Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing called by Russia on Prospects for a Peace Settlement in Light of Western Arms Shipments to Ukraine

Ambassador Richard Mills
U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 9, 2023


Thank you, Madam President. I thank the High Representative for her informative and thoughtful briefing for us this morning. As for our other briefing, Mr. Waters, while I certainly acknowledge his impressive credentials as a recording artist, his qualifications to speak to us as expert briefer on arms control or European security issues – less evident to me. I’ll also leave to my Ukrainian colleague to address the credibility of Mr. Waters speaking on behalf of his so-called “brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”

I will just say, if I may, that Mr. Waters asked what our vision is. I can say it quite quickly. The U.S. vision is for a world where Europe is whole, at peace, and free, and where the goal of the Cold War, which we achieved, which was a world where every country could choose its own orientation, its own foreign policy direction, and spheres of influence were a thing of the past, is our goal. Looking at what’s happening in Ukraine, I think you can draw your own conclusions what Russia’s goal is for the end of this.

So, we’ve been brought together today, once again, to hear another version of why Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is actually the fault of Ukraine or Ukraine’s partners or, in Mr. Waters’ words, the Ukraine friends who are provocateurs. And, of course, we’ve even had weaponized bats brought up as a reason for this war in the past. The reality is this disinformation is intense, but we can’t let it keep us unfocused. A key fact that many of my colleagues have said around the table, that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is illegal. It is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and of the Charter of the United Nations. This fact, as Ambassador Woodward has mentioned, has been underscored repeatedly by members of the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the International Court of Justice, and across the UN system.

Colleagues, defense of the UN Charter is not just about words written on paper, but about the principles at the heart of the Charter and actions to back them up. For some, that has meant standing up for Ukraine diplomatically, during votes in the UN General Assembly. For others, that has meant supporting Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russia’s brutal, unprovoked war of aggression. The inherent right to individual and collective self-defense is, as others have said, reflected in Article 51 of the Charter. These are inconvenient realities for a Russia desperate to find a narrative, any narrative, other than the one it is stuck in.

The security assistance, including weapons, that the United States and more than 50 other countries are providing – and will continue to provide – is for Ukraine’s self-defense. This distinction could not be more important: Ukraine is using these weapons to repel the invading Russian forces that are committing war crimes on Ukraine’s territory. These weapons are designed to stop Russia’s relentless shelling of cities, and to destroy incoming missiles that target the electrical grid and other targets of no military value.

We unequivocally reject the victim-blaming notion that Ukraine’s self-defense is the obstacle to ending this war. No one wants peace in Ukraine more than Ukrainians themselves. It is Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity that has been violated, not Russia’s.

The Kremlin and its mouthpieces are using the term “peace settlement” and “peace negotiations,” but actions speak louder than words, and Russia has consistently failed to take any actions that would give substance to its vaunted talk of peace, such as silencing its guns or withdrawing its forces from Ukraine.

Russia tries again and again to use the Security Council to distract the international community from its own armed aggression against a UN Member State. Today’s UN Security Council meeting takes place amid reports that we’ve all seen that Russia is preparing for further large-scale offensive action against Ukraine.

If Russia wants to talk about dangerous arms transfers in this Council, let it come clean about the hundreds of Iranian drones that Tehran transferred to Russia in violation of Security Council resolution 2231. Russia is using these drones to attack Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, depriving the people of Ukraine access to light, heat, and water in the dead of winter.

If Russia wants to talk about dangerous arms transfers in this Council, what does Russia have to say about the rockets and missiles the DPRK delivered into Russia last November for use by the vicious, Russia-backed Wagner Group, which has deployed thousands of fighters in Ukraine— including convicts recruited straight from Russia’s prisons?

Procuring weapons from the DPRK, as Ambassador Woodward pointed out, also constitutes a violation of Security Council resolutions. And Russia gives us every reason to expect the DPRK’s supply of weapons for the Wagner Group will continue.

As I’ve said before in this Council, President Putin’s playbook is transparent: wreak death and destruction, target civilian infrastructure, freeze and brutalize Ukraine’s civilians, force them from their homes, and drive-up energy and food costs across Europe and around the world.

Russia does this, not only to wear down Ukraine, but to convince the rest of the world it would be “easier” and more “peaceful” to turn our backs on Ukraine and ignore the most basic principles of the UN Charter: respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of states.

That might be easier for Russia, but caving to Russia’s aggression against a sovereign country, enabling Russia’s unconscionable killing and injuring of civilians, and accepting Russia’s brazen attempts to redraw borders by force, would tear up the rulebook that has made all of us more secure, and have dangerous repercussions around the world.

In conclusion, Madam President, the United States hopes for a just and secure peace in Ukraine. True peace must be durable, and it cannot and will not come at the expense of Ukraine’s sovereignty, its territorial integrity, and its independence.

It is preposterous beyond words to try to equate the violence Russia has inflicted on Ukraine with Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself. Anyone serious about peace in Ukraine should call on Russia to abide by the UN Charter, to stop its relentless bombardments, and to withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s territory.

Thank you.