In a public showdown Monday before the United Nations Security Council, the US accused Russia of undermining international peace and security by massing troops on Ukraine’s border.
But Russia hit back, arguing that Washington is stoking fear and fueling unnecessary debate – allegations China later reiterated.
The heated, sometimes angry, rhetoric at the UN headquarters in New York came as some 100,000 Russian troops were stationed along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, as well as the northern border with Belarus. The US called the Security Council meeting to confront Russia over fears of an imminent invasion.
“Russia’s actions go to the heart of the UN Charter,” said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield. “This is as clear and momentous a threat to peace and security as can be imagined.”
She added: “Today’s aggression by Russia threatens not only Ukraine. It also threatens Europe. It threatens the international order.”
Russia was against the open meeting from the start and immediately demanded a procedural vote to prevent it, but this failed.
“This is not only unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of our state, but also an attempt to mislead the international community about the situation in the region, and also the reason for the current global tensions,” Russia’s UN said -Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya. “We are being asked to convene a Security Council meeting over baseless allegations that we have frequently refuted.”
US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have warned that a Russian attack on Ukraine could come at any moment. Russia has repeatedly denied any hostile intent while insisting the troops are merely conducting drills.
The US decided to push for the UN public debate before Russia takes over the Security Council presidency on February 1.
“This body is charged with upholding an order that, if it stands for anything, stands for the principle that one country cannot simply redraw another country’s borders by force,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “We continue to hope that Russia will choose the path of diplomacy over the path of the conflict in Ukraine. But we cannot just wait and see.”
However, Nebenzya hit back and even disputed the number of troops stationed on the border.
“They themselves fuel tension and rhetoric and provoke an escalation,” he said. “You wait for it to happen like you want to make your words a reality. And this despite the fact that we consistently reject these allegations.”
Nebenzya continued: “Where did you get the figure of 100,000 soldiers who, as you say, are stationed on the Russian-Ukrainian border, when that is not the case? We never gave that number, we never confirmed that number.”
China said it agreed the meeting should not have been convened.
“The reason the US asked the Council to hold this open meeting was that Russia’s deployment of troops along the Ukrainian border poses a threat to international peace and security,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said. “China cannot agree on this point of view.”
Zhang explained China’s position: “Russia has repeatedly stated that it has no plans to launch military action. And Ukraine has made it clear that it does not need war. Under such circumstances, what is the basis for the country’s concern to insist that there may be war?’
Kenya called on the major powers to solve their problems and not create problems for others.
“When elephants fight,” said Kenyan Ambassador to the UN, Martin Kimani, “the grass suffers.”