Monday, September 18, 2023

New York City, New York


ERIN BURNETT: I want to come now to Samantha Power, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, here with me in New York tonight. Administrator, so, catastrophic flooding, you've got two rival governments – a very dysfunctional situation. The UN’s now saying 4,000 dead, which is a technical cut in the number that they had said, but still, 9,000 people are missing. It's been a week – the numbers could be astronomical. Do they really have a sense of how many people could be dead?

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: I mean, it's not for us to speculate. You've seen the wild number ranges. But that number of missing is a searing one, because, you know, they're saying more than 11,000 people are missing, as you said – it’s a week later. So, President Biden announced today an additional $11 million, bringing what we're investing there in supporting them to $12 million – I'm sure those needs are gonna go way up. The risk of diseases after something like this goes up. The shelter needs, the food needs. These were communities that were very self-sufficient until this happened. It really was a beautiful patch of land, and these communities just so tight, and those communities will come together. But it's going to be a brutal reckoning here these next days.

MS. BURNETT: Just horrific to watch the suffering. The money that you announced today, obviously, desperately needed. Derna is in a part of Libya controlled by one of these rival governments that the international community, at least most of it, does not even recognize. So how do you even ensure that that money goes to what you want it to go to?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, in places where we don't – really in most places, honestly – we work through trusted international partners, but particularly in a place like this, where we haven't been operating on the ground for many years, nothing that would stop us from working with the World Food Program to provide the food needs, or UNICEF to look at the needs of children.

MS. BURNETT: So it's not as if you're giving it to… [cross talk]…randos in Libya right.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: No, but I will say the Libyan Red Cross, Red Crescent Society, is a partner that we expect to be able to work with, because there's a lot of due diligence that comes through the International Federation. So they'll be partners like that. And we always want to try to find communities and actors who are local, who are really close to the populations in need. So the last thing you want to do is just come barreling in with all of your alleged expertise from Rome, or from Washington. So, there's a lot of local knowledge on the ground that we're going to draw upon, but in terms of the taxpayer resources actually going where they're intended, we have vetted partners.

MS. BURNETT: Alright, you're in New York, obviously, in part for the United Nations. President Zelenskyy is here. And it's an important moment for him. He's trying to make the funding, right? That the United States should still be behind this war. There has been growing Republican resistance to war funding and to Zelenskyy himself. Public polling shows his unfavorable ratings have gone up 35 percent among Republicans, and they've in fact even gone up among Democrats, it's still very low, but it's a five fold increase.

He's got rid of his defense minister, right, in the middle of the offensive because of corruption claims, and obviously taking care of it, but it does show that that weakness that they're fighting. How much harder does this make convincing the American public that this is worth continuing to back?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I think as we've seen from the beginning of the war in ways that few, even those who knew Zelenskyy, didn't anticipate: he is one hell of a communicator. He’s a person who is able to communicate the stakes not only for the Ukrainian people, but link the consequences in Ukraine to our lives, and to what it would mean if a bully armed, in the way that Putin is armed, was allowed to get away with what he's doing – starts with a neighbor, where does it end?

So, we'll hear from Zelenskyy, I think it's excellent that he's addressing the UN General Assembly for the first time. Because part of, also, what he's seeking to do is shore up support in the Global South where Russia has attempted to bill itself as a savior.

MS. BURNETT: Where it’s done so quite successfully, even in places like India when you look at public opinion.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Yeah, I mean, a lot – of I lived this at the UN – a lot of countries like to duck things that they perceive to be about the United States and Russia, or the United States and the PRC. They're just saying, you know, leave me alone. But if you actually talk to leaders, even those who have abstained on resolutions on Ukraine, they know fully well what's going on. And sometimes they're even intimidated, or coerced into not not voting against aggression.

Because they all know that the norm against aggression, the norm that your neighbor shouldn't get to invade you, and rape your women, and create mass graves. That's a norm that’s actually in all of our interests to preserve.

So, he'll get a chance to make that case. I think his trip to Washington is important, but I have to say that my sense of the bipartisan support for the Ukrainian cause, sure, compared to the high watermark has it dipped a little bit here or there. But you saw resolutions from Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene on a defense bill, not that long ago, that were shot down by very lopsided margins. And we feel really good about the dialogues we're having about new supplemental funding to support the military effort, but also the work that USAID does, which is work strengthening anti-corruption institutions, making sure that kids can go to school, the first responders who will react to attacks on energy infrastructure, the farmers who are getting food out to the developing world. Those investments are incredibly important too to the global economy.

MS. BURNETT: All right, well, Administrator Power. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight, again here for the UN meetings in New York.

Samantha Power Video Library
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