Jun 13, 2021 - World

U.N. ambassador Thomas-Greenfield sees tough Putin summit

Mike Allen
Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told me on "Axios on HBO" that President Biden will be candid, frank — and tough — during this week's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • "The president will make clear to the Russians that they cannot harbor cyber terrorists and criminals in their country and not be held accountable for it," she added. "And they need to take the responsibility for dealing with this issue."

Between the lines: When I asked the ambassador about the risks of Biden's grand trip, she said: "Look, nothing can go wrong on this trip."

  • I interjected: That's a jinx if I've ever heard one!
  • "It's not a jinx," she replied. "He's being embraced and he's being welcomed. ... So I'm confident that nothing can go wrong on this visit."

On the "Do not come" message Vice President Harris gave to would-be migrants during last week's Latin America swing, Thomas-Greenfield said the vice president was offering "people hope where they live."

  • "Our immigration program is one that works," the ambassador added. "But if you have people trying to cross the border illegally, it can't work for them."

The big picture: Thomas-Greenfield, a career foreign service officer who rose to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs before becoming part of Biden's cabinet, has been drawing attention to the famine in the Tigray region of Ethiopia — the worst on earth in a decade.

And she's making conflict-driven hunger a top issue.

  • "I have been very assertive, particularly in New York and particularly in demanding that my colleagues at the Security Council address this issue in an opening meeting," she said.
  • "My view is sovereignty does not come into play when you have foreign troops in your country, when your people are crossing borders into other countries, and we're watching on national TV your people starve to death," she continued. "I will say here as I've said in the Security Council: Don't African lives matter? "

Thomas-Greenfield called her work at the U.N. "a treadmill, every single day."

  • "I do four or five meetings with various countries on a daily basis," she said. "I'm working down the list. And hopefully by September, I will have met everyone."

Go deeper: In the video clip below, the ambassador describes her worldwide adventures with "gumbo diplomacy."

Go deeper