Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Ukraine House, Washington, D.C.

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you so much for Secretary [Kateryna] Smagliy. I think you've heard from all of the American speakers here, something very sincere, which is that the privilege is ours. It is our privilege. In our careers, we will probably never get the chance to do something as important or as meaningful for our democracy as well as for yours as to stand with you.

So, I think I speak for the Senators, certainly for all the members of the Administration, that we just feel so privileged to get to stand in partnership with you. Thank you to Ambassador [Oksana] Markarova and her entire team at the Ukrainian Embassy who feel like family by now, all of you. Some of you I crossed paths with when we were standing up for Ukraine's independence after the invasion of Crimea and the Donbas back in 2014. We've got to stop meeting like this, as they say, but the team of individuals who constitute Ukraine's public institutions are extraordinary, and they're a big part of the story of why Ukraine delivers strategic defeat, after tactical defeat to Russia day in, day out. 

I'm very honored to be here. It's an incredible guest list. Attorney General [Merrick] Garland, so good to see you and to always hear you speak from the heart and from the head and to see the tools of the Justice Department deployed in such a practical, essential way to try to end once and for all the impunity that has defined Putin's world for too long. Secretary [Carlos] Del Toro, great to have you. Mayor [Muriel] Bowser, Senator [Mark] Kelly, who's departed. I think Senator [Jim] Risch, who is coming here. Just the bipartisanship that Senator Kelly, Senator Risch represent, but that they bring every day to the office. As they talk about what next needs to be done for Ukraine, whether in the defense sphere, which Senator Kelly spoke about or in the domain that occupies so many of us, which is how to keep the government running, how to ensure that civilians who have been displaced have access to shelter and to food, how to meet the needs of women who have been sexually assaulted by Russian occupiers and give them the healing and the care and the attention that they deserve.

And here on cue is in fact Senator Risch. We've heard from Senator Kelly and I was just paying tribute to you and to him, both as individuals and as emblems of the bipartisanship that has defined America's response to this monstrous act of aggression. I will say, I don't know anybody who speaks as passionately as you'll I'm sure hear as, as Senator Risch, and makes the case, as well in America's heartland for what the stakes are, of this battle and those stakes again are stakes on the battlefield, but they are the stakes as well of growing Ukraine's democracy and its institutions at the very time, it is fighting for its life and its independence.

So Independence Days are supposed to be celebrations, celebrations of a nation's fundamental right to rule itself and to live in peace. But of course, today Ukrainians are fighting for that sacred right, as they have been for 566 long days. 

Attorney General Garland just spoke movingly about the courage that is on display, that we are all here so humbled by. And it is very common, I think, in speeches like this to talk about Ukraine's resilience and our awe over the resilience. I was in Odesa this summer and just a couple small examples of the resilience. I was there the day after Putin pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative – a major source of exports, of course, for vulnerable communities all around the world, but also a major source of revenue and livelihood for Ukraine's farmers, and customs revenue and tax revenue for Ukraine's government.

What happened the day after Putin pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative? The Ukrainians talked about dredging of ports, the rebuilding of particular rail corridors, transshipment, storage and how they'd need more storage. They didn't blink. They just moved on to plan B, plan C, plan D. All of which, of course, they had planned and thought about well in advance.

That resilience just – you know, Putin never ceases to disappoint in the latest act of egregious, horror and pain he would inflict on innocents. And Ukrainians go about adapting and showing that resilience. I visited in Kiev as well this summer a power plant that had a major missile hole in the roof and it shattered one of the transformers. All about getting it rebuilt in time for the cold weather, not complaining, not whining, simply going about the business of being the resilient marvel that the Ukrainian people are. It begs the question, I think, of where this resilience comes from? And, I think that, you know, maybe comes from just having no choice, that when your entire life, livelihood, identity is at stake. You find strength and resilience that you never knew you had. When, on a previous visit, to Ukraine, Mayor [Vitali] Klitschko, mayor of Kiev, actually put it to me, I thought very eloquently, also drawing the distinction between what Russians were fighting for and what Ukrainians were fighting for. He said, “Understand, we can't lose this war. Russians are fighting here because they were ordered or they are paid. They don't want to die for Putin or for money. We fight for our families and our freedom. We will do whatever it takes to protect them.” And that is a powerful source of resilience. 

But I want to also credit Oksana and the Ukrainian authorities and citizens for a different kind of resilience, for a different source of resilience. And that is a decade-long push to empower citizens and communities at the local level. One that when Ambassador Markarova was Finance Minister, she was instrumental in. 

In 2014, when Putin launched the military campaign to seize Crimea and parts of Donbas, Ukraine's leaders saw just how quickly a community could become a front line, and how critical those communities were to defending the state, the people and the democracy. So Ukraine began then, and we, thanks to Congress, thanks to bipartisan support from Congress, we at USAID had the privilege with our European friends of supporting a decade long effort to empower local communities. 

We helped train mayors and community government officials to involve citizens in the day to day affairs of states. To manage their budgets, to expand access to basic services, to strengthen first response at a time when some were only just being empowered for the very first time to do so. We focused especially on Ukrainian women, a couple of whom you've heard from tonight, supporting them in taking on more leadership roles in their communities.

We assisted Ukraine's efforts to help local governments increase tax revenue. To invest in municipal services like education and firefighting and primary healthcare, and critically we had the privilege again thanks to Congress and the American people to help local governments install early warning systems and actually stock up humanitarian supplies in the event of future conflict. By the time Putin amassed his troops along Ukraine's borders in 2021 community leaders were ready. They jumped into action. They ran evacuations. They provided temporary shelter for displaced communities. They got clean water, medical kits, mobile phones and winter coats and later generators to citizens in need. And as Ukraine's men were called to active duty in Kyiv and beyond, it was often Ukrainian women who led. They led efforts to organize essential services. They mobilized volunteer efforts and Ukrainian women helped train Civilians in combat medicine. They rode motorcycles to reach patients that ambulances could not. 

Ukraine has denied Putin the easy victory that he anticipated by unleashing the extraordinary creativity, determination, and compassion of its citizens. And Ukraine is proving that no matter the challenges ahead, this is a democracy, a democracy still being built and nurtured. But that is truly of, by, and for the people. And that cannot be stopped. Thank you so much. Slava Ukraini.

Share This Page