Good day everybody. Today’s vote is a reflection of what Russia denies and the whole world knows.
The whole world knows the government of Ukraine has acted with restraint in the face of repeated provocations. From the beginning, Ukraine’s leaders have sought dialogue and a peaceful solution. Unlike the former President, who fled the country, they have sought to fulfill the spirit of the February 21 agreement.
They have reached out to minorities inside the country and scheduled nationwide elections for May that will be closely monitored by legions of international observers. Those elections will give the people of Crimea and all of Ukraine the opportunity they deserve to choose their own leaders and, by so doing, shape the policies and priorities of a new government.
The whole world knows the legitimate leadership of Ukraine did not instigate this crisis, and neither did the citizens of Ukraine. The crisis came with a label – made in Moscow. It was Moscow that ordered its armed forces to seize control of key facilities in Crimea, to bully local officials, and to threaten the country’s eastern border. It was Moscow that tried to fool the world with a false narrative about extremism and the protection of human rights – about refugees fleeing, and about attacks on synagogues. The reality is that the part of Ukraine where minorities are threatened is Crimea, where Russian forces have confronted Ukrainians, and spread fear within the Tatar community – which has endured Russian purges and ethnic cleansing in the past and fears now that this bitter past will serve as prologue.
The whole world knows that the referendum scheduled for tomorrow in Crimea was hatched in the Kremlin and midwifed by the Russian military. It is inconsistent with Ukraine’s constitution and international law. It is illegitimate and it will have no legal effect.
The world knows that the resolution offered today was offered in a spirit of reconciliation, in the desire for peace, in keeping with the rule of law, in recognition of the facts, and in fulfillment of the obligation of this Council to preserve stability and to promote peace among nations. Russia may have the ability to block this resolution’s passage, just as it has blocked Ukrainian ships, blocked the voices of journalists objecting to Moscow’s belligerence and blocked international observers. But as I said in my statement earlier, Russia cannot veto the truth.
President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have said repeatedly that the United States will stand with the Ukrainian people as we continue to seek a principled and peaceful resolution to this crisis. That is our position – and as we saw in the Council today, we are not alone in that regard. Russia is.
Reporter: Ambassador, are you concerned that this resolution will make it additionally difficult to negotiate with Russia on other very important matters – mainly Syria?
Ambassador Power: I think what we’ve seen over time is that Russia pursues its interests. We have a whole series of concerns about Russia’s position on Syria, fully independent of what’s going on in Ukraine. We have not been able to come together and see eye-to-eye on bringing about a political transition; and I think Lakhdar Brahimi’s visit here to New York just underscored the deep division remaining between the United States and Russia. What we’re focused on today, is the fact that very, very straightforward principles have been agreed upon, have been embraced by the entire international community, as represented on the council absent one country. And it is not too late for Russia to pull back its forces to its bases in Crimea. It is not too late for it to support elections where people that it’s worried about can have their voices heard. It is not too late for international mediation, or more particularly a dialogue – and direct dialogue – between Russia and Ukraine to produce dividends. That is the dialogue we have been seeking for a very long time, and is the dialogue you heard every Council Member but Russia embrace today.
Reporter: Can I ask you how concerned you are about the latest reports of Russian troop movements near the border? And how worried are you that once you impose sanctions on Monday, there could be further escalation?
Ambassador Power: Well, we’ve made clear that Russia has to be held accountable for its actions. That if it pursues in an escalatory manner, with regard to Crimea and the referendum, and steps that Moscow might take in the wake of a referendum, its diplomatic and economic isolation is going to deepen. That is something President Obama has made clear from the beginning, and it is something we hope we don’t have to grapple with next week. But as early asMonday, we may have a decision on our hands. And there is no scenario in which Russia moves forward with the steps today that we’ve talked about in the Council and is not held accountable. That is incompatible with the overwhelming view of people in this chamber, and incompatible certainly with the aspirations of the Ukrainian people. With regard to the reports, I heard these reports at the same time all of you did. These are reports we have to look into. Obviously, if Russia compounded what it has done within Crimea by crossing into southern Ukraine, that would be an outrageous escalation. At the very time the world came together – again, absent Russia – the world came together, to say respect territorial integrity, respect the aspirations of the Ukrainian people, respect Ukrainian law, respect international law; for something additional, something even more escalatory to have occurred, would be flying in the face of everything you heard here today.
Reporter: Ambassador, thank you. Is the United States going to defend its friends near that part of the world, near Russia? And how? And are we back to the Cold War era?
Ambassador Power: As we have made clear from the beginning, we see Cold War dichotomies between East and West as completely anachronistic, as things that should be relegated to the time of the Cold War. One of the things you heard from the Ukrainian Prime Minister, when he visited on Thursday, is that his vision for Ukraine is not one that has to choose between East and West. That is the vision you will hear, probably, from our Council colleagues like Raimonda from Lithuania, from all the people who are up in the gallery, from countries that used to be once behind the so-called “Iron Curtain” and are now free and making choices for themselves. The United States will stand with all of our partners and our allies, all of the young democracies that have taken hold of their own destinies. And I think you’ve seen from the dialogue that we have done with each of those countries, since the beginning of this crisis, that we are very alert to their concerns, and that they are confident of the friendship and the willingness to stand together that we have made clear will not change – no matter what Russia does.
- Cross posted from U.S. Mission to the UN