Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
United States Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 15, 2022
QUESTION: Russia is now saying some of its troops are withdrawing. From what the United States can see, is that true?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: James, we haven’t been able to confirm that their troops are withdrawing. We have heard these reports as have you, but what we do know is that Russia still has over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. So the threat is still there. We will continue to pursue a diplomatic route as long as the Russians are willing to continue discussions at the diplomatic table.
QUESTION: The United States and its key allies over the past two weeks may have taken the unusual step of releasing real-time intelligence on Russian troop movements and possible false flag operations. Are we already in an information war and do you think your tactics have locked Putin in?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’ve been extraordinarily open and transparent with the public about what we see. We have a responsibility, especially to U.S. citizens who are in Ukraine, to let them know that they must take all necessary steps they will need to leave Ukraine while they are permitted to leave. Ukraine. But we are also open with the rest of the world about what we see. This was the subject of our Security Council meeting on January 31; it was about exposing the world to what is happening, but allowing Russia to hear from the entire Security Council that we want them to seek a diplomatic solution and not head for a confrontation that would lead to devastating humanitarian crises and loss of life.
QUESTION: Do you believe this effort to be as open as possible means that Putin now has less room to manoeuvre?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I cannot speak for President Putin. I can only speak to the actions we see, and what we see is that they continue to escalate, not de-escalate. But they have a choice. They can do diplomacy. They can sit at the negotiating table or in the discussions that they have had with our president as well as with other leaders and try to find a solution to address their security concerns and the concerns security of our European allies as well as Ukraine.
QUESTION: When I asked Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations for the past 24 hours if there would be an invasion of Ukraine, he laughed at me. Now you know that if Russia goes ahead and withdraws its forces, this will all be dismissed by the Russians as American hype. So you are someone who sees the intelligence that the rest of us don’t see. Is there and has there been a real threat of invasion?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We have repeatedly said that there is a real threat of invasion. It is reported by all media outlets. They see it too. And that’s no laughing matter. It’s not funny. It is about the loss of innocent lives that would not occur if the Russians chose diplomacy and did not move forward to further invade Ukraine.
QUESTION: As you know, oil prices are rising. This is good news for Russia. And yet, the threat of war alone has been very, very damaging to the Ukrainian economy. Do you believe that some of the actions taken by the United States may have contributed to this damage? For example, your decision to close your embassy in Kyiv. Why close the embassy? Surely this is the last place the Russians would target, and those diplomats on the ground would be helpful eyes and ears in the event of an invasion.
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we’ve suspended our operations at the Embassy, but we still have diplomats on the ground and we’re still engaging directly with the Ukrainian government and trying to do everything we can to help American citizens as long as the situation is allowed. What the Russians should be concerned about, if they take this step to further invade Ukraine, is the impact it will have on their economy. The President has been clear that our response will be swift, it will be forceful, it will be unified with our European allies, and it will be felt very, very intensely in Russia if they make this unfortunate decision.
QUESTION: Ambassador, my last question, and let’s look at a scenario where the Russians are not currently crossing the border into Ukraine. Are you worried about the next time when in fact, if the Russian troops withdraw, they will leave forces, they will pre-position equipment, which means that they could mobilize much more quickly next time?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Again, I can’t predict what the Russians will do, but we know how they operate. We’ve seen them take these steps before, and they can make the decision not to invade, but they will, I know, continue to threaten Ukraine’s security and threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty unless we find a way to address the security problems they claim to have in the region. And so we will continue, once again, to lean aggressively to help them find a way out of the confrontation, but at the diplomatic table and at the negotiating table to avoid what will be disastrous humanitarian consequences and the loss of innocent lives. .
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.