Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternate U.S. Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
August 17, 2023
First let me thank you, High Representative Nakamitsu, for your briefing today. Your continued leadership in the global effort to counter weapons diversion, and the steadfast efforts of the Office for Disarmament Affairs in this regard, are critical.
The United States will continue to demonstrate its enduring commitment to supporting Ukraine’s self-defense, including through the provision of arms and equipment that enable Ukraine to defend its territory and protect its people from Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression.
Russia continues to falsely allege that it is in fact the unified support of Ukraine’s defense by over 50 nations that is exacerbating the war and hindering peace discussions.
Think of that, Colleagues. Russia is telling us that it is not the invading country that is responsible for the crisis, but rather alleging it is the country doing everything in its power to defend itself from an illegal invasion that is at fault. This narrative is hypocritical and preposterous, and it strains credulity to the breaking point.
It is Russia’s full-scale invasion of its sovereign neighbor that violates the UN Charter and constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Russia’s efforts to insinuate otherwise are farcical.
Again, Russia’s illegal invasion and continued aggression inside Ukraine’s borders – including daily rocket and drone attacks that hit civilian infrastructure and kill innocent people – is the undeniable cause “aggravating the crisis” and “undermining efforts to find a peaceful solution.” Every day in Ukraine, Russia continues these violations, which have united the international community in support of Ukraine and in support of the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the right to self-defense. All in the Charter.
Instead, Russia’s decision to call yet another of these wasteful meetings is a clear tactic intended to distract from the Kremlin’s actions undermining international peace and security.
While Russia attempts to brazenly rewrite this history, we cannot be distracted from the truth of Russia’s destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere. Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and its announced stationing of its nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus risks further aggravating an already highly dangerous situation.
The Russian Federation is seeking increased military cooperation with the DPRK, including by pressing Kim Jong Un to sell additional arms to Moscow to fuel its war in Ukraine. Such arms transfers are a violation of UN Security Council resolutions – resolutions for which Russia voted in favor. The DPRK already made an initial delivery of weapons to the Kremlin-backed Wagner group last November, in violation of UNSC resolutions.
On August 16, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated three entities connected to Slovak national Ashot Mkrtychev, who we previously designated for attempting to facilitate such arms transfers, and last month, on July 20, the Department of State designated two individuals involved in the shipment of these munitions to Russia, including one DPRK national.
Furthermore, in clear violation of Security Council Resolution 2231, Russia has procured armed drones from Iran, and then deployed these UAVs in cruel, lethal attacks against civilians in Ukraine. The United States renews its call on the UN Secretary-General to investigate these serious violations.
We have seen reports that a Russian warship fired shots at the Sukru Okan cargo vessel headed towards a Ukrainian port through the Black Sea on Sunday, August 13. We strongly condemn such actions. Russia is once again acting recklessly in the Black Sea, and the effects of its unlawful war of choice are having ripple effects in terms of shipping safety and commercial activity, as well as impeding the international community’s efforts to deliver food to those who need it most. Russia must comply with its international legal obligations and respect freedom of navigation.
Further, Russia continues to use food as a weapon of war – just yesterday we awoke yet again to reports of Russian strikes on grain facilities and ports along the Danube. These attacks are inexcusable.
We cannot forget Russia’s brutal, unrelenting attacks against Ukraine and its people for the last 18 months. Putin has shown no interest in meaningful diplomacy since first starting this unprovoked war nearly one and a half years ago. In fact, since we last discussed this topic in June, it is Russia that has escalated its brutalization of Ukraine’s people and weaponized food through its unilateral withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Let’s be clear: Western weapons provided to Ukraine to prevent Russia’s brutalization of Ukraine’s people are not the cause of this war nor are they prolonging this war: that responsibility is the Kremlin’s alone. Russia remains the sole obstacle to peace in Ukraine.
The Government of Ukraine and the United States continue to work together to maintain safeguards against diversion while responsibly providing for Ukraine’s ability to exercise its inherent right of self-defense against Russia’s brutal war. Ukraine has been a transparent and willing partner as we stress accountability and ensure robust processes to counter any attempts at illicit diversion.
Battlefield losses occur in every conflict, and we cannot speak for what Russia does with the arms it captures. Pro-Russia forces pose the greatest risk of onward trafficking. Russia has even stated publicly that it will supply captured weapons to non-state actors. The best way to address this risk is for Russia to end its war of aggression.
If Russia were concerned about reducing conflict and mitigating potential illicit weapons diversion, it would choose to end the war it started and withdraw its forces rather than escalate with nuclear rhetoric, barrages of missiles, human rights abuses and war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of various UNSC resolutions and the UN Charter. We once again renew our calls for Russia to do so immediately.