The following is a transcript of an interview with Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, that aired Sunday, May 1, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Samantha Power. She’s also the former ambassador to the United Nations. Good morning to you, Madam Ambassador.
SAMANTHA POWER: Morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We know the last holdout by Ukrainian forces in that southeastern city of Mariupol has been under constant bombardment, so has the city. Roughly 100,000 people believed to be trapped there, running out of resources. Is there truly nothing the U.S. can do except watch?
POWER: Well, I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of what the U.S. has done. It’s not my job to talk about the security assistance that has been provided, but that has been the means by which the Ukrainians have been able to fight back and hang on as long as they have. We have exerted all kinds of diplomatic pressure vis a vis the countries that have retained influence with Putin. You know, everything from Turkey to Israel to India to China. And Putin doesn’t care and- and is defying the will of the world to allow civilians to be evacuated, to allow food and medicine to get in there. And it is a travesty.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE, Michael Carpenter, said this week Russia is going to intensify those forced transfers of people into so-called filtration camps. That’s what he called them. He said they’re abducting, torturing, murdering local leaders, journalists, civil society activists, religious leaders. How many people are in these camps? What evidence do you have of what’s happening there?
POWER: We’re deeply concerned by the Ukrainian reports of what is happening to civilians in the east. We know some people are escaping Russian bombardment by moving into Russia voluntarily. And the ICRC and other international organizations are gathering lists of those people whose families are alleging to be missing, to have gone now without cell phone contact in some- in some cases for- for many weeks. And again, it is going to be incumbent on those organizations that are working inside Russia to press the Russian Federation, just as we do through our sanctions and through our global pressure to account for anybody who has traveled inside the Russian Federation. But I don’t have any information on that. What I will say is that USAID is working inside Ukraine to help civil society activists, human rights activists who have received death threats or who are vulnerable to relocate, whether to safe houses or to neighboring countries in order to ensure that- that they are not subjected to this level of persecution.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The president did authorize U.S. diplomats to return to Ukraine this week. They haven’t reopened the embassy yet. Are you saying your USAID staff are already inside and working to do this?
POWER: What we do, MARGARET, in circumstances like this, especially as we work through our implementing partners. So we have folks who are, in a sense, indirectly on the ground, but who are receiving U.S. taxpayer resources in order to provide everything from flak jackets and helmets, again, to those safe houses or the kind of training that journalists maybe had not had before about how to work in war zones or- or work to gather evidence of war crimes or other atrocities. So we’re sort of turning our previous programming, which was very extensive all across Ukraine, into programming that is suited for this moment through our Ukrainian partners who are working inside Ukraine. We are super eager to get back into Ukraine, to be able to see that work up close, and to be in a position again to channel, for example, the new supplemental funding we hope will be coming to those partners who urgently need it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that funding the president asked for this week is about $33 billion. Congress holds the purse strings here, and it took them about three weeks to get the aid passed last time around. How long can you wait for the funding that the president has asked for here? And- and what are you doing in the meantime to prevent things like a global famine?
POWER: Well, first, let me express gratitude to the Congress for the prior supplemental package. We are spending that money now in Ukraine in order to meet humanitarian needs. You’re right. Not in Mariupol, where the city is besieged, not able to get that food in there. But there are vast swaths of Ukraine that have been newly liberated by Ukrainian forces, where there is desperate need, everything from demining to trauma kits to food assistance, since markets are not back up and running. And so that assistance is flowing. And it’s also flowing to third countries that are feeling these huge cascading effects of Putin’s war, like the spiraling food prices, like the lower supplies of fertilizer, wheat, grain. You know, you have as many as 40 million people that could be pushed into poverty now just because of Russia’s war. So we’re already spending some of that money, but the burn rate is very, very high as prices spiral inside Ukraine and outside Ukraine. So that’s why this supplemental is so important. It entails both humanitarian assistance, $3 billion of humanitarian assistance to meet those global needs, which are famine-level, acute malnutrition needs. And it includes very significant direct budget support for the government of Ukraine, because what we want to ensure is that that government can continue providing services for its people. Putin would like nothing more than the government of Ukraine to go bankrupt and not be able actually to- to cater to the needs of the people. That would weaken Ukrainian solidarity, and Putin wants nothing more, of course, than to strengthen his bargaining hand here as he exerts military pressure and financial pressure at once. We can’t let that happen.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Ambassador Power, thank you for your time this morning. We’ll be back with a lot more Face the Nation. Stay with us.