6th Jul 2022

US and Russia clash in ugly UN talks

  • Russia and China had said the UNSC meeting was not needed (Photo: DFATD | MAECD)
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US and Russian envoys traded barbs at a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday (31 January) amid a warning that the mobilisation of troops in Europe was the largest in decades.

The US had called for the debate so that all protagonists in the new security crisis could air their views together for the first time.

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European UNSC members - France, Ireland, Norway, and the UK - rallied to the side of the US and Ukraine during the meeting.

But Russia and China had tried to block the event from taking place altogether, while India, Gabon, and Kenya abstained in a vote on whether it should go ahead.

"This is the largest, this is the largest - hear me clearly - mobilisation of troops in Europe in decades. And, as we speak, Russia is sending even more forces and arms to join them," the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said.

"And they [Russia] are attempting, without any factual basis, to paint Ukraine and Western countries as the aggressors to fabricate a pretext for attack," she added.

"This is as clear and consequential a threat to peace and security as anyone can imagine," she said.

"Russia's aggression today not only threatens Ukraine. It also threatens Europe. It threatens the international order," she also said.

But the Russian ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, claimed none of this was true.

"We are being asked to convene a Security Council meeting on unfounded accusations that we have refuted frequently," he said.

"They [the US] themselves are whipping up tensions and rhetoric and provoking escalation. You're waiting for it to happen as if you want to make your words become a reality," he added, addressing Thomas-Greenfield personally.

"Where did you get the figure of 100,000 troops that are deployed as you said on the Russian-Ukrainian border, although that is not the case? We have never cited that figure, we've never confirmed that figure," Nebenzya added.

The Chinese ambassador took Russia's side.

"The reason why the US was asking the Council to hold this open meeting was that Russia's deployment of troops along the Ukrainian border posed a threat to international peace and security. China cannot align itself with this point of view," China's Zhang Jun noted.

"Russia has repeatedly stated that it has no plans to launch any military action ... what is the basis for the country's [US] concern to insist that there may be a war?", Zhang added.

"What is urgently needed now is quiet diplomacy, not megaphone diplomacy," Zhang said.

But for his part, Ukraine's ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, rubbished the Russian claims.

"Lewis Carroll appears to be a favourite writer of the Russian top diplomats," Kyslytsya said, referring to the writer of fantasy novel Alice in Wonderland.

"We are well aware of Russia's history of ploys and provocations," he added.

Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador had pointedly left the room when his Ukrainian counterpart was speaking, after having earlier also called the Ukrainian government "pure Nazis."

And when Nebenzya came back, he clashed again with the US ambassador, after all the 15 countries in the meeting had spoken.

EU warns against Ukraine talks without Europe

The German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock warned in Washington that "it is out of the question, and let me make this very clear - there cannot be a decision on the security in Europe without Europe."


Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.


One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

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