US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Washington is working to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government at the global body, adding that Russia holding a veto-wielding seat on the Security Council is an obstacle.
Thomas-Greenfield singled out the Wagner Group — a private mercenary army that has fought for Putin’s forces in Ukraine — for its actions in Ukraine and on the African continent. She said the US is looking for new ways to counter the group’s impact in Ukraine and Africa, where it is providing security to several governments.
“What they’re doing in Africa is unacceptable,” Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday.
The US understands that some African countries “have security issues that need to be addressed,” she added, but the Wagner Group “is not the entity that can do that for them.”
While saying that the US has made progress at the world body in some areas, such as delivering humanitarian aid to Syria, Thomas-Greenfield said that Russian and Chinese veto power on the decisionmaking Security Council was blocking solutions for the conflict in Ukraine and North Korea’s advancing nuclear weapons program.
The Security Council’s work has all but ground to a halt on matters including Ukraine, Iran and elsewhere given the split that has emerged among veto-wielding members, with the US, the UK and France on one side and China and Russia on the other.
“We still have areas where we’re not able to work together,” the veteran diplomat said. “Clearly, Ukraine is one of those areas, and DPRK is another one,” Thomas-Greenfield said, using the initials for North Korea’s formal name.
“Over the course of the last year, China and Russia have blocked any efforts by the Security Council to hold the DPRK accountable,” she said.
“It’s a relationship that is, I would say, tense, but we’re able to work together on some issues,” Thomas-Greenfield said of interactions with Russia and China on the Security Council.
She said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting disruption of global food supply has had “a devastating impact on hunger in Africa as well in the Middle East.”
The US unveiled new sanctions against the Wagner Group last week in a bid to blunt Russia’s ability to wage war in Ukraine.
The US Department of the Treasury labeled Wagner a “significant transnational criminal organization” and targeted a Chinese company that provided “satellite imagery orders over locations in Ukraine,” aiding Wagner’s combat operations.
The treasury also sanctioned some Wagner-affiliated entities in the Central African Republic.
Thomas-Greenfield also called for an overhaul of the Security Council to reduce Moscow’s influence.
She said the council, which consists of five permanent members and 10 rotating members, also must have additional members.
“We have to find a path forward,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “It’s time for reform.”
Thomas-Greenfield also said that China is pressuring other nations to keep them from talking about its human rights record.
“What I have seen is inordinate pressure on governments” to prevent them from attending meetings on topics such as China’s rights record toward its minority Uighur population in the Xinjiang region, she said.
“We have seen China take a more proactive approach to engage with Africans,” she said, adding that she said she came away from a recent visit to the continent with the belief that African leaders had the US “in their hearts.”
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