Remarks by a Senior U.S. Official in a Background Briefing on Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s Upcoming Travel to Brazil

Senior U.S. Official
May 1, 2023


MODERATOR: Thanks so much, and welcome, everyone, to this background briefing. The focus of today’s call is the upcoming travel of Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, traveling to Brazil. This call is on background, and you can attribute what you hear to a Senior U.S. Official. For your knowledge only and not for reporting purposes, I’m happy to let you know that we have on the line with us today [Senior U.S. Official]. Again, you can attribute what our briefer says to a Senior U.S. Official. And the call is embargoed until its conclusion.

I will turn it over to [Senior U.S. Official] to get us started.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Hey, thanks, [Moderator], and thanks, everybody, for joining the call. As we announced last week, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is heading to Brasilia and Salvador, Brazil, for a three-day trip that begins tomorrow. We have in mind three objectives for this trip, focused overall on continuing to foster the enduring bonds between our two countries. The United States and Brazil are the two largest democracies in the Western Hemisphere, and we are tackling many of the same challenges. And Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will have a chance to meet with a range of her counterparts in Brazil to talk through these challenges and make some progress over the course of the trip.

First, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will follow up on two key bilateral policy priorities announced by Presidents Biden and Lula in February: addressing the climate crisis and promoting equity, inclusion, and democratic values in the region and around the world.

Both the United States and Brazil agree: Climate change is one of the existential issues of our time. It’s why our partnership on mitigating the effects of climate change is so important. The United States welcomes President Lula’s ambitious commitments to reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, and we just announced a $500 million pledge to the Amazon Fund in support of those efforts, including as part of our commitment to U.S. International Climate Financing more generally.

While in Salvador, the Ambassador will underscore both of our commitments to promote equity and inclusion. The Lula administration has made this a key priority – as has President Biden. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will follow up on the pledge to revitalize the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality, what we call JAPER. She is the first cabinet-level official to visit Salvador since JAPER was signed in 2008. And Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will be accompanied by the U.S. Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice Desirée Cormier Smith during this visit, and the Ambassador will engage with Afro-Brazilian civil society and highlight how our two countries are working together to advance racial equity and justice, protect marginalized racial, ethnic, and Indigenous communities, and ensure equitable growth in both Brazil and the United States. It’s another reflection of our shared values and the depth of the partnership between the United States and Brazil.

The second goal of this trip is to advance our multilateral cooperation on a number of shared priorities, including safeguarding food security, humanely managing regional migration, and strengthening regional security. Brazil is a key leader in a variety of international fora in addressing these issues on the global stage, and we look forward to continuing to see its leadership going forward, including in the leadup to the G7 leaders meeting in Hiroshima and the G20 later this year.

As the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield makes it a priority to visit the elected members of the Security Council. We partner with Brazil in the Council on regional peace and security issues, including Haiti and Colombia, on the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda, and we also share a commitment to humanitarian access and assistance. And these issues will surely be a feature of her engagements in Brazil as well.

And in the broader UN context, the United States is working together with Brazil in efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfill the 2030 Agenda’s promise to “leave no one behind.” And that includes shared commitments to inclusive and sustainable economic growth; to democratic governance; gender equality; climate and environmental sustainability; and harnessing the power of science, technology and innovation at home and abroad. And we’ll have a chance to check in on those priorities as well.

In almost all of her travels, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield makes it a priority to meet with refugees, migrants, and the communities who have opened their arms to them all over the world. Brazil, as you know, hosts more than half a million refugees and migrants, and the Ambassador will meet UN and NGO representatives supporting the more than 250,000 Venezuelan migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Brazil. The United States remains committed to working collaboratively with governments, civil society, international organizations, and other partners to address the root causes of irregular migration and manage migration humanely.

Third, as global powers and fellow members of the UN Security Council, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will also address a number of global challenges on our shared agenda. This includes the impact we’re all facing from Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine. As Secretary Blinken has put it, if Russia stops fighting, the war ends; if Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. There is a role for Brazil and other countries around the world to support diplomatic efforts for an outcome of this conflict consistent with the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and the UN Charter. We welcome Brazil engaging directly with Ukraine on this matter.

The long-term, strategic U.S.-Brazil relationship, rooted in our shared values and the strong ties between our people, is vitally important to both countries. We look forward to cooperating with President Lula and Brazil now that our countries are both “back” on the world stage. As President Biden has said, “There are no limits to what our nations can achieve by working together.”

So that feels like a good place to stop and take your questions, and look forward to engaging with all of you along the way on this trip.

MODERATOR: Thanks, [Senior U.S. Official]. And again, if you joined a little bit late, this call is on background, and you can attribute what you hear to a Senior U.S. Official. I’ll ask our AT&T operator to review the instructions for joining the question queue and we’ll go from there.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you do have questions, press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You will hear an indication you’ve been placed into the queue, and you may remove yourself from the queue by repeating the 1 then 0 command. And if you are using a speaker phone, we ask you to please pick up your handset and also make certain your phone is unmuted before pressing any buttons.

For our first question we’ll go to the line of Shaun Tandon with AFP. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey there. Thanks for doing the call. Could I follow up, [Senior U.S. Official], on one of the last points you made about looking to Brazil supporting diplomatic efforts on Ukraine. This obviously comes right after President Lula’s remarks in China that drew some attention and some criticism from the United States. To what extent are you looking for either clarification on that, or do you think that’s – you’ve moved on from that already? And to what extent – Brazil, of course, after India, also becomes the president of the G20. To what extent is there any type of concern or any type of message that you might be sending about what you would expect specifically on Russia-Ukraine as Brazil takes the more international role? Thanks.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thanks for the question. Look, I think what Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is going to be looking to do on this trip is address a whole range of global challenges, and I think the conflict of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be at or near the top of the list. Look, there is a very consistent position that the United States has taken, which is to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the principles of the UN Charter. And as Security Council members, that’s something that we have to keep front and center in our minds. It’s a reason why the UN General Assembly has now voted overwhelmingly – including with Brazil and the United States voting the same way – to condemn Russia’s invasion and uphold the principles of the UN Charter.

So our position is that a range of countries around the world – Brazil included – can play a positive role in trying to bring this conflict to an end. But we have to make sure that any peace is a just and durable one, and that it’s consistent with the principles of the UN Charter. And so I think she’ll have a chance to check in with her counterparts and a wide range of Brazilian officials and others in Brazil about the trajectory of the conflict and about efforts to bring a just peace for the people of Ukraine.

OPERATOR: We’ll go next to the line of Michele Kelemen with NPR. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. I wanted to follow up a little bit on that, but also ask specifically about the case against this Russian spy who’s in Brazil that the U.S. wants extradited here. Are you guys going to raise that specifically with the Brazilians? And also, Lavrov was also just in Brazil, and I wonder if you’ve gotten any indications from the Brazilians about the messaging that they gave to him?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thanks, Michele. I would say – well, first of all, I always want to be careful when we’re talking about an extradition request. That’s not really a role for me to kind of speak on. I’d have to refer you to the Department of Justice on anything related to extradition. What I would say is – and I think you’re referring to Sergey Cherkasov. Cherkasov was charged in March of this year for working as an illegal agent for a Russian intelligence service and committing fraud against the United States by using a false Brazilian identity. And he is currently in prison in Brazil on fraud charges. So on the specifics of extradition, I have to leave that to the Department of Justice.

What I would say, though, is when foreign adversaries, including Russia, send undercover operatives into the United States, we will find them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. And I think that’s the foundation on which we’re approaching this case.

OPERATOR: We’ll now go to the line of Will Mauldin with The Wall Street Journal. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi, thanks so much. Can you hear me?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Yup, got you loud and clear.

QUESTION: Okay, sorry. Michele basically asked my question, but I just wanted to follow up on Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov. And is that the kind of thing – does the U.S. have good enough relations with Brazil to secure his extradition? Or is there a concern that Brazil, which voted along with Russia in the Security Council last month, has kind of drifted into Russia’s orbit or the orbit of the BRIC countries? Thanks.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thanks. Well, as to the extradition request itself, I’m just going to have to leave that to my colleagues at the Department of Justice because I’m not really in a position to speak to it.

On your more general point, and I think Michele’s as well, which I may not have directly addressed, look, I – the way that we’re thinking about this visit and the way that we think about our engagement with Brazil in general is that we have a very deep, broad, and sustained partnership over a long period of time. We’ve got an enormous agenda on the bilateral front when it comes to our economic partnership, when it comes to our shared values, our effort to address issues across the region, and as I said, as both major players on the international stage, on addressing a whole range of international issues as well.

And I think one of the ways that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is approaching this trip is looking at a set of shared priorities, some of them connected to what Russia – the spillover effects, frankly, of Russia’s unjust invasion of Ukraine. When you look at issues like food security, when you look at some of the global displacement coming from the conflict, when you look at how that connects to global efforts to deal with refugees and migration, the kind of impact of – the combined impact of the spillover effects of the war and the impact of issues like climate change on developing countries. When you look at this combination, this basket of issues, it’s part of the global agenda that we both share and are both working on together, whether it be in the G20, at the UN Security Council, or in a range of other international fora.

So it’s natural for us to check in on this, and I think the deep and sustained partnership between our peoples and between our countries give us a pretty robust foundation for cooperation. And I guess I would say I would sort of hold that up and hold the depth of that partnership and how it’s been sustained over time – I’d hold that up against relations with just about any other country in the world.

MODERATOR: And as a reminder, ladies and gentlemen, if you do have questions, please take this opportunity now to press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.

We’ll go next to the line of Margaret Besheer with Voice of America. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Good morning. Thanks for doing the briefing. I just wanted to ask you a bit more about Haiti. You’re saying you’re talking about regional security. Brazil has been a big player in past UN peacekeeping missions in Haiti. Any effort underway to try and motivate the Brazilians to help with this international force that the Security Council is stuck on?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thanks so much for the question. And I agree – it’s a really important one. My guess is that there will be an opportunity to discuss this issue. We remain deeply concerned about the continued insecurity and instability in Haiti, and obviously that’s had a severe negative impact on the country’s efforts to respond to a whole range of ongoing crises – both a security crisis, but also a cholera outbreak and prolonged food insecurity as well. And obviously, there’s continuing political instability, kidnappings, and even issues with access to fuel and other basic commodities – the gang activity that we’ve seen really challenge Haiti’s ability to meet its urgent needs, and that exacerbates a whole range of other challenges.

Now, the United States has committed more than $92 million to support training and equipment for the Haitian National Police and more than $200 million in humanitarian funding to respond to this complex humanitarian crisis, and have continued to step up that contribution.

We’ve made it clear that we think the security and humanitarian situation in Haiti is worsening, and we don’t think the situation is going to improve without assistance from international partners. And those are the discussions, including discussion of the – among members of the UN Security Council – that are continuing, and it’s something that we will obviously keep on our agenda as well.

So we’re going to continue to provide support to the Haitian people through humanitarian assistance, through support to the Haitian National Police; we’re going to continue to work diplomatically to try to resolve some of the underlying issues; and we’ll be – I think Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will have an opportunity to check in with our fellow member of the UN Security Council on this and other regional issues during this trip. So that’s how I think we’ll be approaching this on the trip.

OPERATOR: We’ll move on to the line of Edith Lederer with the Associated Press. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for doing this briefing. On a broader question, we see the ambassador following, as one of my colleagues said, in – right after the Russian foreign minister was in Brazil and the Chinese are also trying to make inroads there. How do you see her visit in this larger geopolitical competition in Latin America? And can you tell us who specifically she will be meeting in the Brazilian administration? Thank you.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thank you so much. I think it’s a really important question. Look, I guess I would start by just saying we’re very confident in the strength of the U.S.-Brazil relationship. Obviously I mentioned at the top that President Biden and President Lula have developed a positive rapport over a number of conversations, including during President Lula’s visit to Washington very early in his term. And as I mentioned as well, the U.S. partnership with Brazil is broad, it’s deep, and it really touches on a core set of shared values that Americans have with Brazilians. And we’re both rightly proud of our democracies and our pluralistic societies, and that’s an area of deep engagement and common purpose that we can bring to all of our engagements across the board.

And when we look across the policy landscape, the United States sees really important points of alignment with Brazil on issues, including a number of the ones that we’ve already talked about today: combating climate change; strengthening democracy; defending human rights; increasing trade and investment; building inclusive and good-paying jobs for our people; and a whole range of other issues.

So the reason why you have senior American officials visiting Brazil – this is a cabinet-level visit; I think you’ll see a number of other visits of this type as we go forward – there’s a real interest and enthusiasm across the U.S. for broadening our engagement with President Lula’s government, and I think both leaders have made it a priority for us to keep up this engagement.

Now, of course, just as the United States, Brazil has a set of relationships with a whole range of countries around the world. But I really would be hesitant to view this visit through that narrow lens. We’ve got a very broad and deep agenda. We’re going to be pushing forward a whole range of issues during this trip. And I think in some ways, if anything, it’s the positive nature of the U.S.-Brazil relationship and the breadth of this agenda that we’re going to be working through and advancing on this visit that really speaks to how deep and sustained this partnership will remain over time.

Now, as I’ve also mentioned, there’s a whole range of global issues that we’re working on in common and together, and with common purpose, and I think we’ll have a chance to check in on the hotspots around the world and make sure that we’re swimming in the same direction. And I think there’ll be an opportunity for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield to engage on that as well.

I don’t know that we are going through the details of the schedule on this call, but suffice it to say Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will be meeting with a range of senior Brazilian officials during her time in Brasilia, and then we’ll also be engaging, as she does on all of her travel, with members of the public, civil society, students, and others that will allow her to hear from and speak to a broad swath of Brazilians across the board. And as I mentioned at the top, the visit to Salvador is actually quite important and is something that the United States has not done in a long time at this level, and so we’re really looking forward to that aspect of the trip as well.

MODERATOR: We’ve got time for one more question.

OPERATOR: That will come from the line of Paolo Silva Pinto with Poder360. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you for the opportunity. Good morning for all of you. I’d like to know for how long has this visit been scheduled, and if Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield often visits other UN members. When was her last visit to another country?

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thanks so much for the question. And you’re going to put me on the spot with my recall of Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s travel schedule, which has actually been quite robust. Actually, as I mentioned at the top, one of her – one of her objectives as a member of the President’s cabinet is to both – is actually to visit as many UN Security Council members as possible, especially at key moments on the Council where we’re working on some really tough issues together.

And so for her, from the moment that Brazil rejoined the UN Security Council, this has been a very top agenda item for us. It also happens to coincide with, as I just mentioned, President Biden’s direction to his cabinet to engage and step up our engagement with Brazil, and essentially the agreement that President Biden and President Lula reached to elevate the level of our engagement across the board.

So from our perspective, this has been something that we’ve been wanting to do from day one, from the moment that the two presidents met. This is a follow-up from that meeting that we’ve had in mind. Now, obviously finding a time that works for both sides always takes a little longer than certainly we would like, but I think we found a good time and very timely moment for this visit to happen.

I think we will get an opportunity during this visit to talk through the full range of issues that we’re addressing in the Security Council, and I think stepping back, to look at what I think is going to be a pretty consequential set of agenda items in the multilateral system, and given both of our countries’ deep investments in the multilateral system, it’s something that we really need to be working on together.

And that includes issues like multilateral development bank reform, issues like dealing with debt distress and making sure that all countries are doing their fair share and stepping up to help deal with the problem of unsustainable debt especially in developing countries, and addressing the, as I mentioned, the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda and our collective efforts to help each other out in reaching those goals, to dealing with the regional issues including migration, climate finance and adaptation, and the broader economic agenda given the depth of the economic relationship between our two countries.

So that’s the charge that we’ve been given by President Biden. Our understanding is that President Lula has sent a similar signal in the Brazilian system, and that’s part of the backdrop for this visit taking place now when it is taking place.

I will say that Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has made a number of other international trips over the last couple of years, and on almost every trip she has been trying to stop in on one or another UN Security Council member to deepen our engagement across the board. Her most recent trip, for example, was in Mozambique and Ghana. She’s been to Gabon. She’s been to Kenya when they were on the Council. She’s been to Japan, et cetera.

MODERATOR: Thanks so much, [Senior U.S. Official]. And I’ll flag Ecuador I think was our last visit, at the end of March.

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Of course, the most recent.


SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thank you so much for that correction.

MODERATOR: Well, thanks so much, everyone, for joining the call today. Thanks, [Senior U.S. Official], for the briefing. Again, this call is on background. You can attribute what was said here to a Senior U.S. Official. And with that, the embargo is lifted. Thanks so much, everyone.