WILMINGTON, Del. – Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced and questioned President Joe Biden’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Video of Senator Coons’ introduction of Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield is available here. Video of Senator Coons’ questioning is available here.
Senator Coons asked Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield about restoring U.S. leadership at the United Nations, reforming and strengthening peacekeeping missions abroad, strategic competition with China, and bridging divides between Israel and countries across the developing world. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield highlighted the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) as a transformative tool for more robust U.S. private sector engagement in advancing development objectives and building new partnerships. Senator Coons also raised concerns about China’s influence at the United Nations.
Senator Coons expressed his gratitude for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s 35 years of service to the United States and emphasized his hope that she will be swiftly confirmed by the Senate.
Full audio and video of the Senator’s introduction available here. A transcript is provided below.
Sen. Coons: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Menendez. It is my honor to join Senator Cassidy in introducing to this committee Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Biden's nominee to represent our nation at the United Nations in New York. Our country faces an unprecedented series of crises and challenges both at home and abroad: a global pandemic, an economic recession, a reckoning around inequality and injustice, unprecedented levels of displacement and violence around the world, and the existential threat of climate change. And, in this moment, I believe our leadership credibility and values are at task and are at test around the world, and our relationships are strained. We need to ask ourselves who we want to be and what example we hope to set for the rest of the world. And, as our face at the United Nations, the United States needs a leader who can advance not just our interests but our values, restore our alliances, rebuild bridges and develop relationships that allow us to manage disagreements, unpack complex challenges and inspire a next generation of leaders. That's why I am so excited to have the honor of joining with Senator Cassidy in introducing Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. She is no stranger to this committee, the diplomatic corps or the U.S. National Security community. Over the course of her 35 years of service to our nation, under administrations both Republican and Democrat, she's earned this community's respect and admiration, so much so she's famously known in places around the world by just three letters: LTG. She is joined today and has long been supported by her loving family, her husband Lafayette, her daughter Lindsay and her son Lafayette II, known as Deuce, and we are grateful for their support for her career and her service. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield represents both the promise and progress of America – raised in the segregated Deep South and graduated from a segregated high school, one of just a few African-American women to attend and graduate from Louisiana State University. She would, in 1982, join the foreign service after teaching political science at Bucknell to become one of far too few Black professional female diplomats in our foreign service. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has lived the ideals of our nation, even at a time when it was falling short of our founding ideals, and has spent her career blazing trails. She understands that true patriotism is constituted in pushing your country to be the best version of itself and striving for that more perfect union. She is the right person at the right time, not just because of her qualifications, her deep global experience – serving us in more than six countries around the world and as the DG of the State Department – but because of her personal style of diplomacy, called “Gumbo Diplomacy” by her, inspired by her native Louisiana as a way to reach out and connect with others and break down barriers, to connect with people and solve problems. I saw first-hand in Liberia when we first met why she's been called the “people's ambassador”. She's never met someone she can't turn into a friend. She is also battle-tested and tough as nails, having overseen our response as a nation to some of the most complex and grinding crises in the world. She brings a deep experience, a diverse perspective and a unique and warm personality to the challenges of U.S. foreign policy at a time when we need new thinking. So, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield represents, in my view, the very best of our nation, and I urge my colleagues to support her nomination and swift confirmation through the United States Senate. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Full audio and video of the Senator’s questioning available here. A transcript is provided below.
Sen. Coons: Thank you, Senator Rubio, and thank you to the Chairman and Ranking Member. Thank you, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, for your willingness to continue your distinguished service to our nation. I am so excited for the opportunity to work with you in the years ahead and to continue the areas in which we've been able to partner in the past. Let me just ask up front, since you'll be taking the helm, I hope, of our U.S. Mission in New York after four years of an administration that largely rejected multilateralism. Do you think our owing the United Nations over a billion dollars in arrears helps us to establish American leadership, helps us to engage in all the different UN-related entities or institutions, or does that hurt us, in some ways, in achieving our values and securities objectives through the United Nations system?
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: Senator, thank you so much for that question. Working to address these issues will be one of my highest priorities in New York if I am confirmed. Not paying our bills really does diminish our power and it diminishes our leadership. We need to pay our bills to have a seat at the table and our leadership is needed at the table. We know that when we cede our leadership, others jump in very quickly to fill the void and we need to make sure that we are there to push back on those who would have malign intentions at the United Nations so that we can protect our own–
Sen. Coons: Ambassador, if I might, forgive me, we have very little time, I’ve just three more minutes. Ambassador, if I might, I was encouraged to hear in your opening statement your commitment to reform and transparency. A lot of UN funding is dedicated to peacekeeping. We have both visited with and seen peacekeeping missions from Liberia to Sudan, across the continent and around the world. Some of them have been incredibly essential and well-run. Some of them have been profoundly flawed. I look forward, as a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds our work around the world, to working with you on that reform. I'm concerned about a spike in violence in Darfur and Sudan, seeming to head in the wrong direction after UNAMID, the peacekeeping mission, was drawn down. Is that also a topic of concern to you? Could you briefly speak to the path forward in peacekeeping?
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: It is absolutely a concern for us. The UN’s responsibility is to provide protection and hopefully the new UN force presence will help to address the issues in Darfur but it's something that I will be looking very closely at.
Sen. Coons: Senator Romney mentioned, and I couldn’t agree more, that the United States and China are engaged in a significant strategic competition, not just across the continent of Africa but across the entire developing world. And, as you said, we have both sat with African leaders – my first such conversation was, in fact, in Liberia, where they’ve expressed a desire to work with the United States, but we’re not offering the financing, the terms, the engagement that China is. I worked hard to get the Development Finance Corporation, stood up and authorized. It’s just finished its first year of operation. Do you view the DFC as a powerful new tool that allows the United States to deliver private sector financing with U.S. government partnership in the developing world, that can compete with the debt-trap diplomacy China is offering by offering financing on more transparent terms, that are more sustainable, and that better respect the decision-making priorities of our developing nation partners?
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: Senator, the simple answer to that question is absolutely, and I thank you profusely for pushing forward the DFC. I think it’s going to be transformative on the continent of Africa and across the globe and we will see the impact in the future.
Sen. Coons: Today is World Holocaust Remembrance Day. One of my pressing concerns at the United Nations has been the isolation of Israel and the ways in which Israel has been singled out, and often, I think, mistreated at the United Nations. That has led some to advocate our withdraw from UN entities, and for what you said, when we're not at the table, others rush in. I think that's correct and we should reengage. Do you think there's a way we can deepen relations between Israel and the developing world that will take advantage of the opportunity we have for Israel's unique public health and development skills, to bridge some of those divides at the United Nations?
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: I will look forward to working with the Israelis and trying to develop a strategy with them for engaging with countries that would appreciate having Israel’s expertise to support their own development efforts. I'm hopeful that those countries who have recognized Israel under the Abraham Accords will also see some opportunities to be more cooperative at the United Nations and more supportive of Israel's presence there.
Sen. Coons: As you’ve referenced, China is aggressive – not just diplomatically, not just economically, but also directly at the United Nations. Chinese nationals now lead four of the fifteen UN-specialized agencies. They've made a strategic investment, a coordinated effort to influence global governance. Nowhere is this more important than in intellectual property. China missed 3G and 4G. They have no intention of missing 5G. The last administration’s fights around Huawei and ZTE, I thought, were appropriate and their pressure on China for its IP theft and its innovation mercantilism, I supported. I disagreed with some of their tactics, but the broader strategy I thought was important, and the patent and Trademark Office Director Andrei Iancu mobilized our allies to ensure a Chinese national did not get chosen to lead the World Intellectual Property Organization. Our contest with China, which is a strategic adversary, as you correctly perceived them to be, includes fights over IP in standard-setting boards. Do you intend to raise this as an issue within the Biden administration, to advocate for an assertive, a muscular and an engaged U.S. IP diplomacy as well?
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: Absolutely and across the board, for the United Nations, I will be fighting to ensure that either Americans or like-minded allies hold those significant positions.
Sen. Coons: Well thank you for your thoughtful and candid responses and for your long service to our nation. I hope our Committee in the Senate will promptly confirm you, and I look forward to working together.
Amb. Thomas-Greenfield: Thank you, sir
Sen. Coons: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.