Ambassador Robert Wood
Alternative Representative for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
June 29, 2023
Thank you, Madam President, and I thank High Representative Nakamitsu for her briefing today. Her continued leadership to counter weapons diversion has been indispensable.
As we have repeatedly stated in this Council, it is categorically false for Russia to allege that the international support for Ukraine’s legitimate self-defense – support provided by over 50 countries – somehow constitutes a threat to international peace and security. This is a transparent and clumsy attempt by Russia to rewrite the very plain facts of this conflict.
Let’s be clear: it is Russia’s full-scale war of aggression, its invasion of a sovereign neighbor in violation of the UN Charter, that poses the threat to international peace and security. And it is from Russia’s full-scale war of aggression that Ukraine is defending itself. Russia’s familiar effort to try to divert our attention through false, everchanging allegations and disinformation is painfully obvious.
Just consider as one example the issue of Russia’s support for the Wagner Group. For years now, this Council has heard the Russian representative repeatedly deny any connection between the Russian state and the Wagner Group. On Tuesday, the Russian delegate insisted to the press outside of this Chamber that the Wagner Group is just a private military company and “detached from the government.”
But this week, President Putin finally, nakedly admitted that the Russian government fully finances the Wagner Group, providing almost $2 billion from state coffers in the past year alone. Putin said “I want to point out, and I want everyone to know about it. The maintenance of the entire Wagner Group was fully provided for by the state, from the ministry of defense, from the state budget, we fully financed this group.”
Russia has demonstrated time and time again its willingness to abuse its position on the Security Council to purposefully promote falsehoods and disinformation. We regret that Russia continues to deliberately misguide the international community, including through this meeting today. Just remember that in the lead up to its further invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russia’s leadership denied it had any plans to send troops into Ukraine, even while it amassed forces on Ukraine’s borders.
It is Russia’s ongoing brutality against Ukraine’s people and its campaign to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure that has rallied the international community to Ukraine’s aid, both in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and in respect for international law.
It is Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric, and its planned stationing of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus, which is complicit in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, that risk further aggravating an already dangerous situation.
The overwhelming majority of UN Member States have repeatedly made these positions clear. The United States and more than 50 Member States have answered Ukraine’s call to support its self-defense against Russia’s aggression. And we will continue to do so for as long as it takes.
These weapons are not prolonging the conflict – the Kremlin bears that responsibility alone. These arms are preventing further brutalization of Ukraine’s citizens amidst the Kremlin’s onslaught. Please don’t forget this point.
Russia’s unrelenting and ruthless attacks on Ukraine and its people, and the all-too-familiar stream of false allegations to which Russia subjects us, are just further demonstrations that President Putin has no interest in meaningful diplomacy.
Just two weeks ago, leaders from several African nations, members of a peace mission bound for Kyiv and Moscow, were forced to shelter in bunkers during their visit to Kyiv as Putin rained missiles on Kyiv. What clearer indication could we be given of the Kremlin’s utter disinterest in peace or a diplomatic resolution to Putin’s war of choice?
No one wants this war to end more than Ukraine and its people. But as overwhelmingly articulated by members of the UN General Assembly, the conditions for a just and lasting peace must be rooted in international law. This includes Russia demonstrating a meaningful interest in ending this war and upholding the principles of the UN Charter – through action, and not just empty words.
It is Russia, in violation of Security Council Resolution 2231, that has procured hundreds of drones from Iran, and then deployed them in attacks killing civilians in Ukraine. If Russia had any genuine desire for de-escalation, it would simply withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory and end its invasion. Instead, we see increased hostilities and brutality, waves of missiles wreaking havoc across Ukraine, and dangerous nuclear rhetoric.
We are committed to ensuring Ukraine has the ability to exercise its right to self-defense against Russia’s illegal and brutal war, while working with Ukraine to maintain the highest safeguards to ensure the weapons its partners provide are not diverted into unintended hands.
We will continue to stress accountability, as we have from the beginning of this conflict, and continue to ensure robust processes to counter attempts at illicit diversion. Throughout this conflict, Ukraine has been a transparent and willing partner in these efforts.
By helping Ukraine and neighboring states account for and safeguard arms and ammunition during transfer, in storage, and when deployed, strengthening border management and security in Ukraine and neighboring states, and building the capacity of relevant government agencies to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking of certain weapons, we are taking concrete steps to address threats posed by the potential diversion of weapons.
As we have said on many occasions since the beginning of this crisis, if Russia is serious about bringing an end to this conflict, it can simply withdraw its troops from Ukraine and end its illegal war of aggression. We once again call on Russia to do so, and to do so now.
Thank you, Madam President.