Ambassador Mark Brzezinski
Remarks at an American Chamber of Commerce in Poland Meeting
June 5, 2023
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Thank you so much for inviting me to join you for this important meeting.
I want to tee off what Tony [Housh, Chairman, American Chamber of Commerce in Poland Board of Directors] referred to in terms of the collaboration between my Embassy team, the AmCham, the people of Poland, government institutions in Poland. It’s been a privilege to work with the American companies and the people of Poland during this pivotal time in history. I really feel that never before has there been such a combination of the American company footprint abroad and addressing a need collectively to help people.
I’m not a sociologist, [but] years from now, when the history of this Ukraine war is written, I feel the private sector will be given a prominent shout-out for having stepped up. That’s the AmCham, and that’s others: that’s Uber; that’s Amazon; that’s Google; that’s Microsoft; that’s McDonald’s. You guys have done – you are the story.
You have helped people, and you have not been indifferent. I think that that’s really important, because I think if there’s anything we learn from history, whether it’s struggles in America or struggles in Europe, it’s the importance of not being indifferent. The American companies in this room and more have absolutely not been indifferent to this challenge, and we are so proud of you. Jesteśmy z Was dumni.
This truly is a transformational moment for the world and for the Polish-U.S. friendship. The war in Ukraine, Russia’s continued aggression, has allowed us to see Putin’s true colors. And it’s also the true colors of others; it’s the true colors of the like-minded countries around the world, who have come together to support a common cause: Freedom.
International cooperation has been our greatest strength. I’m proud that President Biden and the Biden Administration wasted no time in building a coalition of nations – more than 50 nations – to respond emphatically to Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine. Now over a year later, maintaining alliance unity among 50 countries who have differentiated, shared, and differing interests with this part of the world – that he has maintained that alliance is one of President Biden’s greatest accomplishments.
Even before the war, it was President Biden who anticipated the war in Washington, with our allies, through robustly sharing intelligence – robustly sharing intelligence with the Poles, with the Baltic States – about what are the defensive and offensive structures of the Russian military; what does Russia’s political elite intend to do with it. So that by February 24, we were ready. We knew with a scientific level of knowledge the border crossings between Poland and Ukraine, and we were ready for action.
Poland’s role has been pivotal. President Biden proudly came to Warsaw twice in under a year to share that message himself, and to share his appreciation personally, as he put it: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you to the Polish people.
Much of the praise for the humanitarian, economic, and military support for Ukraine goes to the Polish people, who have stepped up in a remarkable way. This country, Poland, has shown a level of kindness and generosity we have seldom seen in world history. And believe me, I have heard the stories. I’ve heard the stories of how hard it is to think that you’re hosting a family for three months, and 16 months later, you’re still driving forward, and persevering, and embracing that family. That is awesome, and I know it’s tough.
President Biden and I cannot thank enough the Polish people for the support they have shown to millions of refugees that crossed into Poland over the last year. These efforts have fundamentally changed – I want to emphasize this as a Polish-American, polskie pochodzenie –these efforts have fundamentally changed the public perception of Poland. This country has led with heart and empathy to help ensure the security and prosperity of the entire region.
This moment has also brought our countries in the region closer together, while it has made the Polish-U.S. friendship stronger. Poland has become one of our most important allies and partners given its critically important role: eighty percent of all the supplies getting to Ukraine come [through] Poland.
As we continue to stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes, as American businesses in this room step up in remarkable ways to support the brave people of Ukraine, we also have to start planning for what comes next. And that includes you.
This will involve a rebuilding plan not seen since the days of the Marshall Plan. Unity and collaboration from the public and the private sector to the business community will remain key as we work together to revitalize and reinvent the region. As Secretary of State Tony Blinken, my boss, said in Finland last week, when he was welcoming Finland in joining NATO, he said we don’t want Ukraine just to survive; we want Ukraine to thrive. And we want to Ukraine to thrive in a thriving, prosperous region.
I believe that Poland will play a massive leadership role in this transformation and rebuilding, and we at the U.S. Embassy have already begun to try to think through what, at least [what] we see from the Embassy perspective, are the low hanging fruit in terms of what Poland can offer in this regard.
It’s this country’s own economic triumphs over the last two decades that can serve as a poignant example of what is possible for Ukraine and what is possible for the region if we get this right. As all of you know, Poland has an incredible economic story, successfully emerging from the shadows of communism to build a thriving economy that can serve as a model for others. Poland ranks second in the world in terms of total GDP growth in the 30-year period from 1990 to 2020. What an awesome, impressive statistic. Polish people are tak pracowici – they’re so hard working.
U.S. companies have participated also in this success story, and I am confident we will see continued broad success and a strengthening of our U.S.-Poland bilateral trade relationship in the months and years ahead, as we work together to build a brighter future.
But I really want to emphasize this: underpinning that must be a shared embrace – a shared American-Polish embrace – of values and democratic practice, including ensuring there is a level playing field and the context in which any transfer of power is peaceful, is orderly, and respectful of the will of the people.
Protecting our shared democracies is further strengthening the depth of the defense sector in our bilateral relationship. Poland has been rapidly implementing its defense modernization program and has purchased billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment. These investments, in addition to the U.S. military presence in Poland, send a clear message that NATO’s eastern flank is secure and that Poland remains safe.
We also know that Poland is a great place to manufacture products. It’s a great place for engineering, tech innovation, and building regional hubs. As we look to the future and consider how best we can support Ukraine in the region as it recovers from Russia’s brutal war, I remain deeply confident in the friendship we have built. Poland and the United States are linked on so many levels.
And, I think we’re just getting started.
Thank you so much.