Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 1, 2022
QUESTION: Russia’s ambassador aimed his words at U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and she joins us now. Ambassador, thank you for being on the program.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. I’m delighted to be here with you.
QUESTION: So, yesterday your Russian counterpart said that U.S. warnings about a possible invasion were “hysterical fearmongering.” Is he wrong?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We expected to hear that kind of response from the Russians. They did not want to stand before the world and explain what they are doing on the border with Ukraine, and we called the meeting for just that purpose, and to continue to pursue a diplomatic response given the stakes that we see for Ukraine, and for Europe, and for the rest of the world. And I think what was important is that the Russians heard almost every member of the Security Council tell them that they agreed with us, that the path of diplomacy is better than the path of war.
QUESTION: But I’ve got to ask you, you know Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also complained about U.S. warnings saying it has needlessly caused a panic that puts Ukraine’s economy at risk. What do you make of that?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, you know, the Permanent Representative, the Ambassador from Ukraine, was at the meeting yesterday, and he reaffirmed our concerns and Ukraine’s concerns about the situation on their border. And we have met with the President, we’ve met with the Foreign Minister, and I think you had the foreign minister on your line this morning –
QUESTION: – Mary Louise Kelly spoke with him yesterday on “All Things Considered.”
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Yes. And he said that they absolutely agree. He confirmed there were more than 100,000 troops on the border. Their messaging is different from ours, as he noted, but the goals are the same.
QUESTION: You spoke about a diplomatic solution, but will this very public confrontation at the UN Security Council hurt quiet diplomacy?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’ve had more than 100 quiet, behind the scenes meetings with the Russians.* This meeting of the Security Council, while public, was one more diplomatic effort to give the Russians an opportunity to explain what they are doing on the border with Ukraine. We are continuing to relentlessly engage with them diplomatically. As you may have heard, Secretary Blinken is speaking with Foreign Minister Lavrov today. That’s part of that diplomatic approach that we have not given up on.
QUESTION: Yesterday, do you feel like something was actually accomplished?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely. Russia heard from the world that they agreed with us. They tried to stop this meeting. They called for a vote, and they did not win. The Council voted to hear from Russia. The Council voted to discuss this issue openly and publicly. So, it clearly was not a failure. It was an absolute – for us, it was an absolute success in the sense that we allowed the world to hear what we’ve been hearing from the Russians, and we were able to refute their disinformation and their propaganda campaign.
QUESTION: Now, if the diplomatic efforts don’t work and Russia does invade Ukraine, does the UN have any leverage to try to resolve the crisis, especially given Russia’s veto power and possible support from China?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Absolutely. We will continue to work within the Security Council to pursue an approach that will allow us to hold Russia accountable. And Russia saw that happen in 2014, as well. So, it is not a – there’s definitely a possibility. But I will say, I think clearly, and you’ve heard it from us before, that our response will be swift, and it will be severe, and it will be united. And Russia has heard that.
QUESTION: I have to ask: The U.S. has made some pretty major miscalculations on the world stage, most recently in Afghanistan where the U.S. didn’t seem to anticipate the Taliban’s quick takeover. There was also a case made for the war in Iraq at the Security Council. Why should the world listen to the U.S. this time?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The world can listen to the Ukrainians. The world can listen to the Russians. Russia has 100,000 troops on the border with Ukraine. There is no equivocation about that. There is no question that their intentions have been nefarious. But at the same time the world is not just hearing it from us, they’re hearing it from others.
QUESTION: Is the assessment of the Administration right now that an invasion is still imminent?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: No, I would not say that we are arguing that it’s imminent, because we are still pursuing a diplomatic solution to give the Russians an off ramp. Our hope is that this will work, and that Putin will understand that war and confrontation is not the path that he wants to follow, but he wants to take a path of diplomacy. We’re giving them an opportunity to discuss their security concerns, Europe’s security concerns, and certainly Ukraine’s security concerns. So, we’ll keep working on that.
QUESTION: Just in the few seconds we have left, what kind of conversations are you having with the Chinese these days? Russia drew the support of China’s ambassador who called for quiet diplomacy.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I think the Chinese approach was not unexpected. They generally will align with Russia in the Security Council in terms of votes. But the message that the Chinese delivered calling for diplomacy was the message that Russia heard from all the members of the Council.
QUESTION: Ambassador, thank you for your time.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much.
*with the Russians and our partners and allies