Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview with Polish Radio

29 March 2023

Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio: First Ambassador, thank you very much for hosting us here.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Thank you for coming to the embassy. “Witamy.”

Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio: Thank you very much. Mr. Ambassador, a couple of days ago, the US Army opened its first garrison in Poland. So is it fair to say that at last – for the Polish side – at last the US Army has its first permanent base here in Poland.

Ambassador Brzezinski: As a Polish American, I could not be more proud of the decision of President Joe Biden to permanently place US troops and US military offices here in Poland: a Fifth Corps Forward Command Headquarters in Poznan, a garrison to support the troops in Poznan. And then other steps will be taken as well. But yes, this is a real breakthrough. And it is a historic moment. I have been watching Poland for my entire life. And I know well enough that Jan Nowak Jezioranski, my late father Zbigniew Brzezinski, others really hoped for this moment, really hoped for the imprimatur of the word “permanent”, to be associated with the US military footprint in Poland. And now it is. And that’s because, quite frankly, both sides respect each other. Both sides trust each other. And both sides will fight for each other to defend freedom, a freedom that for the first time in history we both share. Because for centuries, either it was America fighting for Polish freedom or Poles like Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Casimir Pulaski, fighting for American freedom. We live in a moment when America and Poland share the same freedom. And it’s worth fighting for.

Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio: Of course, I guess we all would like the circumstances of all of this to be very much different in terms of the war in Ukraine, but speaking of Ukraine, what are the next steps that the US will provide militarily to Ukraine? fighter jets? Or is that still the “no go zone”?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, we all wish the circumstances were better. That couldn’t be more true, especially for the Ukrainian people who are being victimized and are suffering through a horrific, unprovoked attack by Russia. It is also the case that the best of people, the best of humanity, is being shown here in Poland, by the rapid mobilization of people to embrace the Ukrainian refugees. So I want to really flag that, because this is so important to my president, President Joe Biden, that we say to the Polish people: “Dziekuje, dziekuje, dziekuje.” He said in the Old Town Square, “thank you, thank you, thank you,” when he visited about a month ago, because of this embrace of the Ukrainian refugees, that the Polish people are doing. There’s not a city in Poland that I’ve been to – and I’ve been here for 14 months, and I’ve been all around Poland – there is not a city in Poland, where I have not heard the Ukrainian language being spoken. And that is an amazing thing. The fact that the Poles have welcomed their neighbor under siege is so inspiring. And so in terms of fighting back, in terms of doing something against the oppressor, Poland is very much showing the way in terms of refugees, in terms of tactical military operations. First and foremost, we have around 10,000 US troops in Poland. And I always like to say when I meet with the media: “Polska jest bezpieczna i Polska jest zabezpieczona.” Poland is safe, and Poland is secure. And as President Biden put it, we will defend every square inch of NATO, which, of course, includes Poland. In terms of what we’re doing to support the Ukrainian people: well, tactically, there is a dynamic quality to it. Because we have evolved as the Russian attacks, unprovoked attacks on Ukraine, have changed. And I can’t foresee tactically how those will further evolve. But I can report to you that in the course of the last 14 months, what has happened is that we first supplied javelins to the Ukrainian people because they were being attacked in one kind of way at the beginning. And then the Ukrainian cities were being bombarded. So HIMARS was the response, and HIMARS were being transferred. And now it’s tanks. So hopefully the war will stop soon. But we are with the Ukrainian people in terms of their ability and their right to defend themselves and to defend their lives.

Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio: I remember the NATO Summit in 2014 when there was a huge mental Revolution, when the leaders decided to form the NATO spearhead in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Right now, it looks like a normal thing to bolster the security of the eastern flank. So what are the next steps that the US are planning in terms of the eastern flank. You mentioned that the US has 10,000 troops here. But Vladimir Putin is not a man who will let us rest.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Sure. I will also say that the US military plans for every contingency, every minute of every day, and we are ready here in Poland. Importantly, we’ll be having a NATO summit coming up soon in Vilnius, where collective security planning will be developed among leaders of the NATO Pact states. That will be a very important next step. We are watching the horizon closely. What this moment shows, in many ways, is that collective defense works. Collective defense is what was initiated even before the conflict began with President Biden’s decision to share secret, confidential intelligence, with our friends here in Central and Eastern Europe. The Baltic states, Poland, among others, were given detailed plans regarding what Russia’s defensive and offensive posture was in Central Europe, and what its political elite intended to do with it. That advanced planning allowed everyone to be prepared on February 24. I think that’s a testament of the closeness of the dialogue, of the engagement all sides have in this in this crisis. This crisis has brought us closer together. This crisis has actually made us – as sad as it is and as many victims as there are – has made us better allies with each other. There is a discipline and a dialogue and a respect, shared training, exercises, engagements, exchanges, that allow us to have synchronicity, in terms of the most important service that a government can provide its people in terms of security.

Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio: So what would be the main aim, the US would like to achieve at the NATO summit in Vilnius?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Continuing to be successful in advancing collective defense, because collective defense is what ultimately NATO is all about. And the Ukraine crisis shows that in the face of a really horrific attack, collective defense can keep the war from expanding. Collective defense can allow a sense of trust, and a sense of idea sharing and shared tactics to be generated. It can allow a fulsome support of a beleaguered people, the poor Ukrainian people. Imagine this time last year; think to back this time last year. Would you have imagined the Ukrainian people doing as well as they are doing, defending against the organized Russian military? The fact is, the Ukrainian people have shown them infinitely more adept at protecting and defending their country and their people and the Russian military to be much worse than we we thought. That’s good news.

Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio: A couple of days ago, Germany has finally delivered tanks to Ukraine, after (one might) say enormous pressure from the US from Poland and other NATO countries. Also, a couple of weeks ago, they’ve announced military exercises, NATO military exercises, including the US, Germany, of course, Poland and other nations. There is still no official decision where and when these military exercises will take place. Do you think it should be done sooner rather sooner than later?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I don’t want to talk specifics about exercises because those are tactics that should remain within the planning of the Department of Defense on our side, and the Ministries of Defense of the various countries that participate. But we absolutely do want there to be exercises and shared planning and shared preparation between countries in this part of the world. Much like after World War Two, ultimately, there was German French reconciliation. After the collapse of communism, after 1989 there was really a wonderful reconciliation between Poland and Germany, that resulted in a lot of active shared economic advancement, that resulted in a lot of people to people exchanges, that resulted in political engagement that benefited our respective peoples. Now we share a crisis. This crisis in Ukraine is not just the Ukrainians’, and it’s not just Poland’s, and it’s not just the United States’. It’s an international challenge, and it’s important for others to share in and to join in addressing that crisis. That’s the most important thing that we can do right now. Bringing in other European participants in this dialogue and in addressing the needs, and bringing in others from around the world to participate in, in providing resources to address the needs is an important form of leadership that I we’re seeing here, that we need to even see more of.

Wojciech Cegielski, Polish Radio: So finally, let me ask you about the future in the US, which might be a kind of crystal ball. But nevertheless, the US is right now the biggest military donor to Ukraine. But in 2024, there are presidential elections. We might say that the US has entered the pre-campaign right now. And some of the prominent Republican politicians, like for example Governor DeSantis, say that we don’t need to supply Ukraine as much as the U.S. is doing right now. Governor DeSantis, even called the War “a dispute” between Russia and Ukraine. How much of this military support, which is right now provided to Ukraine, will be provided after 2024, in case Republican should win the White House?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, in addressing that question, I want to take as my starting point, my fundamental view on American politics, which is: people with principle can disagree. I, for one, believe that the finest hour of President Biden, in terms of his administration, has been this crisis here in Central Europe. We have a statue across the street from the American embassy of President Ronald Reagan, who did important and great things to advance peace and democracy in this part of the world. I think without question, going down in history as a remarkable global leader, will be Joe Biden, because of the way he has handled this crisis. His preparation for this crisis was developing relationships with leaders in this part of the world, learning about the history and the cultures and societies of this part of the world, understanding the vulnerabilities of this part of the world. And that’s what led him to important decisions regarding how to support the Ukrainian people, how to advance the Alliance to make sure collective defense works, how to share information that we have about the attacker, Russia, in a useful and consultative and catalytic way. And so, my view is that a leader who supersedes politics has begun to emerge because of this crisis. President Biden was brave, and gutsy to go to Kyiv. He didn’t have to do it. No one told him to do it; that’s for sure. He did it because he wanted to. And he wanted to do it for some time. And he flew all night, and then got on a train and took a train all night, to get to Kyiv, in a country where there is no US military installation, and he put his feet on the ground. And then, as part of the package, came to Warsaw, and told his story to the world. I’m fine with that leadership. That’s something that’s neither Democrat or Republican; that is uniquely wonderful. So that’s my perspective on the whole thing. In the end, people with principle can disagree and they can have their various viewpoints, but I see what’s working. This a hard situation over here in Central Europe, and I think what the Americans are doing alongside with the Poles and others is working