Deputy to the U.S. Representative to the United Nations
February 15, 2022
QUESTION: Joining me today on “Ukraine Watch” is Jeffrey Prescott. He currently serves as Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. During the Obama Administration he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf states on the National Security Council. Mr. Prescott served as then-Vice President Biden’s Deputy National Security Advisor and his Senior Advisor for China and Asia.
Jeffrey, thank you for being here.
DEPUTY PRESCOTT: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
QUESTION: The United States recently called for a session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss Russia’s troop buildup on Ukraine’s border. Russia has denied that it has any intentions to invade Ukraine. What did the United States hope to achieve from that Security Council session?
DEPUTY PRESCOTT: Well, it’s a very good question. The Security Council, as you know, has – is essentially the world’s premier body for addressing issues of international peace and security. And the members of the Council are committed to upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter, and of course that charter guarantees every country, every state, a freedom from having their borders changed by force, from invasion by other countries, by unauthorized military activity in their countries.
So we thought it was important to have the Council come together urgently to address the buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border, the fact that Russia has put itself in a position essentially to further invade Ukraine at any time, and to make sure that the world was on record upholding the principles of the UN Charter asking Russia to explain itself, explain why it was pursuing this course, and essentially to have the members of the Council, the world’s powers, say publicly that they support a diplomatic approach rather than an approach of conflict. And that’s exactly what happened in that session on the 31st.
QUESTION: The United States has been releasing a lot of information about intelligence reports that indicate Russia indeed may be preparing to invade Ukraine, but as we said before, Russia denies that charge. Since the Russian Federation is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and I believe you touched upon this already, and they have the ability to veto Security Council resolutions, do you see the Security Council as the proper forum to call Russia out?
DEPUTY PRESCOTT: Well, it is a forum where the world’s powers get together on a regular basis. There’s an opportunity to have public meetings. The United States, some of our closest allies, Russia, of course, and China are on the Council, and when the Council meets it can take up these issues in a way – it can take them up privately or publicly. And with this open meeting that we saw a week or so ago, Russia had to respond to many countries raising concerns about avoiding a path of diplomacy and moving towards conflict.
So we’re actively using every channel available to try to pursue a diplomatic solution to this crisis and to de-escalate this crisis. That, of course, has involved the President on the phone with President Putin, on the phone with President Zelenskyy, on the phone with our closest European allies, having meetings in different configurations, including meetings of NATO, meetings of the OSCE in Europe, and meetings at the Security Council.
So we’re looking at all the available pathways to try to achieve a de-escalation in this crisis, but we’re prepared for whichever direction this goes. But we do feel like it’s necessary to use every venue available, and that’s included the Security Council.
QUESTION: As you know, in December of 1994 Ukraine, along with the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, signed what’s known as the Budapest Memorandum, a memorandum on security assurances for Ukraine in connection with its accession to the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. How does the United States view its responsibilities to its ally Ukraine today as a signatory nation to that memorandum?
DEPUTY PRESCOTT: So we’ve been lifting up those commitments, and we’ve been lifting up our overall commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and making sure that we’re doing what we can to support Ukraine at this critical moment. The President, as I mentioned, President Biden, was on the phone with President Zelenskyy just over the last couple of days. They’ve been in constant touch throughout this crisis. We’ve committed more security assistance to Ukraine in the last year than any point in our history – $650 million in assistance and deliveries have continued really just up to the last – even including over the last couple of days. And we’ve provided more than $2.7 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since 2014, including helping facilitate other countries provide assistance. We’ve also provided more than half a billion dollars in development and humanitarian assistance over the past year alone, and just yesterday we announced our willingness to provide an additional loan guarantee to help Ukraine on the economic side as well.
So we’re working across the board with our partners, with our allies in Europe, and with Ukraine to shore up and provide support during this time of need, and we’re encouraging our partners to do the same.
QUESTION: Well, thank you again for speaking with me, Jeffrey.
DEPUTY PRESCOTT: Thanks.
QUESTION: With us today was Jeffrey Prescott, Deputy to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. I’m Dan Terletskyy and this has been another episode of “Ukraine Watch.”