Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 15, 2022
QUESTION: Welcome, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be here with you.
QUESTION: Ambassador, Russia says that it is moving troops, some troops, off the Ukraine border today, and some analysts believe that is Putin blinking. Do you, as a seasoned diplomat, believe that is the case, or is this a head fake, a ruse?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’ve seen these reports, and we would welcome the Russians moving some of their troops across the border. But we’ve – away from the border. But we’ve seen no evidence of that, Pam. And they still have a hundred-plus thousand troops on the border with Ukraine as we speak. And those troops are threatening the independence and the sovereignty of this country.
And so we want the Russians to accept a diplomatic way forward, a discussion at the negotiating table that will address their security concerns and address the security concerns of Europe and of Ukraine moving forward. And until that happens, we will continue to lean in on diplomacy.
QUESTION: And diplomatic efforts have been intense. Have you spoken with your counterparts? You canceled a trip in order to redouble efforts. Have you spoken with your Russian and Western European counterparts, and what can the UN do with Russia on the Security Council and a veto vote?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have been in regular and I have been in regular contact with all of my colleagues on the Security Council over the weekend as well as yesterday. The Russians, who are currently president – as you know, they hosted a lunch for the Secretary-General where we were all able to sit around the table and discuss a number of concerns, including the situation in Ukraine. And we will continue to push for efforts to discuss this in the Security Council.
And while Russia is the president of the Council, they can’t block council actions. They can’t stop the Council from having meetings or discussions on the situation, as they couldn’t yesterday during a lunch that they hosted. So we hope to continue to engage with them on this issue in the Council. They will certainly make every effort to distract us by putting other things on the agenda, but we will continue to press on this issue in the Council.
QUESTION: And what does a diplomatic solution look like? Needless to say, the Russian navy and army pull away from the border and there’s a de-escalation. But what does the U.S. and what do Western powers have to offer Russia if not their request that Ukraine not become a member of NATO?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m not going to give you advance notice of what a discussion would look like and what a diplomatic solution will look like. But what it will entail is sitting down at the table talking through the issues that the Russians have, talking through the issues of Ukraine. It’s about also talking about the Minsk Agreement and the Russians’ commitment, or lack thereof, to pull their troops out of Crimea. It’s about sitting down and finding a way forward that will address all of our security concerns and pull us away from the brink of this confrontation that the Russians are responsible for.
QUESTION: Ambassador, are you optimistic that there will be a diplomatic way forward? The Ukraine Ambassador to the UN, your colleague, told me last week that what Putin really wants is to reassemble the USSR. What do you think is the way forward, and are you optimistic that this escalation will be met with a diplomatic solution?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Pam, if you’re – you can’t approach a diplomatic effort without optimism. You don’t approach it with the idea that you’re going to fail. So yes, I continue to be optimistic that we can find a diplomatic way forward. But I have to be honest that we’re also preparing for something else. We’re unified in our efforts with our European colleagues to forcefully respond and swiftly respond to any Russian action. But at the same time, we will continue to lean in on the diplomacy.
And as you know, we’ve been very, very clear in our pronouncements concerning American citizens in Ukraine. And I just wanted to reiterate that while we’re speaking, that American citizens should make every effort to leave Ukraine while they have the opportunity to do so freely. You’ve heard the Secretary of State. You’ve heard that from the National Security Advisor, as well as from the President. But we are preparing to respond, as I noted, very swiftly should the situation deteriorate.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for being with us at CBS News. I’m Pamela Falk. With us has been U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Thank you, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you, Pamela.