Tensions rise as U.S., Russia trade barbs at UN Security Council Session

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


Tensions between Russia and the United States spilled over at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday, with both nations accusing the other of being “provocative.” The U.S. warned Council members of an “urgent and dangerous situation” in regard to Moscow’s troop build-up near Ukraine, while Russia criticized Washington for “whipping up” tensions. 

The Biden administration requested the meeting which marked the first open Security Council session on the Ukrainian crisis. President Biden called it “a critical step in rallying the world to speak out in one voice.”

Russia, with China’s support, attempted to block the session, but the U.S. was able to surpass the nine-vote minimum from among the Council’s 15 members to proceed. Ten members sided with Washington, while India, Kenya, and Gabon abstained.

Western leaders have pointed to intelligence and the presence of roughly 100,000 troops and military hardware at the border in repeated warnings that an invasion is imminent. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Council on Monday that Washington has also seen evidence that Russia is preparing to deploy 30,000 more troops to Belarus early this month.

Moscow continues to refute these numbers, saying it is only responding to provocation from the West. 

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia reiterated this stance yesterday, saying there is “no proof” Russia is planning military action against Ukraine and accused Washington of deliberately stoking tensions:

Our Western colleagues are talking about the need for de-escalation. However, first and foremost, they themselves are whipping up tensions and rhetoric and are provoking escalation. The discussions about a threat of war is provocative in and of itself. You are almost calling for this. You want it to happen. You’re waiting for it to happen, as if you want to make your words become a reality.

Thomas-Greenfield fired back, saying Moscow’s actions alone are responsible for the crisis:

The threats of aggression on the border of Ukraine … is provocative. Our recognition of the facts on the ground is not provocative. The provocation’s from Russia, not from us or other members of this Council.

Beyond talking, the Council is stymied from taking any meaningful action against Moscow since Russia holds one of the group’s five veto powers, along with the United States, China, Britain, and France.

French U.N. Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere echoed Thomas-Greenfield’s comments, saying Moscow’s military build-up represents “threatening conduct.”

“If Russia does not choose the path of dialogue and respect for international law, the response will be robust and united – any fresh infringement of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by Russia will have massive consequences and a severe cost,” de Riviere told the Council.

Russia has demanded sweeping security guarantees in talks with the West, chief among which is a legal guarantee that NATO will never admit Ukraine as a full-fledged member of the Alliance. Ukraine is currently only a NATO partner.

While ties between Moscow and Beijing continue to strengthen, China is presenting itself as a country that wants peace.

“What is urgently needed now is quiet diplomacy, not megaphone diplomacy,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said.

Kenya’s U.N. Ambassador Martin Kimani, meanwhile, urged Russia, the United States and NATO to resolve their differences, calling attention to the deleterious effect the Cold War had on Africa.

“Our internal divisions and fragilities were weaponized on the altar of geopolitical rivalry. It confirmed the truth of the African saying that recognizes when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,” he told the Council.

The Biden administration had billed Monday’s meeting as an opportunity for Russia to explain itself.

“We didn’t hear much,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters later. “We hope that they continue along the route of diplomacy.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to hold a phone call today to further discuss a diplomatic solution to the tense stalemate.