19 October 2022
Raphael Minder, Financial Times: Hello, everyone. I’m Raphael Minder. I’m the Central Europe correspondent for The Financial Times based in Warsaw. It’s a huge privilege to be able to speak remote with the two people who are helping shape the relationship between Poland and the United States: Ambassador Mark Brzezinski from Warsaw and Ambassador Marek Magierowski in Washington. I guess my starting point is to ask to what extent you feel President Putin has achieved exactly the opposite of what he was hoping for by actually reinforcing the ties between the two countries and more broadly Western Europe and the United States – and how this is translating on the economic agenda. How much are businesses seeing favorable circumstances now for their cross Atlantic cooperation?
Ambassador Magierowski: I believe there is a long list of major accomplishments that Mr. Putin has achieved over the last couple of months. First of all, he has enlarged NATO by himself, with Sweden and Finland about to join the organization shortly. He has reinvigorated the European Union foreign policy. He has somehow also triggered a paradigm shift in Germany’s foreign policy and I believe that those counterproductive measures have also contributed pretty largely to the strengthening of the bond between Poland and America in many respects, not only politically and militarily, but also economically.
Ambassador Brzezinski: Let me add to what my friend Marek Magierowski said by adding the following. Never before has the special friendship between America and Poland been as close. We are meshed together, especially because of the security situation. Of course, American and Poland have a centuries long friendship and sacrifice for each other’s freedom. But today, we have more than 10,000 American soldiers all on Polish soil, on Polish bases spread out all across the country. And we have, for the first time, the designation of “permanent”, a permanent US presence militarily in Poland, through the US Army Fifth Corps Forward Command Headquarters in Poznan. These are things I am sure Putin wouldn’t have wanted to have seen. And it is exactly the result of his horrific attack on Ukraine that is why they have become manifest. In terms of the American Polish business relationship: it is as strong as ever. Great American companies like Google which just purchased the Warsaw hub for $1 billion; YouTube, which announced 1000s of Polish jobs when its CEO visited several months ago, is just a reflection of what many American companies are doing, which is fully investing in the talent and potential of the Polish people to have a global business. We’re seeing that from the American Embassy in a big amount.
Raphael Minder, Financial Times: Could you perhaps give us some more thoughts about other areas. For example, we are interested in energy. Energy is one of the big topics at the moment. Westinghouse, an American company, is in the running to take part in Poland’s nuclear program. What potential do you see for that and other deals to come through? and how fast do you think companies will be moving in with some of the projects?
Ambassador Brzezinski: Sure. And of course, you know, energy is not just about business. It’s about security. Military to military in terms of security is good. But the security context is broader, and of course includes energy security, very pertinent in this part of the world because Russia has used energy as a weapon against its neighbors. Poland has tremendous business and industry growth potential that will require a commensurately big increase of power production. And as it weans itself away from the use of coal and Russian sources of energy, nuclear energy is really one of the sources that most reliably could power Poland for the next 100 plus years. Westinghouse and Bechtel are two of the most respected, professional American companies, which have built large scale reactors elsewhere in the world. Poland has received a bid from Westinghouse and Bechtel, that I think would absolutely capture both the global reach of America’s nuclear industry, but also the local roots of Polish talent when it comes to nuclear power production. The fact that the US Department of Energy has conveyed to the government of Poland that should Westinghouse Bechtel be selected, the US Department of Energy will place a center of excellence on nuclear power and clean energy in Poland to connect with the great American government national labs, I think is an added benefit from this project.
Ambassador Magierowski: I wouldn’t like to go into detail (…), because there has been some media (…) recently in terms of that particular bid, but I would like to stress one thing very clearly, Poland has been prescient all along with regard to energy security. We were warning that President Putin would one day weaponize energy, and it is happening as we speak. Poland inaugurated its first LNG terminal a few years ago. We’re now importing gas also from American companies, also from the Middle East. A few weeks ago we opened the Baltic Pipe which is now transferring gas from the Norwegian continental shelf via Denmark, to the Polish stretch of the Baltic coast. And we have decided not to renew the long term contract with Gazprom, the Russian company, which actually renders Poland entirely independent of imports of Russian gas, which is a very good sign, also, a strong signal to our partners in Europe. I’m not saying that we have always been right and our partners in the European Union have always been wrong. But I think this is our common obligation now to brace ourselves to prepare properly for the upcoming winter and to cooperate also in this field. One more point, when we talk about the benefits, which have somehow emerged after the beginning of the war and the strengthening of the economic bond between Poland and America: I think when we talk about the Russian style of conducting diplomacy, which is reminiscent of what we saw during the Cold War, in the Soviet times, the Russians and especially Mr. Putin considers diplomacy as a zero sum game. Someone has to win and someone has to be defeated. The same principle, I believe applies also to economic cooperation. We all see mutual benefits, when we sign contracts, when we enter into negotiations with our American partners, with French, with Germans, Austrians, Spaniards, and this is something we have also as a relatively new member of the Western coalition, NATO and the European Union, we have contributed pretty largely to that economic cooperation. One of my urgent and immediate tasks here as Polish Ambassador to the United States, in various talks I have already held with my American interlocutors is to go straight to them that Poland remains a very stable country, both politically and economically, in spite of the ongoing war in Ukraine. On the contrary, Poland is much stronger now – also in terms of the business environment, taxation, and so on and so forth. I’m really glad that so many American investors are still interested in investing in Poland and in Central Europe. You know, we need many more American troops, but actually, we also need many more American companies and American managers on the ground. I believe economic deterrence is as important as military deterrence, especially in the face of endless Russian aggression and aggressiveness towards its neighbors.
Raphael Minder, Financial Times: You just mentioned a relationship with Europe, the European Union. I wanted to ask you. I’ve been here just a few months, but it’s noticeable that the rhetoric about America sitting here in Warsaw is extremely positive. Not so some of the commentary about the European Union, including in particular Germany, in its response to the invasion of Ukraine. I would like to know, do you believe there is an opportunity for American business, American interests, to perhaps take advantage of some of the tensions between the EU and Poland and actually have a stronger say, on the ground in Poland, as a result?
Ambassador Magierowski: I wouldn’t encourage my American friends to take advantage of this particular situation. These hypothetical potential tensions, which have always existed between Poland and the European Commission and some EU institutions, but also between other countries within the framework of this organization. As I said, this should be based on the concept and on the vision of mutual benefit. So we are very strongly in favor of deepening transatlantic cooperation. And I believe that this particular relationship between Poland and America also, with regards to our economic cooperation can be advantageous for, not only Poland, not only America, but also for the European Union. As I said, what we are facing now is a rivalry, a very serious and long term confrontation with pure evil. We are fighting Russia. Ukraine is fighting not only for its freedom, and its sovereignty, but also for all of us. So it is very important for us to maintain the strong political and economic bonds, not only, let me stress this again, not only between Poland and America, but also between the European Union and the United States.
Ambassador Brzezinski: And if I could add to that, just trying to offer a sense of historical direction. Ukraine may win. Ukraine may throw the Russians out. That’s very much what we hope for, and we’re trying to support. If and when that happens, Poland, in particular, will be poised to help in the next phase. Thanks to the embrace by the Polish people of Ukrainian refugees, Poland has a special credibility. There is a special affection for Poland, in Ukraine, because of all they have done. The Poles have shown that they know how to collaborate and work with Ukrainians, which when the Ukrainians win, will be beneficial to rebuilding a strong, democratic free market economy in Ukraine. Geo-strategically in terms of its location, but now also because of its practice of helping the Ukrainians, the Poles are well positioned to be super helpful in a post Russia attack Ukraine, once the Ukrainians win in a unique and important way. I will add to that, I also feel having now been a good amount of time in Poland as US Ambassador: 2022 will, I think, be a special year in terms of the emerging Polish leadership. I think, years from now, when that young person who’s organizing a clothing drive in Bydgoszcz, or a soup kitchen in Krakow, or organizing a GoFundMe page for a family in Warsaw and an apartment – when he or she becomes the President of Poland 20 or 30 years from now 2022 will be for Poland what 9/11 was for many Americans. Many Americans joined the State Department and serve with me now here at US Embassy Warsaw because of what happened on 9/11. I think there will be a leadership quality that comes out of the young generation because of what happened in 2022 that will make Poles even better leaders because of the way they stepped up and rapidly mobilized this year.
Raphael Minder, Financial Times: If I can end on a more regional note, President Duda was behind the launch of the Three Seas Initiative in 2015. It has had some results. LNG being one of the areas. The State Department under the administration of Donald Trump committed $1 billion dollars, I believe, to the initiative. I’d like to know exactly how much more you think this initiative can achieve as part of this eventual reconstruction process, post war, in Ukraine.
Ambassador Magierowski: Well (I view) the Three Seas Initiative as a huge opportunity not only for American companies to invest in the region, which has been somehow neglected over the last three decades after the transition, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in particular, in terms of infrastructure. We need much more infrastructure; we need gas interconnectors; we need roads and seaports, and this is what American investors should be thinking about. I’m glad that the American administration and private contractors have already committed huge amounts of money to this initiative. We’re still waiting for the realization of those plans, but I believe this is not only a very ambitious, but also very promising project for all of us.
Ambassador Brzezinski: And I will just add to that, that Central Europe, and Poland in particular, are poised for a modernization in energy, and infrastructure more generally, that will be historic, in terms of its change and its impact on people. The Three Seas Initiative is absolutely the focal point through which a regional approach can be done on this. A regional approach is the most strategic and the most efficient way of doing that, and the Biden administration has stepped up to support the Three Seas Initiative as a result.
Raphael Minder, Financial Times: Well, thank you very much. I’m afraid we’ve run out of time. It’s been a huge privilege to moderate this. Thank you to both ambassadors.