Western nations tried pressuring Russia to back off from Ukraine on Monday at a United Nations Security Council meeting highlighting the threat of a new Cold War.
The United States called for the 15-nation council’s emergency meeting on the Ukraine crisis amid a massive Russian troop buildup around the former Soviet republic’s borders and U.S. threats of crippling economic sanctions if Russia were to invade.
The standoff is “a matter of profound international concern,” said Ireland’s U.N. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason.
Top diplomats for Russia and the U.S. have been holding talks in recent weeks aimed at defusing the situation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled they made little progress earlier this month at a meeting in Geneva.
Russia “is not refusing to discuss the situation in Ukraine” but there is “no proof confirming such a serious accusation” of an imminent invasion, said Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya. “The discussion of a threat of war is provocative in and of itself.”
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield shot back that “there are no plans to weaken Russia.” She called Russia’s actions on the borders of Ukraine “provocative” — in contrast to the diplomatic efforts in the council.
“Imagine how uncomfortable you would be if you had 100,000 troops sitting at your border,” said Thomas-Greenfield.
NEW: Pres. Biden calls U.N. Security Council meeting on Russia's threat to Ukraine "a critical step in rallying the world to speak out in one voice." https://t.co/sdUxCAFHr3 pic.twitter.com/vI06W3KZa8
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 31, 2022
China sided with Russia, asking why Western nations worry about the threat of war when Russia has “repeatedly stated that it has no plans” for an invasion, China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said. “What we need now is quiet diplomacy but not microphone diplomacy,” he said. “Russia’s legitimate security concerns should be heeded and addressed.”
China and Russia, two of the council’s five permanent, veto-wielding members, objected to the emergency meeting, but could not use their veto power to block it. The two nations, however, do have the power to block any formal council action.
The other three permanent members, Britain, France and the U.S., and other allies emphasized the threat to Ukraine’s independence. “There would be no winners, only victims,” Britain’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador James Kariuki told the council, the United Nations’ most powerful arm.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, however, has also described Western nations as hyping the threat.