Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 20, 2022
QUESTION: All right. So, the first question will be, I mean, how confident are you that a Russian invasion into Ukraine can be avoided right now? And it seems that yesterday we – recently, President Biden saying that he thinks that Russia will go in; tomorrow we have Secretary Blinken meeting his counterpart, renewing hope for diplomacy. So how pessimistic or optimistic are you that we can avoid an open conflict?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s an excellent question and I don’t know that I have the exact answer to that question. We are prepared for any contingency. So, we are prepared should the Russians make the decision to further invade Ukraine, but we’re also prepared to continue to have – to use diplomacy to discourage them from taking any actions, to de-escalate, and find a way forward where they are not going in.
So, I can’t say whether, on a scale of 1 to 10, whether they are going to go or they’re not going to go. We’re prepared either way. But our hope is that they will move toward de-escalation and moving toward accepting a diplomatic approach to this crisis so that we don’t end up with a bigger crisis in the region.
QUESTION: Because if they don’t, and they go with the invasion, how much, I mean, damaging will be for them? What the U.S. can do to try to deter them? And if they do, how damaging will – and if you can be (inaudible) specific?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The President has been absolutely clear on this: Should the Russians make the decision to further move into Ukraine, we will respond aggressively with economic sanctions. They are aware of these sanctions, and it will have an impact on their economy. But we are also providing support directly to the Ukrainian government. As you know, Secretary Blinken was in Ukraine yesterday. We’re providing direct support to the Ukrainians to help them to be prepared. We’ve provided close to $2.7 billion since 2014, a lot of that over the course of the past year.
The Secretary announced additional funding during his visit yesterday. And we’re working with Ukraine’s neighbors; we’re working with all of our European allies, including Spain, to send a unified message to the Russians. The Secretary met with the Spanish foreign minister, who, as you know, you will be hosting the next NATO conference, and Spain has been an extraordinary ally and partner to the United States, and we know that the Russians are watching our engagements with our allies very, very closely, and the message has been unified.
QUESTION: If you have to imagine a way out of this crisis that both sides can save face, what can you imagine? You are a diplomat with a lot of experience behind you. So how we can defuse? What can you offer to Russia and then both sides could be happy, maybe, and avoid a war?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, we have indicated to the Russians that we respect their concerns about security, but Russia has to respect European and American concerns about security as well. And they can’t bolster their security by bullying their neighbors, by being aggressive to their neighbors. So ultimately, what we want to do is have a civilized, diplomatic conversation about how we can provide confidence-building measures that will give Russia a sense of security, but also not threaten Russia’s neighbors.
QUESTION: Okay, last question very quick. Do you think that Russia has already won something in all this conflict? The statement that he wants – that he wants to be a superpower; everybody is talking about him; we are here talking about him. Do you think that maybe – I mean, maybe he may have already won something, or not?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I would not say they have won anything, but we have recognized their interest by sitting at the table with them and having discussions with them in a diplomatic forum. But this is not about winning and losing, it’s about peace and security. It’s about respecting the United Nations Charter. It’s about respecting the responsibilities that I have as a member of the Security Council and Russia has as a member of the Security Council to promote peace and security around the globe. If Russia makes the mistake of moving further into Ukraine, they are stepping on the very principles of the United Nations Charter, and none of us can sit back and quietly allow them to do that. So that doesn’t given them power; I think it gives them an embarrassing face to the world as a member of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you very much, Ambassador. See you next time. Thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you.
QUESTION: Buenos días. Adiós.