Interview: Administrator Samantha Power with CNN’s Kate Bolduan

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Monday, February 28, 2022

February 28, 2022
Brussels, Belgium

MS. BOLDUAN: Thank you so much for that. Joining me now for more on this is a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. She is now the Administrator for USAID, the U.S. Government's international humanitarian aid agency. Ambassador, thank you for being here. You have fought to protect refugees and have covered so many—too many—refugee crises. What did you hear when you were at the border crossing? What struck you?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: First, Kate, and you've covered many of these crises yourself, it was just: there were no men. So, it's just a reminder of the extent to which basically, all men in the society have shown up to be part of the territorial defense or to perform some role in this war effort, in this self-defense effort. But seeing those women and children, of course, the challenges they face, the heartbreak they're carrying of having had to say goodbye to their husbands, their sons, their fathers, you could just see it in the faces of the people who were there. It's very chaotic. At a lot of the most populated border crossings, you've seen the reports of people having to wait now days to be able to cross. It's not because of any unwillingness on the part of the frontline states. I actually just met here in Brussels with the European ambassadors from Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and they're really being as welcoming and as open as they can. But just in the course of processing people, getting them registered, it is causing some backup. And most of the backup is on the Ukrainian side, because the numbers are just the likes of which no one really had contemplated inside Ukraine. It was just very hard for people to believe that their Russian neighbor would turn on them in this way. So, it's going to take a little bit of time to get that flow going. And hopefully, then people will have to wait less time, because the conditions out in the freezing cold are really, really tough on these families.

MS. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. I mean, the UN now saying this is more than 500,000 people who have left Ukraine. How much worse do you think it is going to get?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I mean, all of us have to be working and praying for a diplomatic solution. Because the escalatory path that President Putin is on is an incredibly dangerous one, just sending more troops in more directions. All that's going to be is more heartache and more loss, and more refugee flight. So, there's that.

In terms of the humanitarian response, I do think that opening up a corridor for the people of Kyiv, you will start to see some flow out. And our planning assumptions range, there's a very wide range, but I think it would not be crazy, if the war were to continue, to see as many as you know, three to 5 million people flowing into these neighboring countries. So, getting this flow going and ensuring that the welcome mat, that the arrivals are receiving in each of the frontline countries, that that continues. And I want to stress, it's not just governments responding, which they are, along the Ukrainian border. They are universally. It is the citizens in those countries who are showing up becoming mini-Uber drivers on the fly, and just deciding, ‘I'm going to go to the border, and I'm going to meet with a family, I'm going to ask them, where do they want to go, and I'm going to take them to my home if they had no place to go.’ That is happening across these borders. But again, the logistics of getting people across, and I should say Kate, getting the flow of humanitarian assistance also into Ukraine, as the stockpiles of food in places like Kyiv run low, that also is acutely urgent. And with the population on one side of the border, you have to move people and goods in both directions. And so, getting all of that organized in really a matter of hours, not days, is essential.

MS. BOLDUAN: I have to say, I always remember one of your final speeches at the UN back in 2016, when you called out Russia, along with Syria and Iran, over the atrocities in Syria. And back then you said simply you looked up and you said, ‘Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians and no execution of a child that gets under your skin?’ And I've been thinking about that, that there's little proof that anything has changed. What is it going to take to stop Putin now?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, what democracies, what Europe and the United States, and also Japan and New Zealand and Australia, and countries all around the world have mustered, is far more formidable than what happened in the face of the atrocities in Syria, and Russia’s involvement in the bombardment of places like Aleppo, which you remember well. So, I do think that these sanctions, that the security assistance, the humanitarian assistance, the show of solidarity, but the practical manifestations of that solidarity are materially different. So, this unity is a prerequisite, but it is also going to take Putin making the judgment that it is in his interest to cease and desist from this brutality. And you know that Putin's calculus is something that has been hard to affect, but if we are going to affect it, it is going to be this way, with this kind of unity and this kind of severe and proportionate response to his actions.

MS. BOLDUAN: Ambassador, Administrator, thank you for coming on. Thank you for being there in Brussels. Really appreciate it.

Last updated: July 15, 2022

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