USAID - U.S. Agency for International Development

06/17/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/17/2024 15:51

Administrator Samantha Power's Interview with 1+1 TV Ukraine

OLGA KOSHELENKO: Administrator, thank you for doing this. And let's start with probably the most urgent problem, Ukraine's energy sector suffers from shortages of electricity production now that Russia has destroyed all the major power plants, and people in Ukraine spend hours and hours with electricity. Can you offer any sustainable solution for this particular issue?

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Well, first of all, we can never get used to the fact that there is a government right now on planet earth, that is systematically targeting energy infrastructure, civil infrastructure, for the specific purpose of making civilians suffer. So just before we kind of bake in that Putin is being Putin, we can never get used to this. This is, I worked at the United Nations - Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, has the veto, it's been entrusted with great responsibility, and it is deliberately trying to weaponize electricity, power generation, and fundamentally, looking ahead, Putin weaponizing winter.

So that should be condemned, and all civilized people around the world should be united in standing up against that, including those who are now backing the Russian Federation and helping support their industrial base. And this is why I think the new round of sanctions that are going to be imposed, are looking more and more who are the enablers. There's those in Russia who are responsible, that have to be held accountable, but then there's actors in Africa, and Asia, elsewhere in Europe, who have to be targeted as well, there has to be accountability across the board for attacks of this horror.

USAID feels privileged to be operating in support of the incredible Ukrainians on the ground, rushing to repair the energy infrastructure when it gets hit, planning ahead and thinking about winter, and what is going to be needed. Building passive protection, these large cement structures and, Tesco barriers, and ways of just doing the best we can to - knowing what is coming, to help you all blunt the effects of what Putin is trying to achieve.

So actually, we have spent, USAID has spent, I think, more than a billion dollars actually in energy and electricity investments over these last couple of years. And even though for anyone suffering a blackout, it's hard to focus on what has been achieved, because that's a terrible thing to go through. If you're in a hospital, if you're in school, trying to teach the next generation, if you're trying to get through winter ultimately. But if we think about what the damage would be like absent that support - absent the 4,000 power generators that we've provided, the mobile boiler houses, all of the pipes, and the valves in the replacement, technical support, the autotransformers, of course, the very large infrastructure that is so important. So all of that blunts the damage, lessens the damage, but as President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy himself is now out there alerting the world to, you know, when you lose half of your energy supply in a short period of time, I mean that is devastating.

So I think in terms of sustainable solutions, it's twofold. It's to use supplemental resources that we just finally been given access to by our Congress, to build on what we have done. Apply lessons, also, as to what moves the most quickly, what does the most good. That's a big part of it, but even though it's not USAID's lane, so too is air defense. And I think that's where President Zelenskyy and the United States, together, going around the world and trying to figure out where more air defense systems can be obtained. I think you're already seeing the positive effects of the influx now of weapons, as more and more Russian incoming is being shot down. But you mentioned sustainability, we have to end up in a situation where Putin does not believe that he can outlast the will of the international community in providing energy support and in providing air defense.

MS. KOSHELENKO: And with regard to particular of this energy shortages, I'm not an expert.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Nor am I.

MS. KOSHELENKO: But from what I heard from [the] Ukrainian side, they consider the only sustainable solution for coming winter, distributed generation. When we build a lot of small, but a lot of power plants, auto-generation units, and from what I heard from my sources in [the] energy sector, USAID had [a] kind of unsuccessful experience, you buy gas turbine for Ukraine and it still doesn't work, doesn't fit in Ukrainian energy system. And they said you bent all the purchases of gas turbine, gas pistons to Ukraine according to this successful experience. Is it true?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, let's just say that we think that there are a lot of different energy solutions that need to be brought online. We did purchase a General Electric Gas Turbine, we have handed that over to the Government of Ukraine, I believe it's in use, it's operational, it is providing power to the Ukrainian people. But I think that the toolbox has to be a varied one. We can't over rely on any one solution I think as your colleagues are saying. They believe that for small power generation that this can be part of the solution.

Our motto is nothing about you without you, and the leadership on figuring out energy, and power, and electricity solutions is our Ukrainian counterparts. And so fundamentally, we get request lists from our Ukrainian Ministry of Energy interlocutors, from the main energy company, and we scramble to try to see if we can source some of what those needs are. I will say also, that while it's tempting to think in terms of physical deliveries, and repairs, and giving those tools to the frontline workers on the ground, we can't disentangle the repair and reinforcement discussion about auto transformers, and gas turbines, and pipes, and power generators, and mobile boiler houses from the reform conversation.

And I know sometimes Western governments sound like a broken record on reform, but this really is about unlocking the infusion of additional resources and investment in the energy sector. It is about, yes, working in the short term to keep the Ukrainian homes and institutions powered, but it's also with an eye to the medium- and long-term and how important it is for Ukraine to be integrated into the European energy system and energy grids.

We've already had some success doing the synchronization with the European grid in the very first week of the wars. It was one of the scariest things that I've ever done, ever been associated with in my career, was to do that in real time while the bombs were falling. Scary not because I was at risk like Ukrainians were, but just what if it didn't work? And lo and behold, it did. And, again, the migration of the energy relationship to Europe has made so much progress over the last two years. But a lot more reform is needed, of course, for that to reach its full potential.

MS. KOSHELENKO: Two Ukraine's top officials responsible for restoration and recovery, actually, its Deputy Prime Minister [Oleksandr] Kubrakov and Agency Chief [Mustafa] Nayyem quit just recently, and more importantly, Nayyem accused Ukrainian government of systematic trying to undermine their activities, their efforts. Is it any of your concern?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, we, USAID and the U.S. government as a whole, have incredibly productive relationships with the Ministry for Restoration and Infrastructure, and with a whole host of Ministries involved in rapid recovery. In, for example, speeding up export traffic, which in turn brings in more customers revenue, more tax revenue for the government to then turn around and make investment in everything from pensions, to the war effort, to the health and education sectors.

So, USAID works in every sector, in education, in health, in agriculture, but infrastructure, the rail network, the border crossings, the agricultural exports - the Ministry of Infrastructure and Restoration has been absolutely pivotal. And we need that work to continue, we need the cooperation to be every bit as intense going forward, particularly as Russia ramps up its attacks on infrastructure.

MS. KOSHELENKO: But coming back to these government, it's your policy, does it impact the level of reforms and is it your concern?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, I'm not going to speak about any individuals, again, beyond to say how satisfied we have been, again, with the partnership that we've had. But I think that the reform effort has to proceed alongside the effort to secure economic investment from outside. Whether from donors, we're the easy ones right, because we're, this partnership isn't going anywhere, we're all in with people in Ukraine. But what we do spend a lot of our time doing is trying to hustle up private sector investment. And that is where again, and again, we get told, yeah, we're interested, our hearts are with you, but our heads are maybe a little more skeptical. You know, maybe there is corruption that is going to get in the way of us, you know, moving forward with procurement, or with an open competition in a real way. Maybe there's just paperwork burdens, and sludge, and administrative burdens that are in the way that we need to be cleared. We hear a lot of different things from the private sector.

And, just again, as we think about both the short term, and the medium- and long-term, clearing away those regulatory barriers, making sure that there is accountability and checks and balances when it comes to corruption. Notwithstanding, how we recognize that this is asking a lot in wartime. Nobody is outside saying well, you know, it should be easy. I mean, it's super hard. But it is also what so many people are fighting for.

They're fighting for a sovereign democratic Ukraine, that is integrated into Europe, and that is able to be a home for more private sector investments so that young people, after the war ends, are not only staying because there's no war, but they're also staying because there are jobs to keep them. And so even as Ukrainians fight this vicious war right now that was imposed upon them, keeping an eye on the day after, the morning after and when the investments that are made now make it possible for people who've left Ukraine to come home and for young people to stay.

MS. KOSHELENKO: Administrator, and let's move to Ukraine's Peace Summit, Switzerland hosts it in [the] coming days. And from what we know, some major players such as China, Brazil, Mexico, are going to skip this one. And from [what] President Zelenskyy is saying, Russia tried to threaten them directly, those who would attend this meeting. Are you aware of it? That Russia threatens and tried to limit this event.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, without getting into those specifics, I would say 90 countries and organizations are showing up for this Peace Summit. Vice President [Kamala] Harris is traveling with [National Security Advisor) Jake Sullivan to the peace summit. Which I just want to make note, in an American election year it's generally the practice of candidates to remain home and campaign every minute of every day. And so it speaks really in the fact that President Biden has met with President Zelenskyy here over the last week, and that is always such a priority for President Biden, that Vice President Harris will be going and attending the Peace Summit, just how important, again, Ukraine is superseding many of the traditions here as it relates to our own and our own elections.

I think that, clearly, the Peace Summit is getting on Russia's nerves, I mean, clearly. And why would it? Because it is a show of unity. It is Ukraine on offense on behalf of what is every Ukrainians objective, which is peace. It is a living rebuttal to Russia's misinformation around who is for peace and who is for war. I mean they have been peddling the idea that they're for peace, including through a mass media campaign in the Global South and elsewhere. In my experience, nobody's really buying it. But this is an important opportunity, on the global stage, for President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people to show who's really for peace. And, you know, I think the backing of such a large gathering of countries notwithstanding, again, the handful of countries that you mentioned, the backing of those countries, shifts the conversation in a really important way.

And hopefully, on the back end of this Summit, the world, much of the civilized world, will have rallied behind Ukraine's framework for peace. And then the question becomes, okay, what next, but I don't think we have to get there at this moment. But obviously, if there's to be peace at some point, there's going to be a place for Russia in these conversations. And any country that's not represented at the Peace Summit, of course, isn't having its voice heard in the way that it would wish.

So hopefully, on the back end of this, there will be a desire to engage productively. But the overwhelming number of countries and organizations that are there, rallying behind this push for peace, I think, is really important, not only [an] important signal, and show of solidarity for Ukrainians, which is important now when tough times are really, really tough on the ground. It's a welcome infusion of solidarity, I think, but it's also a form of pressure on the Russian Federation to say, come to the table for real. But there must be accountability, must be in accordance with the UN Charter, and fundamentally, it's going to be Ukrainian people who will be part of these negotiations and will decide their future.

MS. KOSHELENKO: Russia is also going to have its own Peace Summit, so-called Peace Summit, with China, and Brazil, and maybe some other players, would it lead to a kind of division in the world, like we have our Peace Summit, and they have their Peace Summit, and who cares what we've decided?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I mean, look, when I was at the UN, engaging everyday with my Russian counterpart, after the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, I used to refer to these engagements as upside down land, because that's what it felt like. And right now, the idea of the Russian Federation having a peace summit, it's upside down land, I mean that's absurd.

They gratuitously launched a full-scale invasion of a peaceful neighbor for no reason other than fear that that neighbor was becoming more democratic, less corrupt, and more integrated into Europe.

And I think it's very unfortunate, of course, that anybody would indulge upside down land, or travel to upside down land, but at the end of the day, I think the Ukrainian government is doing every week, [a] better and better job with its outreach to the Global South, bringing the facts to bear, addressing this misinformation.

Russia is a very well resourced misinformation machine, and they have a significant global presence, which Ukraine started with a very, very small, global presence in the Global South. But if you look at the last year of the war, compared to the first year, for example, just the amount of time and effort that President Zelenskyy and his team are putting into that outreach - to kind of level set and make sure that the facts are out there, I'm confident that nobody is going to be swayed, even if they traveled to upside down land, about who is for peace and who is for war.

MS. KOSHELENKO: Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you.