Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, at a UN General Assembly Emergency Special Session Before the Vote on a Resolution on Achieving Peace in Ukraine

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February 22, 2023

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you to the Secretary-General.

Colleagues, today we are gathered to discuss an important, historic resolution – one that will promote diplomacy, dialogue, and a lasting peace in Ukraine. The timing of this moment is, of course, intentional. One year ago, Russia launched its illegal, unprovoked, full-scale invasion into Ukraine.

I remember that day clearly, as I know all of you do too, as well. That evening, I walked into the United Nations Security Council for an emergency meeting, which the United States had called for because we believed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was imminent. At this point, we had been sounding the alarm bells for weeks.

I had informed the Council in no uncertain terms about the buildup of troops along the border and what we thought it meant. Secretary Blinken had also come to the Security Council and laid out in detail what we expected would soon unfold.

A few days before the invasion, Russia’s deputy foreign minister told us to, “stop the hysteria.” On the very night of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, Russia’s representative said in the Security Council that, “occupation of Ukraine is not in our plan.” All Russia did was deny, deny, deny – as we have heard the Russian PR do again today.

That cold February night, one year ago today, I asked Russia to stop. To return to its borders. To send its troops, tanks, and planes back into their barracks and hangars. To send diplomats back to the negotiating table. But it was too late. At that exact moment I joined so many others in the Security Council and around the world in making a plea for peace. President Putin chose war. This was an illegal and unprovoked attack on Ukraine. But it was also an assault on the United Nations. It struck at the very heart of the UN Charter.

We all know what happened next, and what is still happening now. The bombing of kindergartens and hospitals. The slaughter of innocent civilians. The worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. An unprecedented hunger crisis around the world. Threats to nuclear and energy security. Families forcibly separated, Ukrainian children relocated to Russia, mass suffering. Crimes against humanity.

Colleagues, this vote is a moment to remember why we are here. Of course, I cannot speak for all of you. I can only speak for myself.

When I was sworn in for this role, it was exactly one year to the day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Back then, I could not have known the existential threat that the UN Charter would face. But I did know what President Biden and the American people were sending me here to do. To represent my country to the world, yes. But also to uphold the UN Charter. To engage in dialogue and diplomacy. And to lead us toward a more peaceful, more prosperous planet. And that is what I am here to do today.

And no matter what else you were sent here to do, I know we all share these same goals in common. To represent our countries. To advocate for diplomacy. And to push for peace. This vote is an opportunity to do just that.

We have before us a resolution that calls on the nations of the world to support diplomatic efforts to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace in Ukraine. A peace consistent with the UN Charter. Consistent with its fundamental principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and self-defense.

Colleagues, this vote will go down in history. On the one-year anniversary of this conflict, we will see where the nations of the world stand on the matter of peace in Ukraine.

Earlier this week, President Biden visited Ukraine. And he made it clear where the United States stands. He stood shoulder-to-shoulder with President Zelenskyy to remind the world that, one year later, Kyiv still stands. Ukraine still stands. And America still stands with Ukraine.

I, too, visited Ukraine late last year. And while I learned a great deal in my meetings and discussions, the most powerful lessons I took away were in the faces of the Ukrainian people. In President Zelenskyy, I saw resolve. I saw a leader determined to defend his people and defend his country, for as long as it takes. In the faces of refugees and victims, I saw suffering. Deep sorrow. Unimaginable pain was etched into their visages. It is hard to overstate how much unnecessary anguish and pain President Putin has caused.

But it was in the faces of Ukrainian children that I found hope. I met a 10-year-old girl, Milena, who lived in a facility where displaced families were gathering to prepare for the cold winter. A facility that had once been hit by Russian missiles. And I asked Milena what she wanted to do when the war was over. And she smiled. She told me, simply, that she wanted to go back to school and see her best friend again. Her face beamed with hope. I will never forget her shining eyes.

Colleagues, we should never give up on hope. We should never give up on the potential for diplomacy, or the power of dialogue, or the urgency of peace. We now have an opportunity to vote for that peace. And to vote to uphold the UN Charter once more. A UN Charter which stands for sovereignty and territorial integrity. A UN Charter that stands for the inherent right of self-defense. And a UN Charter which aims to maintain international peace and security and end the scourge of war.

So, colleagues, I urge you to vote against – against any and all hostile amendments that seek to undermine the UN Charter and ignore the truth of this war. I urge you, instead, to vote “yes” in support of this resolution as it stands. To promote diplomacy and dialogue – yes, diplomacy and dialogue. To promote cooperation on the threats to global food security, energy, finance, the environment, nuclear security, and safety. To defend the UN Charter we have all signed up to protect. And to support a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

Thank you very much.


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