20 September 2022
Good afternoon. Thank you Deputy Marshall Włodzimierz Czarzasty for proposing this event and inviting me. And thank you to the Bronislaw Komorowski Institute and the Amicus Europae Foundation for organizing.
It’s an honor to be with you, standing alongside the founding fathers of Poland’s NATO membership.
President Kwasniewski, President Komorowski, Ambassador Koźmiński, it is you that we are celebrating on this occasion. Poland is safe and has become an integral part of our shared security, because you knew the value of joining the most powerful collective defense organization in history.
Statesmen, diplomats, and esteemed members of the audience, all of you played a role and still to do to this day. The solemn obligation NATO members make when they join the alliance doesn’t just end when you’re admitted. It takes constant work and requires great sacrifice.
President Biden knew that Poland was up for this pledge. As a Senator he led the fight for Poland’s admission into NATO. Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did too.
Her crowning diplomatic achievement was helping to bring Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary into NATO. Secretary Albright passed away a few months ago. But her legacy lives on through the alliance that she modernized and expanded.
When Poland joined NATO over two decades ago, the challenges we faced were different. NATO has had to evolve to meet the threats of the 21st century. It’s been Poland on the frontline of these changes.
In 2016, during NATO’s Warsaw Summit, member countries responded to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea by deploying four multinational combat battalions to Poland and the three Baltic States. This represented a shift from ‘assurance’ to ‘deterrence and defense’ and some of the largest NATO deployments since the end of the Cold War.
And when Russia began its brutal, full-scale further assault on Ukraine in February, Poland, the US, and individual member countries immediately responded by providing support that has fueled Ukraine’s latest push back against Russian forces.
Last week, Ukrainians retook more than six-thousand square kilometers from Russian control in September. Putin’s plan is failing.
While we have done so much to support Ukraine, it’s Poland that has truly risen to the moment. Poland’s rapid mobilization has inspired the world.
What Poland and its people have done is akin to America’s response to the attack on Pearl Harbor or the Cold War era-space race. It’s reminiscent of the unstoppable spirit of brave Poles during the Warsaw Uprising and the Solidarity movement.
When millions of people crossed the Polish borders, you welcomed refugees with open arms. You provided hope and stability for Ukrainian families who had lost everything.
This is a very important point so I want to convey it in Polish language:
- Polska ma wiele mocnych stron.
- Polska ma silną gospodarkę.
- Polska ma potencjał innowacyjności.
- Teraz zobaczyliśmy jeszcze: zdolność do szybkiej reakcji całego społeczeństwa i mobilizacji.
- To znaczy: czasami kryzys może opóźnić reakcję.
- Ale nie w Polsce. Tutaj w lutym mogliśmy zobaczyć zdolność do szybkiej mobilizacji całego społeczeństwa.
- Ameryka miała podobne doświadczenia:
- Atak na Pearl Harbor zmobilizował Amerykanów do szybkiego działania w przemyśle wojskowym.
- Drugi przykład, to: Lot na Księżyc w 1969 r. spowodował ogromny rozwój technologiczny.
- Kryzys na Ukraine spowodował ogromną mobilizację w Polsce.
- To daje nadzieję na głębokie zmiany.
And it’s Poland that continues to help the United States and our allies and partners in getting Ukraine the supplies it needs.
Poland has also sent $1.8 billion in military aid to Ukraine. You donated many tanks. You sent artillery and ammunition.
Poland has become a military, economic, and humanitarian hub for Ukraine.
At the same time Poland has been busy shoring up its defense modernization program at lighting fast speed. Billions of dollars are being deployed to purchase trusted U.S. military equipment, Abrams tanks, Patriots, HIMARS, F-35s, and the latest announcement – nearly 100 Apache Helicopters.
If Russian tanks threaten an inch of NATO territory, those Apache helicopters will stop them in their tracks. Apache helicopters are an armored vehicles worst nightmare. They are tank killers.
This equipment ensures U.S., Polish, and NATO troops can mesh and train together. It allows our soldiers to work as one.
Furthering that cooperation is the establishment of a permanent U.S. Forward Command Headquarters in Poznan, now appropriately named “Camp Kosciuszko”. A first for the United States in Poland. A first for us in Central Europe.
This is permanent: it’s a historic tectonic shift. V Corps will coordinate all our land forces in Europe, bringing together any and all capabilities necessary to defend Poland and our NATO Allies.
Additionally, at the NATO Summit in Madrid, President Biden announced more commitments to bolster European security. This includes the establishment of a support Army garrison headquarters in Poznan, along with a field support battalion in Powidz which will maintain U.S. Armored Brigade Combat Team’s worth of equipment. All here on Polish land on a permanent basis.
And that’s not all. Together we are building more than 100 military infrastructure projects in Poland. These support U.S. troops rotating through Poland, provide additional locations to hold joint training exercises, and allow the United States and NATO to even more quickly flow forces to Poland in the event of a crisis.
Poland also showed great foresight working to secure its energy security. The United States stands ready to be a secure supplier of civilian nuclear energy. By selecting U.S. technology, Poland would make another key strategic decision to safeguard its energy security for the century ahead.
I tell you all of this because of the message it sends – that we are together and ready for anything. When it comes to helping Ukraine defend itself, when it comes to making sure that there’s significant pressure on Russia to end this aggression, we are united. It’s our greatest strength.
And the anchor for it all – those NATO accession talks twenty-five years ago.
I lived here before Poland was a member of NATO. In the early 1990’s, I was a Fulbright scholar in Warsaw. I remember how things felt back then, the uneasiness. That has changed. Poland is a case study for the benefits of NATO expansion.
Poland is not anxious or nervous. Poland is confident and secure because of NATO. Because we stand together. An attack on one is an attack on us all. Quite simply we have each other’s backs.
And now Finland and Sweden will have the same reassurances. I lived in Stockholm for four years, where I had the honor to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. What an historic shift! The fact that two traditionally non-aligned countries have made the decision to join NATO speaks to the power of collective defense.
In an almost unanimous vote, the Polish Sejm has backed NATO enlargement to include Finland and Sweden. The United States Senate also overwhelmingly approved Finland and Sweden’s accession into NATO. Bipartisan support, in a day when disagreement and differences can be found at every turn in politics, shows that NATO is something we can all agree on.
And just think – Putin thought he would divide us, instead, we have never been more united. NATO is the cornerstone of it all. This brings to life the words President Harry Truman shared in 1949 when the organization was founded. He hoped that NATO “would create a shield against aggression.” And it has. Because for NATO success is gauged not by wars won but by wars that are prevented and stifled.
I can confidently say that in the twenty-two years that Poland has been a full member you have met your obligations and some. It’s no longer about Poland proving it belongs in NATO instead it’s that NATO wouldn’t be what it is without you.
NATO and Poland need each other. The United States of America and Poland need each other. I am working hard every day to ensure that we stay ever closer together.