As tensions continue to escalate in Ukraine, Baker native at center of United States' response
BATON ROUGE - At Monday night's emergency United Nations Security Council meeting related to the crisis in Ukraine, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield donned Fleur-de-Lis earrings in an apparent nod to her Louisiana roots.
The career diplomat and Baker native is now at the center of the United States' response to Russian aggression.
"They chose a diplomat from inside of the State Department that was actually an undersecretary," Sherice Nelson, a political science professor at Southern University, said. "So there's a history there of her making decisions, or making recommendations for decisions. Now she's getting to act that out.
Nelson, who has a Ph.D. in political science philosophy, focuses on international relations and is working on a book, to be published later this year, about female diplomats.
She says Thomas-Greenfield is working behind the scenes, as America makes a last-ditch pitch for a diplomatic resolution.
"What she's doing is shoring up her allies, shoring up the United States' allies, while consistently reaching out to regional nations that may play a part inside of the skirmish that may ensue," Nelson said.
Speaking to the other 14 members of the Security Council Monday, Thomas-Greenfield condemned Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who earlier in the day recognized two separatist regions in Ukraine as independent.
"President Putin is testing our international system," Thomas-Greenfield said. "He is testing our resolve, and seeing just how far he can push us all. He wants to demonstrate that through force, he can make a farce of the UN. We must act together in response to this crisis."
Through her three decades in the foreign service, many of which were spent in Africa, Thomas-Greenfield has had to balance competing interests, something Nelson says is critical in her UN current post, especially in the midst of a crisis.
"It's a very delicate position to be in," Nelson said. "She has built international bonafides, meaning she has inroads inside of this international community. She has these bonafides and these relationships with what we would call lesser developed nations, not necessarily the hegemonic powers that we know of."
When Thomas-Greenfield was nominated by President Joe Biden, she highlighted what she calls her 'gumbo diplomacy,' where she brings many cultures and perspectives to the table, sometimes with the Cajun meal, to reach some sort of agreement. It's a practice, Nelson says, she's serving the international community right now.
"That speech [Monday] night was a clarion call to the idea that we are making this roux with countries that have differing interests, that are all then [collectively] around the idea that state sovereignty is important," Nelson said.
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