UNITED NATIONS, (AP) — Monday’s meeting at the U.N. Security Council saw Russia and the United States lose an attempt to block a public meeting about Moscow’s troop buildup close to Ukraine’s borders. This was in response to Western fears of invasion and a possible Russian counter-attack.
U.S. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield refuted a Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia’s charge that Washington was trying to “pump up hysterics and use megaphone diplomacy” in calling the first Security Council meeting regarding the crisis.
Thomas-Greenfield stated, “Imagine how uncomfortable it would make you to have 100,000 troops at your border.”
The vote to hold an open meeting was passed 10-2. Russia and China were opposed and three abstentions. To be approved, the vote required nine votes.
U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo then went ahead with an open briefing, to be followed by speeches from the 15 council members.
In a statement, U.S. President Joe Biden stated that the meeting was “a crucial step in rallying world to speak out in unison” to oppose the use of force, seek military diplomatic de-escalation and demand accountability from all members “to abstain from military aggression against its neighbours.”
This week’s session saw more high-level diplomacy, but talks between Russia and the U.S. have not been able to reduce tensions in the current crisis. Russia has gathered around 100,000 troops close to the border of its southern neighbour, fueling fears in the West about an invasion.
Russia denied that it plans to launch an attack, but demanded NATO’s promise not to allow Ukraine to join NATO, stop the deployment of NATO arms near Russian borders and pull back its forces in Eastern Europe. These demands are not supported by NATO or the U.S.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, and Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary for State, didn’t make any tangible progress in easing tensions at their meeting in Geneva this month. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, they are expected to talk by phone Tuesday.
In a telephone call, Biden advised Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, that Russia has the “distinct probability” of launching an incursion in February. But the Ukrainian leader tried to downplay the war fears by saying that the Western panic over an invasion has caused many investors to withdraw from the country’s financial market.
Friday’s statement by Zelenskyy stated that there is no escalation greater than before. He also suggested that Russia could have attempted to use “psychological pressure” to sow panic.
Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, will visit Ukraine Tuesday to meet with Zelenskyy. Johnson’s office stated that he will also speak with Vladimir Putin Monday to ask him to “step back”. Johnson stated that he was considering sending hundreds more British troops to NATO countries within the Baltic region, as a sign of strength.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, said Monday that Washington’s “hysteria” triggers hysteria here in Ukraine. People are nearly ready to leave for the front lines.
Russia may try to block the Security Council meeting, if it has the support of nine out of the fifteen members. However, the U.S. believed it had enough support to hold it, according a senior official from the Biden administration, who spoke under anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
Given Russia’s veto power, its ties to other members of the council, and China’s influence, any formal action by Security Council is highly unlikely.
On Sunday’s ABC’s “This Week”, Thomas-Greenfield spoke out about Russia. “We’re going in the room ready to listen to their propaganda, but we won’t be distracted by it.”
Last week, she stated that the council members must “squarely examine the facts” and consider the implications for Ukraine, Russia, Europe and the core principles and obligations of the international order in the event of Russia’s further invasion.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun stated that both sides are willing to continue negotiations and should continue.
Zhang stated that Russia has made it clear they don’t intend to start a war and that the Security Council should help “deescalate the situation rather than adding fuel to the flames”.
Sen. Bob Menendez (chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) stated Sunday that Russia should be subject to “the mother of all sanctions” in case of an attack. This includes actions against Russian banks and an increase in lethal aid for the Ukrainian military.
These sanctions would be much more severe than those that were imposed in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea. These penalties were deemed ineffective.
Menendez also suggested the possibility of imposing preemptive punishments, prior to any invasion.