Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council High-Level Briefing on Ukraine

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
July 17, 2023


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo for your briefing.

As I prepared for today’s meeting, I thought back to the days leading up to President Putin’s unprovoked, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This was just over 500 days ago.

For weeks, the United States, alongside many countries represented in this room, had been sounding the alarm about Russia’s imminent invasion. But all Russia did was deny, deny, deny.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister told us to “stop the hysteria.” But only a few days later, we were all here in this room, in this very Council when Russia launched its brutal war of aggression.

That night, President Biden delivered a message that would prove prescient. He said that Putin’s war of choice: “will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”

Tragically, the world has watched this play out in horrifying detail in Ukraine and around the world. After all, the spillover effect of this needless war are profound. Just look at the harm Russia has done to the world’s food supply. By weaponizing food, Russia has exacerbated the global food security crisis – a crisis that disproportionately impacts people in the Middle East and Africa.

And today, in another act of cruelty, Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative. This arrangement has brought stability to global food markets and lowered food prices for all. It has bolstered the World Food Program’s humanitarian work in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen.

And according to the UN, nearly two-thirds of the wheat exported through this arrangement has gone to developing countries. As the Secretary-General said: “Today’s decision by the Russian Federation will strike a blow to people in need everywhere.”

Of course, this decision follows Russia’s callous veto of a compromise Security Council resolution that would have extended life-saving assistance to Syrians in dire need.

In both cases, Russia’s cynicism is obstructing the will of this Council. And it’s obstructing the recommendations of the Secretary-General. We must all urge Russia to extend the cross-border mechanism into Syria and continue its participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Colleagues, over the past 500 days, Russia has waged a campaign of brutality on the Ukrainian people. Russia’s forces have rained missiles down on Ukraine causing unconscionable death and destruction. We have all seen the images of bombed-out homes and schools and playgrounds.

Russia’s forces have tortured civilians in detention including through beatings, electrocution, and mock executions. One woman I met in Kyiv could only share a portion of the horrors she experienced while in detention. It was still too raw. But the pain etched onto her face said it all.

The United States has determined that members of Russia’s forces and other Russian officials have committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine. Rape. Summary executions. The deportation of Ukrainians, including children. The list goes on.

Russia continues to deny these atrocities. These crimes have been well documented. And the international community has taken steps to hold those responsible to account. And there will be justice.

On the night of the invasion, President Biden also said the United States and our allies would “respond in a united and decisive way.” And this, too, has been borne out. We have stood united, never wavering in our support for Ukraine.

Together, we have imposed sanctions on individuals and entities that provide political and economic support to Russia’s war efforts. And together, we have provided – and will continue to provide – Ukraine with humanitarian and security assistance.

Now, you hear our Russian colleagues say that somehow this assistance is the reason the war continues. But once again, Russia is trying to turn reality on its head.

The security assistance, including weapons, the United States and more than 50 other countries are providing is for Ukraine’s self-defense – self-defense to which Ukraine has an inherent right, as reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter.

The truth of the matter is this: Russia could end this war today by pulling out its troops. It’s that simple. And you’ve heard that from several of us in this room.

Colleagues, the United States refuses to give up on the urgency of peace. And that’s why, along with Ukraine and other Member States, we supported the UN General Assembly’s resolution that called for a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine.

Russia tried to bully countries into voting against this resolution, but its efforts were in vain. Over 140 Member States made clear that peace must be rooted in the UN Charter in the fundamental principles of sovereignty, equality, and territorial integrity of States.

But up to this point, Russia has shown no true interest in a just and durable peace. And as a result, the Ukrainian people continue to suffer, the world continues to suffer.

I suspect – actually, I know – Russia will continue to follow its standard playbook and deny the truth about its war of aggression. It will continue to call bogus Council meetings, and invite conspiracy theorists to brief us. It truly is shameful.

But what cannot be denied is this: The Ukrainian people will continue to courageously defend their country. And the United States will stand with them for as long as it takes just as we will continue to stand up for the UN Charter and its principles, as the basis for a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.