Nikki Haley, the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, had harsh words for her Russian counterpart during an emergency meeting on Friday of the U.N. Security Council in New York City.
Russia called a council meeting following a chemical attack on Syrian civilians in the city of Douma on April 7 that the U.S. and its allies believe was perpetrated by the Bashar al-Assad regime with the help of the Kremlin. But it was not the attack itself, which killed dozens of people including children, that prompted Russia’s call for the meeting.
Instead, Russian diplomat Vassily Nebenzia spoke about the threat posed by the United States after President Donald Trump warned that all options were on the table, including a military response, in the wake of the attack.
“We continue to observe dangerous military preparations for an illegal act of force against a sovereign state in what would constitute a breach of international law,” Nebenzia said. “We call on the leadership of these states to immediately reconsider.”
“The sole thing they have an interest in is to oust the Syrian government and more broadly to contain the Russian Federation,” Nebenzia said.
Haley, who was called on to present her statement following Nebenzia, responded by calling Russian support for Assad and its failure to keep a promise to rid Syria of chemical weapons “one of the most blatant and grotesque violations of international law in the world today.”
Then she continued with a listicle of what she called “Russian unilateralism” for its actions both in Syria and at the U.N.
“We should not be condemning the country or group of countries that might actually have the courage to stand up in defense of our common principle — the principle against the use of chemical weapons,” Haley said.
“Instead we should be condemning the country that has unilaterally stopped the security council from upholding this principle,” Haley said. “Who is it on the council that most exhibits unilateralism when it comes to chemical weapons?”
“It is Russia alone that has stopped at nothing to defend the Syrian regime’s multiple uses of chemical weapons,” Haley said. “It is Russia alone that killed the joint investigative mechanism which allowed the world to ensure accountability for chemical weapons use in Syria.”
“It is Russia alone that used its veto six times to prevent the condemnation of Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” Haley said. “It is Russia alone that used its veto 12 times to protect the Assad regime. And to make matters worse, it is Russia alone that agree to be the guarantor of the removal of all chemical weapons in Syria.”
“If Russia had lived up to its commitment, there would be no chemical weapons in Syria, and we would not be here today,” Haley said.
“That is the Russian record of unilateralism,” Haley said. “It is a record that has led to the trashing of all international standards against the use of chemical weapons.”
Haley said that President Donald Trump has not yet decided on the course of action the U.S. and its allies might take in the wake of the gas attack.
“But should the United States and our allies decide to act in Syria, it will be in defense of principle of which we all agree,” Haley said. “It will be in defense of a bedrock international norm that benefits all nations.”
“It was atrocious,” Trump said of the attacks. “It was horrible.”
“This is about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen,” Trump said.
Haley said that while the most recent attack is unacceptable, the U.S. believes that during the war in Syria, Assad has used poison gas attacks on his people at least 50 times, with some accounting tallying as many as 200.
“Russia can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies and its coverups,” Haley said. “Everything the United Nations stands for is being blatantly defied in Syria with the help of a permanent member of this council.”
“The United States and our allies will continue to stand up for truth, accountability, justice and an end to the use of chemical weapons,” Haley said.