GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: We are now joined by the USAID Administrator, Samantha Power. Ambassador, thank you for joining us this morning.
You just heard Ambassador Markarova say that she believes the Ukrainians are holding their own against the Russians right now. I know you’re just back from the region, your impression?
SAMANTHA POWER, USAID ADMINISTRATOR: Well, I mean, the courage is breathtaking and has inspired the world, mobilizing a degree of solidarity not only among Democratic nations but among countries that the last time around when Russia invaded back in 2014, stood on the sidelines. You see that reflected in the overwhelming lopsided U.N. General Assembly votes condemning Russian aggression.
I think our job as humanitarians is to make sure that the massive numbers of people who’ve been displaced by Russian brutality and by this aggression, that those people have their food, their medical, and other needs met. And we’re doing that, of course, when they cross borders into Europe through UNHCR and mainly the support of those frontline nations, but also in the slightly more peaceful part of Ukraine that has not suffered the hand-to-hand combat that we saw in places like Kyiv and now liberated areas.
Those areas that the ambassador mentioned when the Ukrainians won the battle of Kyiv, lots of destruction, mines, and all kinds of food and medical needs were left in their wake and being sure that we can support organizations to sweep in there and get markets up and running as quickly and — as possible so they can resume what path is for normalcy, even as the fight now moves to the east and remains in the south.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can Ukraine’s neighbors handle this influx?
POWER: They’re handling it remarkably well. And part of that, George, as you know, is that the European Union has rallied with massive financial support but they basically said you have access to schools, to healthcare, to benefits, come, we’ll take care of you, you’re European, we’re going to treat you like you you’re European.
I think the bigger challenges lie within Ukraine. It goes without saying that in places like Mariupol that haven’t been reached by meaningful humanitarian assistance in two months, where you have people dying of starvation, of dehydration, where you have — you’ve seen images this week of babies who are wearing diapers that are plastic bags taped together as diapers and women so cold that they’re in that steel plant wearing the uniforms of steel plant workers, shaking, having been injured, no access to trauma care. I mean, those are the true horrors that are being perpetrated right now.
I think in Europe, again, where there’s more infrastructure and where you don’t have that destruction, the key is just that it’s women and children who’ve crossed over, leaving their men behind. So the longer term questions of how those individuals are integrated or whether they choose to go back to Ukraine sooner rather than later, that’s what we’re watching at the moment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re also seeing the impacts spread beyond Ukraine and beyond Ukraine’s neighbors, beyond Europe. We’re seeing global food shortages all around the world. As the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, what more can be done to address those shortages?
POWER: Thank you for posing that question as it is just another catastrophic effect of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. I mean, as if the harms (ph) in Ukraine weren’t enough, you have countries like in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Middle East who get maybe 80, 90 percent of their wheat or their grain overall from Russia and Ukraine. And you see massive spikes in food prices. Food prices, right now, George, globally, are up 34 percent from where they were a year ago. Aided substantially, again, by this invasion.
So we’ve gone to Congress asking for a substantial increase in humanitarian assistance and — in order to be able to meet those needs. But we’re also active, of course, in more than 80 countries around the world, well and apart from this crisis. So we’re working with farmers to also increase their production so that you actually have more supply brought on market. Fertilizer shortages are real now because Russia’s a big exporter of fertilizer. And even though fertilizer is not sanctioned, less fertilizer is coming out of Russia.
As a result, we’re working with countries to think about natural solutions like manure and compost. And this may hasten transitions that would have been in the interest of farmers to make eventually anyways.
So never let a crisis go to waste, but we really do need this financial support from the Congress to be able to meet emergency food needs so we don’t see the cascading deadly effects of Russia’s war extend into Africa and beyond.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Listening to you lay out these consequences, it’s hard not to conclude that in some respects this is already become something of a world war.
POWER: Certainly in terms of effects, not confined to the horrors that the Ukrainian people are suffering. But our job is to look at it globally, we want also to maintain the kind of global unity I mentioned at the beginning and that everybody has seen. And Russia tries to take advantage of this and say, oh, it’s the sanctions that are causing these high food prices. Not at all. It is Russian’s invasion of Ukraine for no reason and its unwillingness now to come to the negotiating table and get out of Ukraine and get back to Russia.
That is what is causing these cascading effects, so we want to meet those effects but continue to ensure that that pressure is put on the Russian Federation through economic sanctions and through the security assistance so that they finally negotiate a piece.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Ambassador Power, thanks for your time this morning.
POWER: Thanks, George.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: And we are joined now (inaudible) by the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul. Congressman, thank you for joining us this morning.
I want to pick up…
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Thanks, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: …on the speaker’s visit to Ukraine this morning with the congressional delegation, expressing support for that aid package. I know you expressed your own support for it as well. Do you expect this to pass relatively quickly through the Congress?
MCCAUL: Yes, I do. I think time is of the essence. The next two to three weeks are going to be very pivotal and very decisive in this war. And I don’t think we have a lot of time to waste in Congress. I wish we had this a little bit sooner, but we have it now.
If I were speaker for a day, I’d call Congress back into session, back into work as we’re not — we won’t be in session next week. But every day we don’t send them more weapons is a day where more people will be killed and a day where they could lose this war. I think they can win it. But we have to give them the tools to do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I was just going to ask you that question of do you think they can win the war. And I guess I’ll follow-up by asking, what does winning mean?
MCCAUL: Well, you know, the narrative initially, George, was it’d be over in four days and they’d have a public (ph) government in Kyiv. Putin went for everything. He miscalculated. And we saw the Ukrainians win there. And then it was, well, we can help them defend themselves. And now the narrative is everyone I talk to — and I’ve been to the region twice, they can actually win this war. And I think that should be the goal. And I was pleased to hear Secretary Austin and Blinken echo that thought, that they can actually win. I think a win would be to go on the offensive in Donbas with this artillery we’re giving them, the howitzers, and these lethal drones and push them out.
They’re trying to also bomb Odessa. This is an attempt to seal off the Black Sea all the way from the Donbas, Mariupol, Crimea into Odessa and then cut off the Black Sea and choke Ukraine. We have to stop that. The U.K.’s done a great job with anti-ship weapons in Odessa and they actually downed a Russian warship with their own Neptune, which is really phenomenal. And it’s been very inspirational.
I do think the fighting spirit and the moral of the Ukrainians is far superior to the moral of the Russian soldier right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the concerns that these attacks on Russia could actually lead (ph) to a wider war, maybe even retaliation with nuclear weapons?
MCCAUL: That’s always a concern. The short-range tactical nukes is always — we discussed that one with NATO when I was there. They brought the Butcher of Syria into flight this — the second phase of this war. He’s a very — a very frightening man. He dropped barrel-busting bombs in Syria on civilians and chemical weapons with Assad in Syria to kill civilians.
What would happen if a chemical weapon was dropped in Ukraine and/or a short-range tactical nuke, the question there is would the world idly sit back and watch that happen without doing anything?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What would we — what should we do?
MCCAUL: I just find it hard to believe — and when I talk to the secretary general of NATO, their job is really to defend NATO, not trigger Article 5. But in my judgement, that’s beyond the pale. That crosses a redline. And I think if that happens, we would have to respond in kind.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman McCaul, thanks for your time this morning.
MCCAUL: Thank you, George.
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