February 2, 2023

Russia-Ukraine war: Linda Thomas-Greenfield highlights U.S. diplomatic moves in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” 

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, delivers remarks on Russia’s threat to peace and security, at a UN Security Council meeting, from UN Headquarters in New York City on February 17, 2022. [USUN photo]
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, delivers remarks on Russia’s threat to peace and security, at a UN Security Council meeting, from UN Headquarters in New York City on February 17, 2022. [USUN photo]

The United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Sunday highlighted U.S. diplomatic moves on the Russia-Ukraine crisis in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

READ FULL INTERVIEW BELOW

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” 

QUESTION: Joining me now is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Madam Ambassador, thank you so much for joining me. Let’s first start with the news from the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s office that the Ukrainians and the Russians will meet without preconditions on the Belarus border. What are you hearing about that, and how optimistic are you?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  That’s a decision that the Ukrainian government has to make and that they have made. And we’ll look forward to what comes out of those discussions. As you know, Dana, we leaned in on diplomacy with the Russians throughout this process and we hoped that Putin would find a way to the negotiating table. And he made the unfortunate decision of aggression over diplomacy. But again this news is another effort by the Ukrainians to find a way forward at the negotiating table.

QUESTION:  Effort by the Ukrainians, but from the point of view of Russia, do you think, based on the diplomatic efforts that you were involved in up until now, that this is a good faith effort by the Russians?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I can’t get into the Russian – into Putin’s head or into Russian reasoning, so it remains to be seen. But let’s see what comes of it.

QUESTION:  But the U.S. does support this move – this diplomatic effort?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We have always indicated that we wanted to find a diplomatic solution, and Russia chose confrontation. So again, this diplomatic effort is one more effort to bring the Russians to the negotiating table.

QUESTION:  OK. Let’s turn to new sanctions that were announced by Europe and the U.S. saying that they plan to remove “certain Russian banks” from the SWIFT system, but it wouldn’t include the energy sector. As you know, that is a big part of the Russian economy. Why won’t you remove all of the Russian banks and transactions from SWIFT?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  This process continues, and we’re putting together the list, and we’ll continue to work on that over the course of the next couple of days. Treasury can give you some details of what is going into the process. But the purpose of the sanctions are to put as much pressure on the Russian economy as possible. And we want to do as much as we can to protect the impact on our own economy. But we’re continuing to look at new and even harsher measures against the Russians.

QUESTION:  You said that the things you are putting in place now, you want to make sure to protect the U.S. and, I’m sure, allied economies, as well. Are you saying by including the energy sector that that would put a burden on our economies?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We have not take anything off the table. We’re continuing to look at this. We’re ramping up as the Russians ramp up. So there’s more to come. And while energy is not in this current announcement, it doesn’t mean it’s off the table. But we also want to do everything we can to protect our own economy from the impact of this.

QUESTION:  OK. So you also, as I mentioned, announced sanctioning the Russian Central Bank and its nearly $650 billion in reserves. And that’s a move intended to crater the ruble. How quickly will that happen? And are you worried that Russians will retaliate?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  This is happening very, very quickly. And sanctioning the central bank keeps the central bank from providing protection to the ruble and to the Russian economy. Again, I can’t speak for how the Russians will respond to this. Vladimir Putin is very unpredictable. So it remains to be seen how he responds, but he should know that when he responds we will be prepared to respond, as well.

QUESTION:  We’ve seen some remarkable resilience from the Ukrainian people. But they’re also pleading for more weapons to fight back. Secretary of State Blinken announced up to another $350 million to that end. Is there anything more that the U.S. can do? More military support, air support, intelligence, imposing a no-fly zone in Ukraine?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We have provided not just this $350 million, close to a billion dollars over the last couple of days,* and billions since this situation started. And we’re continuing to working Ukrainians on the requests that they have, delivering support to them on the ground, and also bolstering our NATO Allies on the border with Ukraine so that they are prepared to respond to Russian aggression.

QUESTION:  And what about the no-fly zone? Is that something that’s on the table?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  The President has made clear that we’re not going to put boots on the ground, we’re not going to put American troops in danger. So that means we’re not going to put American troops in the air, as well. But we will work with the Ukrainians to give them the ability to defend themselves.

QUESTION:  Madam Ambassador, we’re hearing from people on the ground in Ukraine reports of civilian deaths, seeing the damage to civilian buildings. President Zelenskyy just this morning said that Vladimir Putin is committing genocide and he should be tried as a war criminal. Do you think that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal? And should he be tried as such?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We’re holding the Russians accountable at every level. And I have to say we were appalled at the Russian use of the word genocide to describe what the Russians** are doing. They are the aggressors. And they have to be held accountable whether it’s in the United Nations or elsewhere and all of that continues to be discussed, that is on the table. As you know, we will be having a discussion in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council, bringing Russia before the Human Rights Council, as well. And there’s another resolution that we’re bringing before the General Assembly in the special emergency meeting that we’re requesting tonight. So we’re keeping the pressure up on the Russians.

QUESTION:  You didn’t mention war crimes tribunal in the Hague. Is that also on the table?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  I think everything is on the table as we move forward. But as we’re dealing with the situation today, we’re continuing to address all of those issues.

QUESTION:  During the very moment that you were giving your speech during the UN Security Council meeting urging Russia not to invade Ukraine, Vladimir Putin was launching his invasion. What was that moment like when you realized that was happening?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  It showed the complete and utter disrespect that the Russians have for UN values, for the UN Charter. There was a buzz across the room in the Security Council as we all began to get information that this was happening on the ground as we’re speaking. So again, we’re not surprised. The U.S. warned about this for weeks in advance that this was going to happen any day. So, we weren’t surprised that they did it, but again it just showed to the world how much the Russians disrespect the UN system, and that again they are the aggressors here.

QUESTION:  You will attend a meeting of the Security Council later today to vote on holding an emergency session of the UN General Assembly. President Zelenskyy said he talked with the UN Secretary-General about stripping Russia of its vote on the UN Security Council. Would you support that?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Russia is a member of the Security Council. That’s in the UN Charter. But we are going to hold Russia accountable for disrespecting the UN Charter. And they have been isolated in many different ways. So just to indicate, 80 countries joined us in co-sponsoring the resolution, more than 50 countries joined us at the podium to call out Russia’s aggression, so the fact of their sitting on the Security Council does not mean they’re protected from criticism, protected from isolation, and protected from condemnation.

QUESTION:  Before we go, nearly 2,700 Russians have been detained in anti-war protests in Russia since Thursday. I wonder, what is your message to those Russian protesters?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  We’ve noted this information, and what it says is that Vladimir Putin can’t hide what he’s doing in Ukraine. And those Russians who are protesting are extraordinarily brave to be protesting in their country. But again it indicates that he does not have 100 percent support in his own country for what he’s doing. And we encourage those people to continue to make sure their voices are heard. 

QUESTION:  Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD:  Thank you very much.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” 

QUESTION: And joining me now is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Ambassador, welcome to “Meet the Press.”  

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Delighted to be here. 

QUESTION: Over the last 72 hours, we’ve seen almost a daily escalation in sanctions from the Western alliance, whether sometimes led by the United States, obviously Europeans have a lot to say about the SWIFT system. And I guess my first question is, why has it been sort of this daily escalation? Why couldn’t we have gotten all of this done on Thursday? Why has it taken till yesterday? And even that, we only have a partial removal of the Russian banks from the SWIFT system. 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Chuck, you know, we made clear from the beginning that we will escalate as the Russians escalate. And that’s exactly what we have done. The President, in all of his announcements before, indicated that we will be prepared to put harsh sanctions on the Russians. They were aware that those sanctions were coming. And we have been consistent in applying those sanctions as we’ve seen the escalation by the Russians, in coordination, of course, with all of our European colleagues. 

QUESTION: Are we at all going to get the Germans and the Italians to agree to go full bore here? I know they’re worried about energy. Is there any way to change that? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I can’t speak for either the German or Italian governments here, but I can tell you that the President has been working very, very closely with his counterparts in both of these countries. He’s spoken, as you know, to the Germans, and we’ve engaged very closely with the Germans on this. And we’re unified in our approach to the Germans*. So, I can just say that we are continuing to assess what we can do moving forward. And the Russians can be assured that we will continue to put more and more sanctions as they continue to press more on the Ukrainian government. 

QUESTION: When we were first announcing sanctions, we were told it was about deterrence. I want to play a few clips here from various officials. 

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JAKE SULLIVAN: The president believes that sanctions are intended to deter. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS:The purpose of the sanctions has always been, and continues to be, deterrence. 

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN:The sanctions are designed in the first instance to try to deter Russia from taking further aggression.  

QUESTION: And then President Biden admitted this: 

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening. 

QUESTION: So, I guess the question is: How does this end now? Meaning, we’ve got – the sanctions did not deter. We’ve put in pretty harsh sanctions. We’ve gone through how it could be slightly harsher. But can this end with sanctions alone? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, Chuck, we’ve been very clear-eyed on this from the beginning. As the President noted, we were going to apply harsh sanctions. And initially, they were an attempt to prevent Russia from taking this aggressive action. But it is Vladimir Putin’s decision on whether he will stop what he’s doing and listen to the voices of the world, the voices that have condemned him, or he will continue. And if he continues, we will continue to apply sanctions. But at the same time, we were preparing for just this action. And the President has approved moving more troops to support our NATO colleagues. We’ve provided additional support to the Ukrainian government, just over the past few days,** close to $1 billion, and billions since this all started. So, we’re clear-eyed. This has been a two-pronged approach. We hoped that the Russians would listen to the pressures that we were putting them under, but they didn’t, so they have to continue to feel additional sanctions and additional pressures on their economy. And they will feel the pain. 

QUESTION: President Zelenskyy called on Russia to be removed from the United Nations. You and I were talking beforehand, we know that there’s a charter. That is not something that can just be done with a vote or anything like this. But it is sort of odd that Russia’s currently in charge of the Council right now. It’s a rotation; I get how that works. And the world is trying to condemn Russia and it looks like the UN is just sort of feckless at this. How can the UN play a critical role here? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I would absolutely disagree with your characterization that this is feckless. We have had three meetings in the Security Council and just this week, on Friday alone, we put forward a resolution in which 81 countries co-sponsored with us. Forty-four*** of them stood at the podium with me. So, we’re not being feckless. Russia is hearing a very unified voice from the Security Council, and it has to be very uncomfortable for them. They are a member of the Security Council and, until Monday, they will be president of the Security Council. As you noted, it’s rotational. But they can’t prevent the Security Council from taking actions, and we have taken some very strong actions since this started. 

QUESTION: Do you expect another vote to try to condemn what Russia’s doing? I know there’s been some talk of that. And if so, do you think this time India, UAE, some others will get on board? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we’re going to have a meeting – another emergency meeting of the Security Council today, in which we will make a decision to call for an emergency session of the General Assembly, which we plan to have on Monday. And then, hopefully later in the week, we will have a vote, possibly as early as Wednesday, on a General Assembly resolution that the Russians cannot veto. 

QUESTION: I go back to – is there any penalty, any mechanism at all, to penalize the Russians’ behavior at the United Nations? Is there anything? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We can isolate them. We can isolate them in the United Nations. We can isolate them in UN specialized agencies. They are feeling that isolation. There will be a meeting in Geneva, at the UN Human Rights Council, where they, again, will be called out and their aggressions will be brought to the attention of the world. So, again, we have a number of tools to put pressure on the Russians and we’re using all of those tools. 

QUESTION: All right, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing the Administration’s perspective. Let’s hope this works. 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you very much, Chuck. 

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Margaret Brennan of CBS on “Face the Nation” 

QUESTION: We go now to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who joins us from New York. Good morning to you, Madam Ambassador. 

Vladimir Putin has been speaking on state TV with his top officials and said he was ordering Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces to be on alert for a special regime of combat duty. Can you tell us what that means? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: It means that President Putin is continuing to escalate this war in a manner that is totally unacceptable, and we have to continue to condemn his actions in the most strong – the strongest possible way.

QUESTION: To be clear, is this just loose talk about nuclear weapons or is there some kind of heightened readiness and reason to be concerned?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m just hearing this from – from you, Margaret, but I’m not surprised at this – at this information because Putin has tried every means possible to actually put fear in – in the world in terms of his action, and it just means that we have to ramp up our efforts here at the United Nations and elsewhere to hold him accountable. 

QUESTION: This morning, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Minister said the conflict will get very, very bloody and she raised the prospect of unsavory weapons. I know Ukraine has also raised concerns about Russia handing out gas masks in the eastern part of the country. Is there a threat of chemical and biological weapons being used? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Certainly nothing is off the table with this guy. He’s willing to use whatever tools he can to intimidate Ukrainians and the world. And again, we have to continue, as the President has indicated, to hold him accountable, and that is exactly what we’re doing here in New York. 

QUESTION: Well, let me ask you about the Biden Administration’s strategy here, because sanctions have really been at the heart of the policy. But we’ve seen an evolution in explaining their purpose. Take a listen. 

NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JAKE SULLIVAN: The president believes that sanctions are intended to deter. 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: The purpose of the sanctions has always been and continues to be deterrence. 

SECRETARY ANTONY BLINKEN: Once you trigger the sanctions, you lose the deterrent effect.  

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No one expected the sanctions to prevent anything from happening. 

QUESTION: If the sanctions weren’t meant to prevent anything from happening, then what was the purpose? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We always had a two-pronged approach to this. The president indicated that nothing was off the table. So, while we were using sanctions which –  

QUESTION:  Well, he said U.S. force was off the table. 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I’m sorry?  

QUESTION: He did say U.S. force – U.S. combat troops are off the table. 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: U.S. combat troops in Ukraine are off the table, but U.S. troops in our NATO countries bolstering our support for NATO has never been taken off the table and as you know, the President has approved additional troops to support NATO.  

QUESTION: But on the issue of sanctions, which have been the prime tool here, and they’ve ramped up tremendously over the past 72 to 48 hours, the President said earlier in the week, we’d have to wait a month to see what the impact would be. Do you think Ukrainians have a month to wait and see? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re – we’re continuing to support Ukraine, not just with the sanctions that we have imposed on the Russians. There is other support that is going to the Ukrainian government and other pressure that is being put on Russia across the world.  

QUESTION: But can the government in Kiev hold on for a month? 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re working to support the government as much as possible, and the President of Ukraine has indicated that they are going to be fighting back constantly and it is our plan to support their efforts. 

QUESTION: Madam Ambassador, there was already a refugee crisis in Eastern Europe, and now we have about 400,000 refugees spilling into the surrounding countries. It is wonderful to see them welcomed, but there seems to be a contradiction here because if you look at the border of Poland, as you know, there are detention camps for some refugees who had come from Syria, from Afghanistan, from other countries, and it appears as if some refugees are treated differently based on their country of origin, if they’re European or not. How do you explain that?  

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The Polish government and other governments have indicated that they’re opening their borders for all who are crossing from Ukraine. But we’re also engaging very, very closely with these governments. We’re engaging closely with the UN agencies on the ground to ensure that we provide them with the resources that they need and – and the support that they need to ensure that every single refugee crossing into neighboring countries are received equally and with the same amount of protection. 

QUESTION: But you know, I’m talking about Poland building a wall against the border with Belarus to block refugees in the past. Madam Ambassador, I mean, big picture here. I understand your role at the United Nations, but it is just the entire purpose of the UN to prevent something like this from ever happening again. It’s why it was created after World War II in the first place. Isn’t what’s happening now though showing that that global order is failing the people of Ukraine. 

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: What is happening now is that the Russian government has – has shown its disrespect for the UN Charter and for all of the principles that we believe in. And they are isolated in that approach. They’re isolated here in the United Nations. We are pushing here at the UN to continue to call out their aggressive actions. We will continue to isolate them and to push for them to respect the charter and cease this aggressive action against Ukraine. 

QUESTION: Madam Ambassador, thank you for your time this morning. 


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