Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview with PAP

24 January 2023

PAP: A year has passed since you became the US Ambassador to Poland. Please tell us why it is worth being Ambassador here, and what you have managed to accomplish in this period.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Polish American relations are the strongest they have ever been across the horizon, across the many dimensions of the relationship, despite the fact that there’s a crisis, just on the other side of the eastern border of Poland, in Ukraine, because we are working so closely together, militarily, strategically, economically. And that’s what I’m incredibly proud about one year into my tenure as US Ambassador to Poland. I’m so honored and grateful that President Biden entrusted me with. One year into this time here, I can report to you that we were ready. We were ready for the crisis because well before February 24, President Biden had made the decision to share intelligence with our friends here in Central Europe, to let everyone know, what are the defensive and offensive postures of the Russian military, and to let everyone know what the Russian political elite intended to do with that. So on the day of the invasion, February 24, we: the Americans, the Poles, the central Europeans, we were ready. We were ready to move out, and we were prepared. I think one of the most direct manifestations of that is the fact that one of our premier units, the 82nd airborne, was able to deploy to Rzeszow Poland in 96 hours. That is an incredibly fast response for which one has to be prepared. And that preparation, I’m very pleased to report to you, will take on a more permanent context, because President Biden has decided that the eastern-most permanent US Army Headquarters will be the Fifth Corps Forward Headquarters in Poznan, Poland. So the eastern-most US Army presence for NATO’s eastern flank is in Poland. That designation “permanent” is historic because for hundreds of years, Poles, and Americans have fought for each other’s freedom. Poles have fought and died for American freedom. Americans have fought and died for Polish freedom. So that posture is permanent. What I think is important to report to you is that this military presence, this military collaboration, the fact that American soldiers and Polish soldiers will be shoulder to shoulder has continuity to it. Also the military presence in Rzeszow, I’m pleased to report to you, will have continuity. The 10th Mountain Division will replace the 101st Airborne, and the 10th Mountain Division is one of our known brand military units.

PAP: When will it happen? that shift?

Ambassador Brzezinski: I’m not going to zero in immediately on timing, but soon. The fact is that there will be a rotation and one group will replace another as opposed to a rotation in which one leaves and then there’s no one replacing them. Now we have the 101st, which at some point will rotate out, and then the 10th Mountain Division will rotate in. What I’m here to report to you is that, at least as we talk here, now there’s a continuity to the presence there in Rzeszow. And I think that that is a testimony to the close collaboration between America and Poland. I have worked hard. I have worked my Washington contacts hard to make sure that FMF, foreign military financing, works for Poland. We’ve gotten $192 million for Poland, to help Poland in its purchase of Abrams, to help Poland in its purchase of Apaches and other military equipment. So the military side has a tremendous story to it. And the economic side has a tremendous story to it. Since the collapse of communism in Poland, Polish American trade has increased exponentially every year. And this past year 2022 was the highest increase ever. There’s so much happening and that continues to happen in bilateral trade, American investment in Poland, Polish investment in the United States, that remains a good and even getting better story. And of course, the premiere deal of this past year was Poland’s decision to select Westinghouse, as the provider for its first three units of its nuclear power plant.

PAP: Mr. Ambassador, when can we expect the final agreement on construction of these nuclear power plants in Poland.

Ambassador Brzezinski: This is a multi year deal. It takes a lot of different entities to build a nuclear power plant. The technology has been selected: Westinghouse. That was an incredibly important step to take. We’re pleased that American technology, which is deployed elsewhere, including the United States, has been selected for Poland, as it builds its energy future. Energy security is national security here. Poland is right, Poland is correct, to wean itself, from what many see as the twin addictions of Central Eastern Europe in terms of energy, and that’s Russia sourced energy, and coal, and to head in the direction of civil nuclear power. For America to be the reliable, tried and tested partner of Poland is a good decision, and will absolutely be a keel, a keel in the American Polish special friendship.

PAP: Sir, … the most important US companies are investing right now in Poland like Google and Microsoft …

Ambassador Brzezinski: $1 billion from Google for the Warsaw hub. Microsoft is investing. YouTube is investing. Palantir is investing. These are the premier brands that any American state would love to have.

PAP: Can we expect some big investments in the coming year?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Absolutely. There’ll be spectacular investments in the coming year. No question about that.

PAP: So let’s return for a second to the Russian aggression on Ukraine or just the challenging situation in the security area. So how do you assess the attitude of Polish politicians and society towards this challenging situation?

Ambassador Brzezinski: So you’ve asked several questions in one question. First, the Polish political leadership is with whom we have an absolutely rock solid collaboration, in terms of how we work together militarily and strategically. And you know what the best example of that is: the November evening where we had to figure out what happened in Przewodow. Because at first at 6pm, no one knew what had happened. And what is wonderful is that with Pawel Soloch, with Marcin Przydacz, with Mariusz Blaszczak, with people in the President’s Office, we had discussed intensively what would happen? what would we do together? if a missile (landed)or something happened on NATO soil? How, how would we communicate with with each other? How would we communicate with our respective populations? How would we make decisions? How would we communicate with NATO? The fact that we had talked that through, the fact that we had discussed that in the summer, and in the fall helped us on that day in November that we had to work quickly and closely to figure out what had happened, how to communicate with the Polish and the American people and with the world, how to communicate accurately the facts, and then decide together decide as a product of collective defense decision making, how we would make decisions together, and we did. That, to me, is an example of not talking about working together. That is an example about working together during a difficult moment. So that’s the Polish government. Then there’s the remarkable, empowered Polish people who took on a challenge themselves, and that was the arrival of millions of Ukrainians, practically all at once, and helping them and saying, “You have a place to say; you have food to eat; you have schools to put your children in; and you have doctors to go to; and we will help you. The fact that the Polish government gave arriving Ukrainian refugees, every right that a Polish citizen has practically except the right to vote, and the fact that the Polish people organized, using iPhones, using their own networks to help those Ukrainian people is a precedent setting, historic event that no future mass movement of refugees can ignore. I think that is really important. The Poles and the Polish people have changed the paradigm in terms of embracing a mass group of fellow human beings who had no place to go to make sure that they had someplace to go. That’s why I call Poland a humanitarian superpower. And that’s why it should not be lost on the Poles, that the Nobel Peace Prize this past year, went to civil society organizations in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. But frankly, the issue of what is happening here in the east, was addressed by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. And all the countries here are part of that story.

PAP: So in the context of this spectacular help for Ukrainians, from Poland, how do you assess that the perception of Poland by the international community has changed?

Ambassador Brzezinski: We have welcomed more than 115 members of Congress to Poland since February 24. We have welcomed all of our senior foreign policy leadership from the President and the Vice President on down here. And one thing I hear very regularly is that Poland has transformed the way it has introduced itself to the world through this embrace of the Ukrainian refugees. Do you know Natalie Hawkins, the musician? do you know her music? She has a song called “Love is the answer.” Do you like that song? So to me, that is the song of Poland in 2022. “Love is the answer.” Truly, because the Poles answered a challenge, not by shutting the door, not by saying, “I’m sorry. We too have it bad so we can’t help you. No. They open their homes and their hearts. It is something that every senior member of the US government has been so impressed by. And I’m so proud to be deployed here in Poland, to work with the Polish people, especially at this time, because of that, and because of so many other things

PAP: Your Excellency, “Love is the answer” – but for the people of Ukraine, but probably not for Russia, is not the answer. I want to ask you about some military aspects of that answer to Russia. So probably it is not love. And now we have a situation with Leopards, German tanks. Countries like Poland, like United States, like Great Britain are transferring their military equipment immediately to Ukraine, to the Ukrainian people to the Ukrainian army. But there are some EU and NATO member states that they are hesitating to do it at a good pace. How do you judge Germany, for example, that still hesitates to support Ukraine with military equipment?

Ambassador Brzezinski: So the goal is to support the Ukrainian people in their fight against Russians. And I’m made incredibly proud by how much with synchronicity, efficiency, logistical talent, the Americans, the NATO countries and the Poles have been working together to do exactly that: support the people of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine are winning the war against Russia, and that will continue to be the code case. I’m incredibly proud to work for a President who has maintained Alliance unity. And, you know, that has happened despite the fact that people with principle can differ. The President has maintained Alliance Unity, has maintained a unity of purpose in terms of supporting the Ukrainian people, and a shared definition of the challenge. That is an incredibly important starting point. And I am confident that we in the West will continue to do all …

PAP: All the West? All the NATO Alliance? Don’t you think there is any threat to unity of NATO in the present situation?

Ambassador Brzezinski: The unity of purpose, I think is getting stronger, not weaker. And tragically, that’s thanks to the horrific photos and video we see coming out of Ukraine. It is undeniable that what you see coming out of Ukraine is reminiscent a little bit of what you saw coming from World War Two. It is a horrific, brutal tragedy that everyone wants to stop. Of course, there’s going to be differences between decision makers on tactics. I’m proud to work for president who has maintained a unity of purpose in the face of a big challenge, who understands the dynamics between countries, and of this region, its histories, its cultures, its peoples, like President Biden does.

PAP: Maybe we will stay on military topics. There are many very important crucial contracts, as you said, between Poland and the United States, for example, Patriots. When do you expect the United States to respond to the Polish letter of request for Patriot batteries? Can we expect them very soon? this year? maybe in months?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Supporting and building out the military interoperability between Poland and the United States is a priority. That I can report to you is an overarching guiding thesis under which particular purchases, particular military transfers occur. I am seeing tremendous dynamism and velocity and a commitment to support the Poles from the US military, and from the US military industry. There is a lot on the way. I don’t have specific timelines for you right here, but there is a posture to be as helpful and to be as forward leaning, and to be as positively engaged with the Poles as possible.

PAP: There are terms on different agreements, for example, for Abrams, the new tanks and the older ones, there are two different contracts.

Ambassador Brzezinski: And some have been accelerated.

PAP: I see.

Ambassador Brzezinski: So it took a decision to do that and that decision is informed by a thesis, that we should be positively and constructively engaged militarily with the Poles. The US government and the US military industry are doing what they can and leaning forward to be helpful and constructively engaged. There’s a general realization that Poland is on the border of a war zone, and it has to be able to protect itself. The fact is that we’re organized now, here. We’re organized in terms of troop posture, in terms of the interoperability of the military equipment that we use, in terms of the intelligence that we have, in terms of the intelligence that we share, in terms of our support of the Ukrainians. It is a really positive story of American Polish military collaboration. It’s what we would have wanted to have happened when we were talking 30 years ago about US Polish military cooperation, and what we hoped it would be. It is that.

PAP: Then it was a dream, and now it’s …

Ambassador Brzezinski: … a reality. With very sophisticated equipment, and a lot of it. You have to step back and look at sometimes the broader sense of historical direction. Sometimes one gets caught up in the day to day. The fact is that 30 years ago, when folks were talking about what would collaboration between America and Poland militarily look like? What would NATO membership of Poland look like? What would being a constructive member of NATO for Poland look like? This is happening right now. Poland, is a disciplined participant in the NATO decision making process. We are collaborating closely in terms of what is the definition of Polish security with our troops and with our equipment. Poland is underway with purchases of the most sophisticated land and air and sea equipment that money can buy. That is a positive result from planning years ago. And I think that it’s worth stepping back and taking a look at how quickly this has come together, how solid it is. That is a really important part of the story.

PAP: So, Mr. Ambassador, I would like to ask about the prospects of the war in Ukraine. Do you see any chances for a possible peace agreement with Russia? What conditions must be met in this regard? Or do you think such an agreement is not possible? Will it be a long war or a short war?

Ambassador Brzezinski: We are postured for what I hope doesn’t happen. We are postured for a long and drawn out conflict, but hope very much that leadership somehow prevails on the part of all sides here, and that a diplomatic off ramp can be taken. I’m proud to work for American leaders who give a diplomatic off ramp, a chance. We see no sign, we see zero sign of that being a imminent possibility, but remain hopeful, while at the same time supporting the Ukrainian people in a way that shows that they are winning right now. I’m incredibly proud that President Zelenskyy was able to come to the US Congress in December to speak to the American people, and that we were able to work with his government so that he could be there so that he could talk about what is at stake, and to express the anxieties and uncertainties but also an optimistic sense of direction on behalf of the Ukrainian people. It was a tremendously positive moment in this conflict. And I think this conflict, the collision between authoritarianism and democracy is a defining moment, not just for President Biden, for the West itself, because what is at stake is this, if we are successful, if Ukraine is able to throw out the Russian oppressors occupying Ukraine now, it will be the biggest endorsement of political democracy and free market economy in years. That is what is at stake. I think, over time, we will be successful. So we have a lot riding on this.

PAP: Do you have any priorities for the next successful year, As ambassador of the United States to Poland?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I am so proud to, first of all, work with my 600 Plus colleagues at US Mission Poland. I have the best team imaginable I can work with and we are all committed to what the US president wants us to have with Poland and that is a multi dimensional relationship with Poland. Which means, of course, the military and security side, and that is rock solid, and increasingly close; supporting what Poland is showing the world it is a leader on, and that is humanitarian needs and efforts to help the refugees and the people of Ukraine; to work together on advancing and protecting democracy, rule of law and human rights. As President Biden made clear last March, when he was here, all of us have to work to protect assiduously our democracies. That means America and Poland alike. Then the fourth dimension is the economic relationship, which is powerful and getting stronger. You and I talked about the amazing American companies that are coming here. As Ambassador, I have a series here at the Embassy where I invite CEOs to meet with leading Polish opinion makers from business, government, NGOs, the press and so forth. In the last year I’ve been able to invite the CEO of Google Sundar Pichai, who purchased the Warsaw hub and announced $38 million for Ukrainian refugees; Chris Kaczynski, Polish American, who is the CEO of McDonald’s – over 500 stores – Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, also Polish American announcing 1000s of Polish jobs for you, to Alex Karp of Palantir. These are CEOs that that any country would want to invite in, and any American state would want to host and they are all here in Poland. There’s more coming down the pike, so pleased that they’re here. So proud that they are committed to Poland, that they believe in Poland. So do I.