Saturday, June 13, 2015
Ambassador Power in Ukraine: Russia Underestimated Ukrainians’ Resilience
It is safe to say that there has not been another American official who understands the plight of Ukraine so precisely as Samantha Power, the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Even before visiting Ukraine last week, Power, an Irish American academic, journalist, author, diplomat and Cabinet official, earned the admiration of Ukrainians around the world for her steadfast support of Ukrainian independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Seated at the circular table of the UN Security Council, she never hid behind diplomatic courtesies in responding to Russian fabrications about its invasion of Ukraine. Power convincingly pointed her finger at Russia’s Permanent Representative Vitaly Churkin when accusing Moscow of launching the brutal, bloody war against a peaceful neighbor.
At the same time, Power is respected for her support for the downtrodden wherever they live and a host of contemporary sustainable issues.
No wonder, President Poroshenko quipped to her in Kyiv: “You cannot even imagine how famous you are in Ukraine.”
And not only in Ukraine.
During her trip to Ukraine, Power had the opportunity to witness first hand Ukraine’s difficult evolution from Russian subjugation through homegrown crooks and traitors and finally to today’s clear course toward national sovereignty, democracy, wellbeing and European integration. She appreciates that the past 24 years have not been a walk in the park for Ukrainians and their nationally-minded elected officials because Russia has been shadowing their every step in the hope of catching Kyiv unaware and then re-subjugating it behind a restored iron curtain.
She also had the opportunity to experience the devastating effect of Russia’s war against Ukraine that so far has claimed some 6,500 lives as well as the high moral commitment of everyday Ukrainians and their brave fighting men and women to defeat the enemy and resume their peaceful, democratic transition from slaves to free people. She honored the memory of the martyred Maidan defenders in Kyiv and felt in her soul that the issue was not speaking or not speaking Russian or Ukrainian but living as Ukrainians without regard for language and faith so long as it is without Russian interference.
Samantha Power expressed many powerful words and assurances to the Ukrainian nation but perhaps the most indicative of her views and America’s policy were articulated in the phrase: “The United States are with you as you fight on two fronts: countering Russian aggression and building an open, responsive government.” She emphasized that Washington supports Ukrainians and Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty “in the face of Russia’s hostile actions in eastern Ukraine and continuing occupation of Crimea.”
Here are some more of Power’s supportive declarations made in Ukraine:
Speech to Ukrainian nation June 11
“Building a system of new rules will never depend on what your government does, but rather on what you (Ukrainians) make it do, and what you do yourselves.”
“If Russia continues to disregard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and if Russia continues to violate the rules upon which international peace and security rest, then the United States will continue to raise the costs on Russia. And we will continue to rally other countries to do the same, reminding them that their silence or inaction in the face of Russian aggression will not placate Moscow; it will only embolden it.”
“But there is something more important that is often lost in the international discussion about Russia’s efforts to impose its will on Ukraine. And that is you – the people of Ukraine – and your right to determine the course of your own country’s future.”
“It is about restoring your voice – a voice too often ignored by corrupt politicians, oligarchs, and foreign powers. Or, as one of the great rallying cries of the Maidan put it: Ukraine above all else!”
“Maidan was made in Ukraine. A Ukraine of university students and veterans of the Afghan war. Of Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar speakers. Of Christians, Muslims, and Jews.”
“Maidan was not just about reversing a cynical political decision or unseating a single kleptocratic government. Instead, it was about dismantling a generations-old system that kept producing rotten decisions, broken institutions, and corrupt leaders – and it was about replacing it with one that was accountable to the Ukrainian people.”
“But the Kremlin made a very serious miscalculation: it underestimated your resilience and your willingness to unite to help your fellow citizens. And it underestimated your tenacious determination to fix a broken system.”
“To understand what is meant by Ukrainian solidarity, look at the countless civil society groups that have sprung up to respond to the massive humanitarian crisis produced by Russian aggression.”
“The Kremlin also underestimated your resolve to see through the process you started on the Maidan – to build a system that answers to you, the Ukrainian people, rather than to the oligarchs or to Moscow.”
“These new members of government – together with civil society – are pushing for greater transparency.”
“Hard as it is, remember what is at stake – not only for yourselves, but for generations of Ukrainians to come. Remember that the yearning to have a voice – which brought so many Ukrainians out to the Maidan, and resonated with so many millions more – the cry of Dignity! Dignity! – is just as powerful now as it was then.”
“That means that Ukraine is stronger when it listens to those calling on its military to respect international law while defending its people from attacks by combined Russian-separatist forces – even as its enemies ignore those same standards. It means that Ukraine should zealously protect freedom of the press, including for its most outspoken and biased critics – indeed, especially for its most outspoken and biased critics – even as the so-called separatists expel journalists from the territory they control, and even as Russia shutters Tatar media outlets in occupied Crimea. It means that politicians and police across the country should recognize how crucial it is that people be able to march to demand respect for LGBT rights and the rights of other vulnerable groups without fear of being attacked. And it means that the Ukrainian government should do everything in its power to get humanitarian aid to the civilians trapped along the line of contact and those struggling to survive in separatist-controlled areas, as well as to ensure the swift freedom of movement across the line for humanitarian actors.”
“The United States will continue to press tirelessly for Nadiya's (Nadiya Savchenko) release, as well as the release of all Ukrainians who are being held illegally by the so-called separatists and by Russia.”
“The Ukrainian people are one-of-a-kind, but the situation you find yourselves in is not. People around the world find themselves facing similarly daunting obstacles: corrupt politicians, rotten institutions, powerful oligarchs, and even aggressive neighboring countries intent on meddling in their sovereign affairs. And these people are watching you. They learned from your stand on the Maidan. And they are learning from the struggle that you are waging right now – to build a democracy from the grassroots up.”
About the United Nations
“We can’t get out of the (UN) Security Council what we need, and the Security Council doesn’t live up to its responsibilities because it has given a country – that is an aggressor – in 2014 and 2015 this privilege of having a veto, but we can work through other mechanisms.”
"And the other mechanism … is Western democracy, is Europe and the United States, and others who have – within their power – the ability to stand up for these norms and to put in place measures that will definitely take their toll on the Russian economy in the first instance and – over time – will take their toll on the Russian calculus.”
“The United Nations is documenting what is happening in Crimea. We always emphasize, that, although, the focus now is on the situation in the east of Ukraine, we will never forget about Crimea, and will not stop until Crimea is back under the control of Ukraine.”
“Crimea will remain in our thoughts and in our hearts, and in all our dialogues with the Russian Federation.”
“On all maps the United Nations, Crimea will remain a part of Ukraine, where it should be, and this, believe me, enrages Russia.”
Interview with BBC
“I am very sorry for the Ukrainian government because of what is happening in the country in the past year and a half, because all of this time Russia is trying to turn every aggravation of the situation in the East is somewhat bigger, capturing town after town.”
“Our main task is to try to isolate Russia so that Putin’s conduct changes.”
“The G-7 made it clear that the United States and leading European countries are ready to introduce more stringent sanctions in the event of further aggression.”
“It is important to shame Russia, it is important to tell the truth and it is important that Russia not only feel pressure from the United States that will always be close to the Ukraine, but also the voices from Africa and other regions of the world that are as outraged by the actions of Russia in Ukraine, as United States.”
“America clearly sees the truth about the destabilizing actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.”
“How I'd love to have veto power over their (Russia’s) veto.”
Witnessing Ukraine’s Freedom Mission
During her brief trip to Ukraine, Samantha Power witnessed the Ukrainian nation endeavoring like no other country in history to defend itself against a vicious aggressor, build a democratic life for itself, encourage nascent NGOs to take an active role in civic affairs, and purge the country of internal and external corruption and traitors. She witnessed Ukraine’s genuine achievements, dreams and nightmares. And she saw that Kyiv is striving to fulfill this mission without wide foreign support but unfortunately with a great deal of cynics and naysayers.