Wednesday, July 26, 2023


ERIN BURNETT: I want to go now to Samantha Power, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and also the former U.S. ambassador to the UN. And she just returned from Ukraine and Administrator Power, I want to talk to you about Ukraine and your most recent visit in just a moment. But first on the back of Will’s reporting – these high level leaders from China and Russia all together with Kim Jong Un and North Korea coming as you know, Putin had that letter from Putin, hand delivered by General Shoigu, to Kim Jong Un, announcing an official trip from Putin to China later this year. When you put all this together, do you think China is backing Putin more than ever?

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Well I think just panning out from one moment in time, in a very isolated country where Russia is establishing its popularity, Russia is also convening an Africa Leaders Summit in not too long – in the next [this] week, where attendance at that summit has plummeted from the last time that it tried to convene African leaders. I think 16 or 17 leaders will attend. Last time – 43. When President Biden extended invitations to African leaders, all we invited attended – 49 leaders.

So Russia's isolation actually, he's – I think, not getting addressed by mass disinformation in the Global South by visits like this that tried to play up the allies he has left. With regard to the PRC, obviously, we engage the PRC and would find it deeply problematic, as with so many countries in the Global South, if military assistance were provided. But right now, again, our focus is to solidify and maintain this solid allied coalition that has existed since the beginning of the full scale invasion. 

And you see in the wake of Russia's really horrific, devastating decision to pull out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, real revulsion in a lot of developing countries. And the PRC is very mindful of what public opinion in developing countries indicates. Indeed, the PRC is one of the major recipients of wheat that had been coming from Ukraine, from the Black Sea. So we're hopeful that in the dialogue that exists in North Korea and every place else, that Beijing is raising its voice and its concern over what Putin is doing. I would note also, that when Putin struck Odesa, in the wake of my visit there, it was actually the Chinese Consulate that shook and and itself was damaged in those strikes. So there's a lot to talk about.

MS. BURNETT: And certainly, that was very notable actually, that was something that Michael Bociurkiw, who is a resident in the port city of Odesa, a frequent guest on the show, wrote about, when he was writing about the strikes that he is living through day after day in Odessa. Right now, you point out that regarding this Grain deal, Ukraine is crucial. And it is right, I mean, it's one of the world's largest suppliers of grain corn, wheat, everything right. It was known as the breadbasket of the former USSR for a reason. The World Food Program gets 80 percent of its grain from Ukraine. And Michael Bociurkiw, who I just mentioned, also wrote, Administrator, quote, “as much as words of condemnation from a steer body, such as UNESCO, has become customary in response to Russian aggression, words don't repel missiles the way the Patriots do.” Do you support more Patriot missiles now as a way to provide security to Odesa, to provide security for this food that the world so desperately needs?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I met with President Zelenskyy, the day after actually the most severe strikes on Odesa, and again, just the day after I had been in Odessa, myself. And we discussed a variety of ways of defending a city that had actually been – relative to other Ukrainian cities – relatively immune to the kind of bombardment and missile strikes, in part because of this UN-brokered deal that offered a kind of collateral protection, it seems. 

And you saw earlier this week, the United States announced a new drawdown, a new security assistance package. I've just been up on Capitol Hill all day today, engaging Senators about our next requests for, you know, additional resources on the civilian side, which of course will be coupled with security assistance. So the last thing I'm going to do, on behalf of President Biden is preview where that assistance will go. But it's very clear that now that Odessa is a target, that thinking collectively, among allies and partners to Ukraine, about what the next step is very important. And I would say that out of the Vilnius summit, the Ukraine-NATO Council was created, and actually had an emergency meeting this week in light of Russia's decision to pull out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to discuss what additional defenses are needed. 

MS. BURNETT: And Administrator because of your specific view on this right now and your role, how worried you are, are you about a full scale global food crisis, if Russia continues these attacks and forces the blockade and stops that grain?
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I'm really worried. You know, wheat prices are up – as of midday today they're up by 10 percent since Russia pulled out. But I'm not only worried. We're working with the Ukrainians to look to diversify their export routes. And indeed, you've probably heard about, you know, working by rail, river, road. The Danube river ports have increased from 3 million metric tons a year to just shy of 3 million metric tons a month actually leaving Ukraine. 

So we're not going to sit idle and wait for Putin to change his mind. I do think this Africa Leaders Summit that he's convening, I'm hopeful, will be an occasion where African leaders will try to press him to go back to the deal given the stakes among the poorest of the poor communities in the world. But we are going to have to compensate in some fashion as more hungry people are created by Putin's decision to weaponize food and to try to destroy the Ukrainian economy. 

MS. BURNETT: Administrator Power. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

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