Statement and right of reply by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC meeting on threats to international peace and security (Ukraine)
First of all let me thank those who voted against or abstained during the vote on the US proposal to discuss this topic.
One might think Russia is afraid to talk about the situation in Ukraine and therefore initiated a procedural vote. No, Russia does not refuse to discuss the situation in Ukraine, but we have completely no idea as to why we are here and what we are talking about. As I said, the Russian Presidency of the Security Council will hold a meeting on 17 February that will be dedicated to the 7th anniversary of the Minsk Agreements where we will have an opportunity to talk about the situation around the Ukrainian settlement. Today’s meeting, however, is not about that.
Recently, we have become witnesses to a very unusual (even by the standards of this crazy time) situation. Relocation of troops within our own national territory, which happened many times before on a larger or smaller scale and was never regarded hysterically, as well as the relocation of military personnel, who were and are stationed in their garrisons rather than at the Ukrainian-Russian border, is considered by our American and Western colleagues as a confirmation of allegedly planned military campaign (or even aggression that the Permanent Representative of the United States referred to as something that already took place) of Russia against Ukraine that is about to start in the next couple of weeks if not days. At the same time, they provide no proof to back such grave allegations. This, however, does not prevent them from escalating the hysteria to a level that creates rather real economic consequences for our Ukrainian neighbors.
Our Western colleagues say that de-escalation is needed, but they are the first to build up tension, enhance rhetoric and escalate the situation. Talks about an imminent war are provocative per se. It might seem you call for it, want it and wait for it to come, as if you wanted your allegations to come true. This happens despite the fact that we consistently refute those obligations. Besides, no Russian politician or public figure has uttered any threat about a planned invasion of Ukraine over that time. On the contrary, we have refuted such accusations at all levels. And this is what we do now. Everyone claiming the opposite tries to mislead you. Had it not been for our Western colleagues who provoked and supported a deadly unconstitutional coup in Ukraine in 2014 that gave power to nationalists, radicals, Russophobes, and Nazis, Russia and Ukraine would have lived as good neighbors engaged in mutually beneficial cooperation up until this day.
Someone in the West, however, seems to hate such a scenario. What happens today is another attempt to drive a wedge between Russia and Ukraine. Our neighbors have been suffering from geopolitical games for seven years on end. Ukrainians are brainwashed to cultivate Russophobic and radical sentiments. They are taught to believe that Ukraine’s radiant future depends on whether it seeks EU and NATO membership rather than whether it tries to improve relations with neighbors. The Russian language, which is native to a significant (if not major) part of Ukrainians is banned, a division of church is being provoked, and those who sided with Hitler during WW2 killing Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians, are worshipped as heroes. Our Western colleagues disregard the interests of the Ukrainian people. All they want is to prevent natural brother-like coexistence of our two states and peoples that would have undermined plans to weaken Russia and create a “rim of instability” around it. Basically, there is nothing new to this concept. Western states have always had a habit of doing such things in the spirit of “divide and conquer”.
Remarkably, our American colleagues try to connect this alleged tension at the Russian-Ukrainian border (that they actually made out) to Russia-initiated talks on ensuring legally-binding security guarantees for our country. They purposefully create an impression that Moscow allegedly built up tension in order to “exchange” it for greater concessions on the part of US and NATO. If you have a look at the negotiations schedule, you will see that this is not true. Everything is the exact opposite: our American colleagues try to play this card in order to reduce our dialogue to “settling” the situation on the border with Ukraine. As for our security-related demands, they are much broader. Ukraine’s non-accession to NATO and non-deployment of foreign troops at Ukraine’s territory constitute only a small portion of much-needed arrangements that could considerably improve the military and political situation in Europe, and in the whole world. OSCE summits in Istanbul and Astana addressed the need for such agreements, where provisions about the freedom to choose allies must be balanced by provisions saying that security of one state cannot be ensured at the expense of security of others.
Since we are gathered here at the initiative of our American friends, we would like them to provide any proof or evidence, other than their allegations, that Russia is going to invade Ukraine. In her statement, my American colleague blamed Russia for being aggressive while citing no single fact. By the way, let me ask our colleagues from the US and all others who mentioned it. Where did you get the figure “100,000 Russian troops” that you say are deployed at the Ukrainian-Russian border? We never shared this statistic, nor have we ever confirmed it. We are familiar with such tricks. We remember it from the time when in this very room, Secretary of State C.Powell demonstrated a lab glass filled with some white substance and said it was a proof that Iraq had WMDs. The weapons were never discovered, but everyone knows what happened to that state later.
It seems our American colleagues are ready to put Ukraine on the altar of their geopolitical interests too. Otherwise, how can we explain that when gathering us here today, the initiators of the meeting ignored even the opinion of Ukraine’s president, who asked the West to not boost the panic that is already exacting a toll on Ukraine’s economy? Otherwise, how can we explain why our colleagues from the US and others stated pump Ukraine with arms and ammunition and speak proudly of that? By the way it is the arms that Ukraine uses against the population of its eastern areas. They do this in violation of the Minsk Agreements that the Security Council endorsed as the only basis for peaceful settlement of Ukraine’s internal civil conflict.
My US colleague mentioned that the conflict had killed 14,000 people. I would refer her to the reports of the Special Monitoring Mission of the OSCE so that she could learn how many of those 14,000 died on each side. The majority of them were civilians from Donbas that died under the bombardments of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and national battalions.
The maneuvers that the United States undertook to convene this meeting look especially inadequate and hypocritical against the fact that it is Americans who have record rates of military presence outside their national territory. American military officers, advisers, and weapons (including nuclear) are often located thousands of kilometers away from Washington. To say nothing of the fact that American military ventures claimed dozens and hundreds lives of people in the countries to which they were bringing peace and democracy. The United States repeatedly (i.a. in the recent years) used force against other states without UNSC consent. Their toolkit includes unilateral sanctions and coercive measures, as well as threats that they regard as a verdict of some sort of Supreme Court and try to make everyone deliver on them. As reported by American experts, 84 out of 193 UN member states have ever been subjected to US occupation or aggression to some degree. In the course of 20th and 21st centuries, American troops have been deployed in one way or another in 191 states. According to open-sourced data from the Internet, the United States maintains approximately 750 military bases in more than 80 states of the world. The total number of US military servicemen abroad amounts to 175 thousand, more than 60 thousand of them are deployed in Europe. The US military budget in 2020 stood at 778 billion dollars, whereas the Russian – at only 61 billion dollars, which is 12 times less. All these examples are clear and concrete threats to the international peace and security.
As for the calls to settle the crisis around Ukraine, we are all in favor of that. But there is only one dimension to that crisis – the internal Ukrainian dimension. The situation can be improved only once Kiev implements the Minsk Agreements that I already mentioned and that envisage a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Luhansk in the first place. There is no other way, and if our colleagues drive Kiev towards sabotaging the Minsk Agreements, which the Ukrainian authorities willingly do, this can only create dire consequences for Ukraine itself. And not because someone tries to ruin it, but because it will ruin itself. It has nothing to do with Russia, so please stop shifting the responsibility. We will address all this in detail during the Council’s yearly meeting on the implementation of resolution 2202 that is scheduled for 17 February.
In response to the representative of the United States:
I would not want for this meeting to turn into a dialogue between Russia and the United States. We said everything that we wanted to in our today’s statement. We, however, still do not understand what threats, provocations, and escalation coming from Russia you are talking about. Let me emphasize that I followed very carefully the remarks by the Permanent Representative of the US, but I did not hear her make any mentioning of the Minsk Agreements and UNSC resolution 2202, which is very indicative. This is the context that we should use when speaking about the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, but the United States is taking this topic to a completely different area.