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ANDERSON COOPER: Ambassador Power, we just heard a Kremlin spokesperson refuse to say that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a violation of international law. That there were referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk Regions that essentially justified the Russian troop presence there. Obviously you were Ambassador to the UN, you’ve heard this kind of argument made before. What is the response to that line of thinking from Russian leadership? 

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, it’s a farce what they’re saying and our eyes, the testimonies of individuals on the ground, the vast numbers of people displaced, all are evidence of the falsehoods that Russia seeks to propagate. 

I did live it back when Russia was initially claiming it had no claims on Crimea, then suddenly the little green men pop up – the Russian soldiers – then people are inhibited from speaking their minds, they are locked up if they try to contest the Russian invasion, then fake referenda are staged, and then those referenda – because nobody feels like they can avoid arrest if they vote in a different direction, they either stay home or they vote in Russia’s favor under the barrel of the gun. And then Russia says “look it is legitimate, it is self determination.” 

So it is out of the playbook and all of the statements by the Ukrainian government – the legitimate sovereign government there at the United Nations – they hold up the UN charter, they say “this is our country, we should know whether our borders are being violated, whether our sovereignty is being attacked.” They expect all of that to get ignored, they expect the press – you all who are on the ground watching Russian troops bombard civilians and hospitals and schools – to ignore all that, and they really expect our eyes to deceive us and for us to believe this farcical claim.

ANDERSON COOPER: The National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said that Vladimir Putin has weaponized food by blocking the delivery of Ukrainian agriculture around the world. How big is this problem and how bad can this crisis get? Because India is having climate-related farming issues and may stop exporting grains this year so they can feed their own people.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: It’s really bad, Anderson. There’s no way around it. It was bad before Putin launched this gratuitous and brutal invasion and now that he is weaponizing food, that he is holding back what is going to amount about 50 million tons of grains – really 50 million tons when there are people who are starving in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond – it is going to get a lot worse.

And so you now already are seeing really dire effects in countries like Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia. You have seven million kids in Somalia who are acutely malnourished at this moment in time. You have UNICEF predicting what is going to be an explosion in child deaths at this rate. Again, when you combine climate change, four consecutive seasons of drought, and then Putin willfully intentionally denying the ability of Ukrainians to get these grains out, it’s a perfect storm of terribleness. 

ANDERSON COOPER: And what can be done about it? I mean, obviously you are with the U.S. Agency – USAID. What can be done?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Well, the first thing is we can’t just accept that Russia is going to block the export of 50 million tons of grain and so the pressure needs to come not only from the United States – which of course is already doing, taking a range of steps to hold Russia accountable for everything that it has done –  but also from the African countries that themselves are most in peril by virtue again of the pre-existing climate shocks that were landing already and now just so compounded by the absence of the ability to import these grains.

Second, humanitarian assistance is going to be pivotal. Just in keeping people alive, just in literally getting nutritional supplements to those kids, to those babies. We have all seen those images before and we are going to see them again. We can keep people alive if we have the resources to do so. 

And the Congress in the United States has come together in a bipartisan way and allocated $4.3 billion dollars in supplemental funding to help the people of Ukraine inside Ukraine but also to help deal with the spillover effects from Putin’s war in terms of food security and all of that money is going to go to good use but we need those countries who are making a profit off the increased fuel prices around the world, the increased fertilizer prices, themselves to contribute, to be part of this donor community, to see this as a collective human responsibility to step up. Because the needs are going to outpace what the United States alone or the United States and Europe are going to be able to fund. We need new players to be part of this soon because now is the time to stave off the most calamitous effects. 

ANDERSON COOPER: Ambassador Samantha Power, I appreciate it. Thank you so much. USAID Administrator, I appreciate you joining us.

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