward that allows him to get Uganda out of this situation.  

QUESTION: Donald Trump said today, or recently, that U.S. Congress should refuse to authorize a single additional shipment of our weapon stockpiles to Ukraine until the FBI and the Department of Justice and the IRS hand over every scrap of evidence they have on the Biden family. What is your reaction to that?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: My reaction is that there is bipartisan support for providing assistance to Ukraine to defend itself against this unprovoked war that Russia has wrought on Ukraine. Ukraine is at the forefront of fighting for democracy, fighting for the UN Charter, fighting for the values that we all believe in, and both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill have expressed their support for that.

QUESTION: As you go forward declaring the United States position in the United Nations on issues like this, do you expect the presidential campaign to create a certain turbulence around these issues at the United Nations?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I don’t. I don’t expect that. There are concerns that have been raised about the United Nations. It is not a perfect institution. But as former Secretary of State and the late Madeleine Albright said, if we didn’t have the UN, we would create it. It is the only worldwide global institution that deals with global issues of peace and security. And so, I don’t think it will be impacted by the election, and we will continue to find ways of trying to reform the UN, to make it work in a more efficient way, and continue to find paths to peace and security around the globe.

QUESTION: Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, always an honor to have you join us. Thank you very much for joining us tonight.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. It’s great to be here with you.

QUESTION: Thank you.