UNITED NATIONS (AN) — Western nations tried pressuring Russia to back off from Ukraine on Monday at a United Nations Security Council meeting highlighting the threat of a new Cold War.
The United States called for the 15-nation council's emergency meeting on the Ukraine crisis amid a massive Russian troop buildup around the former Soviet republic's borders and U.S. threats of crippling economic sanctions if Russia were to invade.
The standoff is "a matter of profound international concern," said Ireland's U.N. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason.
Top diplomats for Russia and the U.S. have held talks in recent weeks aimed at defusing the situation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signaled little progress earlier this month at a meeting in Geneva.
Russia "is not refusing to discuss the situation in Ukraine" but there is "no proof confirming such a serious accusation" of an invasion soon, said Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya. "The discussion of a threat of war is provocative in and of itself."
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield shot back that "there are no plans to weaken Russia." Russia's actions on the borders of Ukraine are "provocative," she said, contrary to the diplomatic efforts in the council. “Imagine how uncomfortable you would be if you had 100,000 troops sitting at your border," Thomas-Greenfield said.
China sided with Russia, asking why Western nations worry about the threat of war when Russia has "repeatedly stated that it has no plans" for an invasion, China's U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said.
"What we need now is quiet diplomacy but not microphone diplomacy," he said. "Russia's legitimate security concerns should be heeded and addressed."
China and Russia, two of the council's five permanent, veto-wielding members, objected to the emergency meeting. Their veto power gives them the power to block any formal council action, but not to prevent an emergency meeting from being held.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Western nations are hyping the threat of invasion. But the council's other three permanent members, Britain, France and the United States, say Ukraine's independence in threatened.
"There would be no winners, only victims," Britain's Deputy U.N. Ambassador James Kariuki told the council, the U.N.'s most powerful arm.