U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned on Sunday that Russia's menacing military troop buildup on Ukraine's borders signals the Kremlin's "intentions to use them," noting that Russia still has a chance to "find a diplomatic way out."
Thomas-Greenfield's comment to ABC's "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos came on the eve of an open U.N. Security Council meeting she requested to discuss Russia's aggression toward Ukraine and what to do about it.
Stephanopoulos pressed Thomas-Greenfield, asking, "Does the U.S. believe an invasion is imminent?"
"You don't amass 100,000 troops if you don't have intentions to use them," Thomas-Greenfield said.
She said Monday's U.N. Security Council meeting "is one more opportunity to find a diplomatic way out for the Russians." She added that Ukrainian officials have also asked for the meeting, which is expected to be heard in open session.
"We've made clear that we're prepared to address our concerns, Ukrainian concerns and Russian concerns at the diplomatic table, but it cannot be done on the battlefield," Thomas-Greenfield said.
Russia has maintained that it has no intentions to invade Ukraine and has objected to Monday's U.N. Security Council meeting, threatening to move to try to block the gathering. Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia's deputy permanent representative at the United Nations, posted on Twitter that the meeting was a "clear PR stunt shameful for the reputation of UN Security Council."
"Can Russia block it?" Stephanopoulos asked Thomas-Greenfield of the U.S. Security Council meeting. "If not, what do you hope to achieve?"
"They know that they cannot block the meeting and I expect that, knowing what we're dealing with, that they will make an attempt," Thomas-Greenfield said. "But the Security Council is unified, our voices are unified in calling for the Russians to explain themselves. We're going to go into the room prepared to listen to them, but we're not going to be distracted by their propaganda and we're going to be prepared to respond to any disinformation that they attempt to spread during this meeting."
While Russia's official line has been that it has no plans to invade, it has demanded promises that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO and that the Western alliance will pull its troops out of Eastern Europe. Both requests have been rejected by the United States and its Western allies.
Stephanopoulos noted that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team have "expressed some irritation, even alarm" that the U.S. and its allies are exaggerating the threat for political reasons.
"How do you respond to that?" Stephanopoulos asked Thomas-Greenfield.
She said the United States has engaged very closely with the Ukrainians, citing the call Biden had last week with Zelensky, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's recent trip to Ukraine and her meetings on a regular basis with the Ukrainian ambassador in New York.
"We've also been working with the Ukrainians on building up their defenses in the event of an attack," Thomas-Greenfield said. "And ... since 2014, we've provided close to $5 billion in support to them, $200 million of that was just provided in the past week."
"We've seen the Russian playbook before," she added. "They are using disinformation. They're encouraging Ukrainians not to worry about an attack. But we know an attack is possible."
Stephanopoulos pressed Thomas-Greenfield on what a diplomatic settlement would look like.
"You know, at first it would mean Russia making the decision to de-escalate, to pull their troops back and to come to the diplomatic table and to talk with the United States, with the Ukrainians and our NATO allies about their security concerns," Thomas-Greenfield said.
Turning to concerns over seven ballistic missile tests North Korea has conducted this month alone -- more than all it conducted in 2021, including Sunday's launch of the longest-range missile it has tested since 2017 -- Stephanopoulos asked about how the U.S. will respond.
“It is provocative and it is something that we have very very strongly condemned in the Security Council," Thomas-Greenfield said.
She said the United States has imposed unilateral sanctions in the last few weeks against North Korea and has pushed for sanctions within the U.N. Security Council.
"I will be engaging with our allies, the (South) Koreans as well as the Japanese, who are also threatened by this, to look at other options for responding," Thomas-Greenfield said.
Stephanopoulos followed: "Is it time for President Biden to engage personally with (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un?"
“You know, we have been clear on that from the beginning: We are open to having diplomatic discussions," Thomas-Greenfield replied. "We’ve offered this over and over to the DPRK, and they’ve not accepted it."
"But we’re absolutely open to a diplomatic engagement without pre-conditions," she added. "Our goal is to end the threatening actions that the DPRK is taking against their neighbors."