Thank you, Mr. President.
Yesterday, this Council met on the tragic anniversary of the sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria. Ambassador Haley urged us to use the meeting as “the start of a renewed partnership and a renewed commitment” to address chemical weapons. That is because, as she said, “no one wants to live in a world where chemical weapons are used.” We were reminded of the human toll of the devastation caused by chemical attacks and of the fact that we came together over many decades to build an international consensus banning these despicable weapons of war.
Sadly, today’s meeting isn’t about any of that. Instead, it’s yet another attempt by Russia to use this Security Council for political games. It’s an attempt to cast doubt on the attack in Salisbury, using phrases like “collective psychosis” and “propaganda war” and likening the media to “a psychotropic substance that’s used to manipulate the public,” likening the response of any country that challenges Russia’s narrative to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. This is not a tactic that is appropriate for this body.
Let’s remember the facts about what happened. We are discussing the egregious use of a military-grade nerve agent against two civilians in the United Kingdom. An attack that exposed hundreds of people – innocent bystanders and first responders – to the effects of this agent. The fact that a Permanent Member of this Security Council was involved is especially appalling.
As the United States has made clear before, our support for the United Kingdom is unwavering, and we continue to stand in absolute solidarity with our British colleagues. We have stated previously, and do so again today, our firm belief that Russia is responsible for this chemical weapons attack on UK soil. Either Russia deliberately used this military-grade weapon or failed to declare and secure its stocks of this nerve agent. We strongly support the OPCW’s independent analysis that is underway, as well as the UK’s criminal investigation into the use of chemical weapons on its sovereign territory, and believe those responsible for the attack must be held accountable.
The international community has rightly come together to express its outrage and take action. The United States, the United Kingdom, NATO, and 27 other countries have expelled all together over 150 Russian intelligence officers. This is a testament to the grave concern that we and our partners share for Russia’s attempts to undermine international peace and security.
Meanwhile, Russia puts forward a series of conspiracy theories in an attempt to shift blame, with wild claims that the UK or the United States might be responsible. This disinformation and projection coming from our Russian colleagues is preposterous. Member States should not be fooled or led astray by these absurd efforts to dissemble from the facts. Russia is known to have developed military-grade nerve agents of the type used in the Salisbury attack. Russia has a well-documented record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations, including previously in the United Kingdom. High-ranking Russian officials have themselves made clear in public statements that defectors and so-called “traitors” are legitimate targets for assassination.
Yesterday, Russia tried to get the OPCW to adopt a decision that would have undermined ongoing, independent investigation into the Salisbury attack, and that would have helped Russia to disguise its culpability. The members of the OPCW Executive Council overwhelmingly rejected Russia’s proposal. Now, Russia wants to try again at the Security Council. But the truth of Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury attack remains. And the international community should remain united behind this truth.
Once again, as Ambassador Haley said, if we do not change course now on chemical weapons, we will be fast approaching a new, and far more dangerous, reality for all of us. We must hold those who have used chemical weapons accountable and rebuild the global consensus that these weapons must never be used under any circumstances. As the Security Council, that is the goal we should be working to achieve, rather than using this chamber to undermine the truth.