Samantha Power - The Final Week as President Obama's U.N. Ambassador

January 18, 2017 - Samantha Power 01/18/2017 Views: 1,853

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power talks about working with countries whose policies clash with the U.S.'s and Russia's role in the Syrian civil war. (8:43)

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Please welcome Samantha Power.

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

Thank you.

Welcome to the show, Ambassador.

That's not the reception I getat the United Nations every day,

-(laughter)-so thanks for that.

Uh, I understandthis is your final interview

as ambassador to the U.N.

-So it seems.-Yeah. So, uh,

are you just gonna tell useverything, just, like,

you know, like,for real-for real?

-(laughter)-'Cause what-what can happen?

-You're leaving anyway.-True.

Just spill the beans on the U.N.Let's-let's get into it.

It-it is a... it is a....

a trying time for Americaand, you know,

for administrationschanging over.

But let's-let's take a step back

and just talk aboutwhat your role at the U.N. is.

I mean,it seems self-explanatory,

but what are you doingas an ambassador to the U.N.?

Well, in representingthe United States,

um, I'm sitting behind a placard

that says the "United StatesStates of America,"

and we're the biggestfinancial contributor,

we are the leader--if we don't lead, uh,

-bad guys benefit,-Mm-hmm.

other big countriesthat do bad things

step into the void.

So we use itto mobilize coalitions,

to burden-share.

The rest of the worldpays 78% of the budget,

you know,even as we pay a large share.

So we... look outfor U.S. interests

and the welfareof the American people

but recognize that that'svery tied to collective security

and to the welfareof people around the world.

Now, you-you work at the U.N.,which is an organization

that I feel like, you know,when traveling the world,

is one that is laudedin many places.

Strangely enough,I find, in America,

not many people thinkof the U.N. as an organization

that is still capableof doing anything.

It seems like it's all, uh,you know, a... parade,

as opposedto actually having an effect.

It's symbolic, but itdoesn't seem like it has power.

-Is that true?-No. I mean, it's flawed,

-in the sensethat it's 193 countries, -Yes.

more than half of themare not democratic.

So you're arguing on behalfof democracy and human rights

with countries thatsometimes don't practice it

-within their own borders.-Mm-hmm.

You're arguing for LGBT rightswith people

who criminalize being gay intheir... in their own countries.

It's hard. But when it comesto the kinds of threats

that we face today--terrorists who cross borders,

whose financing moves, you know,through these smuggler networks,

climate change,where no one country

can-can deal with the problembut small island countries

are disappearing underwater

and we're all experiencingextreme weather,

sanctions against Iran,when they're pursuing

a nuclear weapon, so that we canthen bring them to the table

so as to take awaytheir nuclear weapons program--

I mean, none of that can be done

if you didn't havea global organization

where you could bringall countries to the table.

So y-you could do awaywith the U.N. tomorrow

and you'd build itthe day after,

because you have to havea global organization.

You have to have rulesin the world,

or that's gonna hurtthe American people

-and people everywhere.-It-it must be

a little bit strange--I mean, maybe I'm wrong--

but being in a positionwhere you-you are still

the ambassador to the U.N.and you-you have been

all through the transitionsince the election.

Donald Trump has gone againstmost of the policies

that you-you said, you know,like climate change,

working together,building coalitions.

Are people, like,looking at you,

trying to ask you questions,like, uh,

"What's up with that guy?"You know?

N-Now and then.


I'll-I'll take that.That's fine.

I-I understand.You're an ambassador.

I'll take that. Um...

-Let's talk, let's talk about...-Talk to me Friday at 12:01.

Oh, I'll do that, I'll do that,I'll do that.

We'll have... we'll havethe follow-up to this.

-We'll have the follow-up.-(cheering and applause)

The, um...

Let's talk a little bit

about your-your addressesthat you gave.

You know, two addressesthat have been about leaving.

And I think they both had

really interesting pointsthat you brought up.

One, which you gave, addressedthe fact that you felt

that the UN Councildidn't do enough

to deal with what happenedin Syria.

When you said that, though,what does that mean?

Because some people go,what could have been done?

Well, Russia is a permanentmember of the Security Council,

a privilege afforded to onlyfive of us 71 years ago,

-after the Second World War.-Mm-hmm.

And Russia used its vetotime and again

whenever we proposed puttingpressure on the Assad regime,

which was gassing its people,barrel-bombing its people,

systematically torturingits people.

Had we been able to forge unity,uh, with Russia,

had there been more--

you know, even if they wantedto back the regime,

but a much morecritical relationship,

where they were really pressingfrom behind the scenes

to get the regime to stopthe tactics that it used,

which only just incitesmore terrorism

and draws peopleinto the fray.

Um, then, you know,maybe we could have had

a political solution earlier.

Uh, but the system is vulnerable

when one of thepermanent members chooses

to render the Council paralyzedby using the veto.

I-I understand that Russia,you know,

has to take a lot of blame.

I mean, the world saw how Putinsupported Assad,

regardless of his actions.

But surely there's a part of,you know,

whether it's the U.S.or the ambassador's team,

that looks at the situationand goes,

in hindsight, had you actedmaybe in 2011, 2012.

I mean, for instance,Hillary Clinton, herself,

talked about how arming therebels at the time in Syria,

may have stopped Assad

from being as powerfulas he was.

Do you sometimes look backat that

and think of a different wayit may have been handled?

Well, let me say that anythingthat we did of-of, uh,

you know,a more aggressive nature

would have not beenwith the approval

of the security council,

-so you run into a whole...-Yeah.

And that, you know, when ournational interests are at stake,

and certainly if the U.S. were,uh, at direct risk--

you know, fundamen... and Russiawere blocking something, I...

You know, any president,I think, is gonna look out

for the American peoplefirst and foremost.

This was a humanitarian issue.I look back every...

if not every minute of everyday, certainly every day

and ask myself "what morecould have been done?"

And you can'tlook at a situation

-where 400,000 peoplehave been killed, -Yeah.

half the population displaced,

ISIL, who we're, you know,now, uh, beating back

and has lost a lotof its territory,

but nonetheless establisheda foothold. I mean,

we all have to ask ourselvesthat question.

But in doing so we can'tlose sight of the fact

of who it was that was killingcivilians in Syria.

And sometimes,in the recriminations,

it's, you know, the-the...there's... one can lose sight

of-of who the perpetrators were.And we can't do that now,

as the Obama administration,and we can't do it after Friday.

I mean, when I got into my jobin 2013,

we had problems on Syria,but we hadn't yet seen

Russia go into Ukraineand lop off part of a neighbor,

which is a violation ofthe core principle in the U.N.

-which is you don't do that.Um... -(laughter)

Uh... Exactly.

And then, in Syria,they not only were vetoing

on behalf of Assadbut then got involved themselves

and started usingthese horrific weapons,

you know, that hit schoolsand hospitals and so forth.

And, again, there need to berules in terms of how, uh,

conflict, uh, is wagedwhen it is waged.

And-and there have been.

But when a-a big powerlike Russia violates those rules

alongside Syria, you know,those rules become less binding

for-for other would-be,uh, bad guys.

So then, on top of all of that,we start to see them

pumping money into electionsin Europe

on behalf of illiberal parties,

wanting to kind of exportthe Putin model.

And, lo and behold,in our own election,

we saw a very significanteffort, uh, to interfere

and to indeed change the outcomeof the election.

To seek to changethe outcome of the election. So

I felt, in leaving, as a newadministration is taking over,

uh, that it was really importantto pull the pieces together

and say,"Look, this is a government now

"that we, as a people,have to unite,

"uh, seeing clear-eyedwhat they are doing,

"maintaining sanctions for-forwhat they have done in the past,

-until the behavior changes,open to diplomacy..." -Yeah.

The-the only waythis is going to get resolved--

I agree with everyone who says--

uh, is-is throughthe political track.

But that doesn't meanyou practice historical amnesia

and that, when you take office,you forget recent history,

because that law-breaking,that rule-breaking,

that assaulton the international order

is something thatis really gonna hurt America

and it's gonna hurt peopleall around the world.

And how we respond is somethingthe North Koreas,

the Iranians,and even the non-state actors

and the terrorists are watching.

I, um... I just want to say,thank you for your time.

You've had, honestly, one of thetoughest jobs in the world,

in the world,

and, uh, we appreciateeverything you've done.

-Good luck on your futureventures. -Thank you.

-I've been very blessed. -Andenjoy the end of the world.

-Thank you. Thank you.-Thank you so much.

Ambassador Samantha Power,everybody.