Samantha Power on US assistance to Ukraine, Putin’s military plans

8 October 2022, 03:51 PM
Supporting Ukraine in the war is a matter of preserving the principles of democracy and civilization in the world, USAID administrator Samantha Power is confident. (Photo:Hennadii Minchenko via Reuters)

Supporting Ukraine in the war is a matter of preserving the principles of democracy and civilization in the world, USAID administrator Samantha Power is confident. (Photo:Hennadii Minchenko via Reuters)

Author: Olga Duhnich

A tall woman with perfect posture is standing with her eyes closed on Kyiv’s Mykhailivska Square in front of the memorial to those who died in the Russian war in Ukraine. After a few minutes of silence, she lays flowers at the memorial and lightly touches the photos on it with her hand.

This is Samantha Power, an influential figure in the U.S. foreign policy. It was she, as the permanent representative of the United States at the United Nations in 2013-2017, who was remembered for supporting the interests of Ukraine, as well as for her bright and sharp answers to Russian diplomats regarding the illegal annexation of Crimea.

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Power arrived in Kyiv in early October in her new role as the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the country’s main agency for non-military international aid. During the last six months of the war, Ukraine received $9.89 billion from USAID, of which $8.5 billion went directly to the budget. The remaining amount was used for humanitarian purposes, namely supporting small businesses, the agricultural sector, protecting against cyberattacks, and restoring municipal infrastructure.

Now, during her stay in Ukraine on Oct. 6, Power is keenly evaluating each of these large investments by U.S. taxpayers. She is talking to everyone: with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and representatives of local self-government, and with shop-floor workers and young Ukrainian entrepreneurs. At a visit to a farm, she laughs merrily and hugs a Ukrainian female farmer, who trying to convince the U.S. diplomat that women will definitely save the world. Then Power tries out the controls of an agricultural drone.

In short breaks between meetings, Power also spoke with Ukrainian and U.S. journalists, including answering several questions from NV. Tell us about your impressions of what you saw in Kyiv today.

Power: This is the first time I’ve been in Ukraine time since 2015, and this visit is significant for me. I see how the war being waged by (Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin has come to Kyiv, the destruction it has caused, and it breaks my heart, but at the same time, I admire the amazing resilience of Ukrainians. These are my first impressions as the head of USAID, and it’s all the more important for me to be here today, in one of Kyiv’s districts, where USAID funds are helping to restore heating and water supplies to 10 houses, a school and a kindergarten, which were damaged by a Russian missile blast at the beginning of the war. I see how the pipelines that were damaged by Putin’s offensive are being restored, and today it’s important to restore these services for 22,000 people who were directly affected by the situation.

But there are many communities that have become victims of Russian attacks on peaceful infrastructure in Ukraine, and today I’m announcing an additional $55 million investment in Ukraine to prepare for winter. We hope this will help provide heating for more than 7 million Ukrainians, and this is very important, since the winter is coming and Ukrainians are expectedly worried about what this winter will bring.

We understand that Putin will continue to destroy the country’s municipal infrastructure, he will try to make winter a weapon against Ukraine, he will try to turn the lack of food into a weapon, and in every possible way create anxiety and uncertainty within Ukrainian society.

So we’ll continue helping our Ukrainian partners, they’re showing incredible resilience and the resources we provide really matter because the Ukrainian government has so many requests for support right now. Ukraine needs generators, portable boiler rooms for heating in critical situations, pumps, pipes and technical support because the winter will be difficult.

It’s not the only place we visited today, but the people of this district have good news: a school with 88% of its windows damaged by the explosion may reopen soon. In a month, children will be able to return to school and continue their studies. Today, 1,500 school students of this Kyiv’s district are forced to study online, separated by war, they will finally study together again soon, as it should be.

NBC News: You travel a lot around the world, you’ve been to Pakistan and African countries, it’s not easy for everyone. If we compare what is happening there with what is happening in Ukraine, what arguments are needed to convince U.S. citizens that what is happening in Ukraine requires the kind of special attention and serious assistance that is already being provided to Ukraine today?

Power: The level of destruction here in Kyiv was limited, but only because the Ukrainian military won an incredible victory in Kyiv Oblast over troops that outnumbered them. We shouldn’t forget the Russian troops suffered their first defeat in Kyiv Oblast – the firmness and organization of the people who live here also deserve respect. Especially if we look at what Russian troops leave behind when they retreat – destruction, sexual violence, mass burials. And also missile strikes with a huge radius of destruction, the result of which we can see in this Kyiv district... Here we see broken windows and destroyed balconies, (but we also) remember the footage from Irpin and Bucha a few months ago.

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That is why the United States is helping. We currently provide more than $25 billion in total aid, both military and security, as well as direct payments to the budget of Ukraine worth $5 billion. Today, this money helps the Ukrainian government pay salaries and maintain the country’s budget. This money helps pay the salaries of doctors who not only help the wounded, but also allow Ukrainian society to continue to live normally. USAID also trains independent media, helps them to be more effective in the fight against corruption, and we also pay a lot of attention to the accountability of Ukrainian officials in where exactly the funds allocated by us go.

The main question that is being resolved here in Ukraine is whether a larger and stronger state has the right to attack its neighbors and remain unpunished, or can a peaceful and benevolent nation choose its own future? Can it choose how to live, who to consider as its leader? Does it have the right to live while preserving its identity, its culture, the right to speak its language? The main questions that define modern civilization are at stake in this war.

And we must remember this war must be won not only on the battlefield, but also by maintaining the spirit and resilience of civil society. The people of Ukraine are showing such resilience, but it’s important for them to survive this winter. Therefore, combining assistance in security issues with humanitarian assistance, preparations for winter, with technical assistance, we make it realistic. I met a group of young people in Kyiv who run their own businesses and compete on equal footing to work in the European and U.S. markets, they already live in the integration with Europe that all of Ukraine is currently looking for. We, in the United States, support Ukraine in the choice it makes in the processes of democratization and the rule of law.

During the six months of the war, the American agency USAID transferred 9 billion 890 million dollars of non-military aid to Ukraine. Part of this money is already being used to restore communal infrastructure, including in Kyiv (Фото: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via REUTERS)
During the six months of the war, the American agency USAID transferred 9 billion 890 million dollars of non-military aid to Ukraine. Part of this money is already being used to restore communal infrastructure, including in Kyiv / Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via REUTERS We’re grateful for the help that the United States has already provided to Ukraine during six months of this war, but we also understand that this war will be long, perhaps a year or more. Is the U.S. society ready to support Ukraine for such a long time and how do you see the road map of such assistance?

Power: It’s important for people in Ukraine to understand how unprecedented your struggle against Russia is today, just as unprecedented is the current U.S. aid to Ukraine. During my 30 years of work, I have visited many countries at war, countries that are in a humanitarian crisis, but none of them have had such long-term attention of the U.S. people as Ukraine has since the beginning of the large-scale invasion of Russian troops.

The resilience of Ukrainians is impressive, and this is reflected in all amounts of aid: $1.5 billion for humanitarian aid to Ukraine, $8.5 billion of targeted aid to the budget of Ukraine and the additional $4.5 billion that I’ve already mentioned, and which will also go to the budget starting this month at $1.5 billion every month until the end of the year. This is also military aid, which is critical to saving the lives of your soldiers.

All this is evidence that the U.S. people really see and support the values that Ukrainians are fighting for. Your president, and not only him, your farmers, teachers and many other people confirm these values in their work every day. My job is also to come here and listen to these stories. Today I heard the story of a young female entrepreneur who was engaged in interior design but switched to the production of bulletproof vests with the beginning of the war.

Stolen Crimea: Samantha Power as the US Permanent Representative to the UN reacts emotionally to the statements of the Russian representative to the UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin (Фото: Andrew Kelly / Reuters)
Stolen Crimea: Samantha Power as the US Permanent Representative to the UN reacts emotionally to the statements of the Russian representative to the UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin / Photo: Andrew Kelly / Reuters

We remember how, from the very beginning of the war, Ukrainians said that they would fight for their country and at the same time were ready to risk everything dearest, including their lives, and they turned to the United States for help in this struggle. We’re helping. Therefore, we continue to allocate additional amounts for purposes related to the security of the country and for humanitarian aid. All this is evidence that our cooperation continues and has good prospects. How do you assess Putin’s rhetoric since Sept. 30? He is increasingly seeing Western countries as his opponents, not just Ukraine. Does this mean that Russia is expanding the conflict beyond the borders of Ukraine and launching hybrid acts of aggression already against EU and NATO countries?

Power: We see the war is getting worse for Putin. And it came as a shock to many people, especially those who understood that there were no real reasons for this war. When this happens, according to Putin’s scenario, it’s necessary to fan the conspiracy even more and look for new enemies who can justify the defeats that his army suffers. He continues to lie about what is happening on the battlefield, he continues to lie about who exactly he’s fighting, and the escalation of aggressive rhetoric reflects his deep and growing concerns about the fate of the Russian Federation and how this war is going and how it might end.

The worse this war goes (for Russia), the more we will hear from him these strange conclusions and demonization of his imaginary enemies, because it’s very difficult for him to accept a war where his army is defeated and suffers such huge losses, and the soldiers fighting for him cannot explain what they’re doing in Ukraine. Therefore, he’s more and more forced to invent things that are not really taking place.

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