Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 21, 2023
MODERATOR: Okay, good afternoon. Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center. Today’s briefing will be with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, speaking on upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of Russia’s aggression: a year of action at the UN.
My name is Melissa Waheibi; I’ll be your moderator today. This briefing is on the record and being recorded. We will post a video and a transcript on our website at fpc.state.gov when that is complete. If you are ready to ask a question at the time of the Q&A, please make sure that your Zoom profile reflects your media outlet. We invite you to turn on your camera as well, should you wish.
So Ambassador Greenfield will – Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield will offer opening remarks, and then we will have a period of Q&A which I will moderate. At this time, ma’am, the floor is yours.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good. Thank you very much, and good afternoon, everyone.
President Biden went to Kyiv yesterday and stood shoulder to shoulder with President Zelenskyy to remind the world that one year later, Kyiv stands. Today we heard the President say in Poland that a world in which the fundamental principles of the UN Charter will be upheld. And today, Ukraine still stands. Democracy still stands. And America and the world still stands with Ukraine.
Putin thought he would break the coalition of countries that have supported Ukraine over the last year. He thought he could easily roll over Ukraine. He thought he could tear the UN Charter to shreds. He was wrong. The people of Ukraine have proven their determination to defend their freedom, and one year later the United States and our allies and partners have proven that we will ensure that Ukraine has what it needs to defend its people and territory against Russia’s aggression for as long as it takes.
Over the past year, in cooperation with allies and partners, we have done everything in our power to help Ukraine defend itself, because Russia has shown no interest in ending this war. And here at the UN for the past year, you’ve seen us stand up for the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. Leading up to the brutal full-scale invasion, we held meeting after meeting. We made it clear that Russia was preparing to invade, even as Russia denied, denied, denied. Then Russia launched their full-scale invasion at the very moment when we were sitting in the Security Council. While we sought peace, Putin chose war.
So we have worked with the international community to respond. Just days after Russia launched its attack, the UN General Assembly adopted with 141 votes from countries across the globe a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanding Russia withdraw its troops. Then in March, the UN General Assembly reconvened to adopt a resolution deploring the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s aggression. And in April, we successfully led a push to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council for its gross and systematic violations of human rights.
In May, we used our presidency of the Security Council to shine a light on how Russia’s attacks on Ukraine were hurting others around the world too by exacerbating global food insecurity. We rallied more than 100 countries to sign onto a Roadmap for Global Food Security. And this past October, 143 countries – 143 member-states – voted to reject Russia’s illegal attempted annexation of Ukrainian territory and upheld Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity once again – 143 members. It was a strong rebuke by the international community. The world time and time again has sent an unequivocal message to President Putin: Silence your weapons, withdraw your troops, end this war. Because we all know that the longer this war goes on, the more the Ukrainian people will suffer; the more the world, especially countries in the Middle East and Africa that rely on Ukraine’s grain, will suffer.
This week the UN General Assembly will have the opportunity to vote on a resolution that calls on countries to support diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine – a peace consistent with the UN Charter, especially the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. This resolution also urges countries to work together to address the global impact of the war, including on food security, energy, finance, the environment, and nuclear security and safety.
Already 68 countries have co-sponsored this important text, and we strongly encourage all member-states to vote for this resolution, to vote for peace. I want to emphasize that supporting peace in Ukraine is in no way about a great power competition. This is not somehow about choosing between the United States and Russia. This is about defending the UN Charter, this is about doing our part to end the scourge of war, and this is about reaffirming one of this institution’s core principles – that one country – one country cannot take the territory of another by force.
Let me end by saying Russia alone could end this war today. Until it does so, the United States will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes to achieve a just and lasting peace. With that, I welcome your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Madam Ambassador. It’s now time for the Q&A portion of this event. As a reminder, you can ask your question via chat or indicate it with your digital hand on Zoom, and I will call on you. We did submit – we did receive some pre-submitted questions. I’ll offer those at some point during the briefing as well. But Valeria, we’ll start with you. We see you have your hand raised. Please turn your camera on if you so choose and make sure your volume is available.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you Ambassador for this press conference. Valeria Robecco from ANSA. My question is: What expectations do you have as a turnout for the resolution in the General Assembly? Do you think it can be a record resolution, even more than 143 votes that you obtained with the resolution the last October? Can you elaborate on that? Thank you so much.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you for the question. As I said, we have 68 countries that have already signed up to co-sponsor this resolution, and we are continuing to work with other countries to address any issues or questions they may have about the resolution. We think this is a simple resolution to support. It is a resolution that calls for peace, it is a resolution that calls for negotiation, in line with the Charter of the United Nations, in line with the values of the Charter of the United Nations. So we think this should be something that countries should find easy to support, and we’ll look forward to seeing the vote on that day. I can’t predict what it’s going to be, but I can just say that given all of the work that all of us have put into this, we’re looking forward to having a robust debate and discussion and vote.
MODERATOR: Next question over to Ibtisam. Ibtisam, please turn on your camera and your mike. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador. My name is Ibtisam Azem, from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper. I have two questions. First, there is some talks about a Chinese peace initiative. Do you have any comments on that? And did the subject come up with any bilateral meetings between U.S. and Chinese officials? And my second question about the text of the resolution – in the text, you talk about – the text of the draft resolution, sorry – you talk about cessation of hostilities and not about ceasefire. Could you elaborate on that? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, again, on China, we are not expecting or projecting that China will submit anything – any counter-resolutions or any other documentation, but that’s a question I think you’ll have to ask the Chinese directly.
And in terms of the resolution, what we are calling for are negotiations. And we’re calling for the two sides to sit together. We’re calling for peace. But any cessation of hostilities require the Russians, who are – who initiated hostilities, to cease this war. They can end the fighting today by stopping the fighting, by taking their troops out of Ukraine and ending the war, and going to the negotiating table. If Ukraine stopped fighting – and you heard Secretary Blinken say this over and over again, and I’ve said it as well – if Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends. If Russia stops fighting, the war ends.
QUESTION: Can I follow up, just quickly, sorry? Under which conditions would you go into negotiate?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Under which conditions would you –
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, it’s not for us to decide the conditions for negotiations. It’s for the Ukrainians to decide what conditions they will negotiate under. But what we want to do is put them in as strong a position as possible so that when they go to the negotiating table, they are in a position of strength.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question over to Pam Falk. Pam.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, and thank you, Ambassador. Many of us at the UN understand the answer to this question, but I’d like to hear it in your words: What is the impact of a UN General Assembly resolution that’s non-binding? In other words, does it give countries the ability to support sanctions? Does it give – does it send a message? Since it’s non-binding, what – how does it have an impact? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thanks for that question, Pamela. And I think the answer is a simple answer: It sends a strong message, first to Russia, that their actions are unacceptable, it isolates Russia in the General Assembly as well as in the Security Council, and I think it isolates Russia around the world. And a strong vote also sends the message to Russia that they need to sit at the negotiating table. They are a pariah state right now, and they – if they want to be – to move forward in this world, they have to end this war. They have to go to the negotiating table, and the only way that they can do that is for them to take their troops out of Ukraine and end the war. And a strong vote in the General Assembly will send that message to them in no uncertain terms. They will see that the world remains unified against their unprovoked actions in Ukraine.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question is over to Dmitry with Inter TV, Ukraine.
QUESTION: Hello and good afternoon. Thank you very much. I’m just curious how difficult it was to organize this – such support for the resolution. There are a lot of countries. Could you just share, was your office – was you the part of the talks with the supporters, how it was organized? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s a great question, Dmitry; thank you for asking that. It takes a lot of hard work. We’re unified in our strong condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but we want to make sure that we bring others into this condemnation, into this group, into this unity that we have established.
So we have a lot of meetings, as you can imagine. We have a lot of meetings, we have a lot of group meetings, we have a lot of one-on-one meetings with countries, and we worked hard with the Ukrainian Government to forge a resolution that everyone could support. Because this is a resolution that stands on the principles of the UN charter. It stands on a country’s right to sovereignty and the integrity of their borders, and it condemns any action by another country in terms of compromising their neighbor’s borders. So there is very little there in this document that anyone would disagree with.
MODERATOR: All right, we have time for one more question. That question was presubmitted, and it’s from Viviana Mazza from Corriere della Sera, from Italy: “Ma’am, what role can Italy have in the war in Ukraine compared to countries who are sending more weapons? Biden called Meloni; why is her visit to Kyiv important from a U.S. point of view?”
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much for that question. And Italy has an important role to play. Italy is a member of NATO, they’re part of the G7, and they’re a close ally and strong friend of the United States. And we have worked closely with the Italian Government on a range of shared issues. As we – and we will continue to do that. And what is happening in Ukraine is something that we share, it’s something that we both believe in. And as President Biden just came out of – just came out of Kyiv, I thought it was important for him to talk to President* Meloni about her visit to Kyiv and to share what he was able assess on his trip there.
So I thought it was a good time for them to have a discussion on a range of issues, and I have a very close working relationship with your ambassador here in New York as well, and we regularly exchange views and ideas on how we will continue to work together to address the issues related to Ukraine.
MODERATOR: Thank you. This concludes our briefing for today. Thank you, ma’am, for being here; thank you for – everyone for participating via Zoom. Again, the transcript and video will be available on fpc.state.gov later today. Thank you and have a good afternoon.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you.