Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview Polasat

15 April 2022

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski. Thank you for your time, sir.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Hello, Jan. Welcome to the US Embassy’s Chief of Mission residence. So happy to have you here.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: Thank you, sir. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy insists that the fate of the war in his country depends on American military assistance. Are you convinced the United States and other NATO countries are doing enough to help Ukraine win this war? Ukraine is awaiting another massive offensive in the eastern half of the country, and they’re still awaiting heavy weaponry.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, the result that we hope, Jan, that eventually occurs in Ukraine is that the Ukrainian people win, and they push the Russian invaders out. The United States government is the number one supplier of support to the Ukrainian fight right now. And although I don’t want to share too many specifics, we’re talking about 50 million rounds of ammunition. We’re talking about 1000s of stingers and javelins, and other systems and weapons that we are sending in. So I feel that the results speak for themselves, a Russian ship was sunk last night. I mean, that is something when that happens. But at the same time, Russia is showing that its military is capable of tremendous cruelty and barbarity. And we have to take on board that there are crimes, probably war crimes, being committed. And so we are also getting ready to help with investigations, and hopefully, ultimately, prosecutions for what is happening there. But on the security and military side, we’re providing a lot of support.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: … but not military aircraft. And President Zelenskyy still asks for jets, for fighter jets.

Ambassador Brzezinski: But we also have our own assessment of the facts of the battlefield. And the fact is that some of the things that people have talked about tactically wouldn’t change the facts on the battlefield. Some may even be escalatory. We have to keep in mind, Jan, there are things that could be done here, that could make matters worse, and we don’t want to do that.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: President Biden says he’s making a decision on sending US officials to Ukraine. Leaders of Poland, the Baltic States, Britain, European Commission already visited Kyiv in last days. Can Ukraine expect a high level American visit, an American show of support, kind of soon, President Biden himself said he’s ready to go to Ukraine.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Sure. And I know our president and his vision, and he’s working hard to free Ukraine. And we have seen arriving in this country, virtually all of our top leaders. I think that the security context in Ukraine, at least at this moment, doesn’t lend itself for that kind of the activity and that kind of visit. But I’m the US Ambassador to Poland. And I’m working hard on the security context in this country, and don’t want to go more into what might happen in terms of US visits to Ukraine. A presidential visit is not possible anytime soon. But Secretary of State or Defense is a different story. I’m not going to speak to that. I will say that the security context in Ukraine is dangerous. We’re focusing on helping the Ukrainians win the war. And we’re going to keep our focus on that. I will say we have had the most top US leaders possible visit Poland: President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Blinken twice, Secretary of Defense Austin twice in the last eight weeks, we have other high level visits coming down the pike, all who are conveying one universal message: the US will defend every inch of NATO territory, and that includes Poland. And as a result, Poland is safe, and Poland is secure.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: You were with President Biden during his visit to Poland. You listened to his address. What would you say to Ukrainians who were disappointed with the lack of details or the lack of red lines for Putin.

Ambassador Brzezinski: I think that the President conveyed the vision that we have a strategy to tactically implement, and that is Ukraine should be free. And Poland will be safe, and we will do all that we need to do to make those two things occur. Sometimes it’s good if the specifics aren’t in the news, Jan. We don’t want the wrong ears hearing some of these things. And as I said before, there are things that could be done that could make matters worse. Importantly, we have a strategic relationship now with the government of Poland that is looking past secondary issues, and focusing heavily on what is happening with regard to the Ukraine crisis, while at the same time making clear that the fight for democracy, the fight for equality, the fight for values, a shared focus on the economy, is part and parcel of our interdependent relationship with each other.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: After Bucha, after Borodianka, after Irpin, Mariupol, after President Biden’s words of genocide, do you see any chance for talks with Putin? The President of Lithuania, stated after visiting Ukraine that we should lose illusions that this war may be stopped by diplomacy.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well tragically, we are now bearing down for the long haul. And our contingency planning now focuses on long term contexts. Tragically, I think that Putin has convinced himself that he’s doing the right thing for the Russian people, when I can’t imagine anything worse that he could be doing for the Russian people, Russian people, Russian young people, want a connection with the rest of the world. They want to do business; they want to travel; they want to be educated elsewhere in the world. All that is stopped and will be stopped going forward for some kind of mystical idea of a resurrection of some kind of Russian superstate that is totally crazy and sacrificing the future for the rising generations. It is a complete tragedy. But no, we are bearing down for the long haul. Of course, we are continuing to hope that some kind of diplomacy can result in a) ending the bloodshed and b) getting the Russians out of Ukraine.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: For Poland, Mr. Ambassador, one of the absolutely most important things is permanent US bases on Polish Soil. The highest ranking US military commander, General Milley, said he supports this idea. Is this already decided? Can we expect permanent US military bases on Polish soil?

Ambassador Brzezinski: All I can tell you right now at this moment, is that we have doubled the US military footprint in this country over the last three months. We now have 10,500 troops in Poland. And that is 10% of our footprint in all of Europe. We also have the best equipment here as well to support those troops, whether it’s F15s, or Patriot defense systems, and others and so we are postured to do what needs to be done to protect this NATO member state. What happens in the future will be shaped by developments on the battlefield and on the ground here. I don’t want to comment on those because I don’t want people to anticipate them. But we are absolutely committed to Poland’s security.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: Any chance for decisions in June at the NATO Summit in Madrid?

Ambassador Brzezinski: I think the NATO summit in June will be a real opportunity for the leaders of all the NATO pact states to convey really what was conveyed at the original signing of the Atlantic Charter decades ago. And that is a unity of purpose and a shared definition of the threat. And I really, quite frankly, am proud of President Biden, for having maintained NATO consensus at this time, because there are a lot of differentially situated countries, when it comes to this crisis. Take the energy situation. It will be important for Poland’s future to wean itself away from two things that were part of its past. And that is Russian energy and coal. And a lot of work is being done in diversification of energy sources. And we are working closely and in close dialogue with the Poles to get the best of American technology in Poland to provide an essential part of the security in this country and in this part of the world, and that is energy security.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: Are you disappointed with the German and Hungarian stance on energy after Putin started this war?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I will say that it’s good that Nord Stream two is dead. I think that the facts anticipated that and the facts speak for themselves. And I think that not just Germany, but all of us, have learned in the end, focusing on long term alignments, focusing on alignments that combine not just money, but really shared strategic interests and a shared understanding of the threat is also what should drive energy decisions. And that’s where we find ourselves in terms of North Stream two. That said, with regard to Poland, energy security is a key part of this country’s security architecture. And we have a close dialogue and conversation with Polish leadership to advance that.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: Putin’s war changed absolutely everything, Mr. Ambassador, including American-Polish relations. Our countries were in a difficult moment when you were about to start your mission in Poland. There were even some obstacles to your confirmation process. You were about to deal with media freedom, with rule of law. Is it a closed chapter, and we’re in a completely new one now?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, you know, Jan, it’s a little bit like dialectical behavioral theory: several things can be true at once. We stand four square with the Poles in terms of security. We also stand four square with the Poles in terms of an embrace of democracy and values and equality. And since I’ve started here in Poland, I’ve seen real effort towards consensus between our positions on the part of President Duda when it comes to providing licenses for TVN24 and TVN7, in vetoing the education law that we were very concerned about, putting a bill into the Sejm that would eliminate the disciplinary chamber, and other steps as it pertains to democracy and governance. And, you know, President Biden was was pretty straightforward with President Duda, when he was here in Poland, three weeks ago, when he said: “both of our countries need to work on democracy.” And President Biden, with great honesty and transparency, offered up some examples on the American side, that were examples that were unfortunate that need more work in our country as it pertains to democracy and rights and respect, and the like. It’s the same thing in Poland. We’re in a shared effort to advance our democracies and make our democracies stronger.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: You mentioned President Duda. Today, this morning, you met the head of the Presidential National Security Bureau. The Biden administration seems to have very good working relations with President Duda and his office? Is his office your main partner now in matters of Ukraine and war?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, that’s a very good question, Jan. When I came here 10 weeks ago – and it really hasn’t been that long – it really was something that I really wanted to do quickly. And that was introduce myself to President Duda and his team. Introduce myself to Prime Minister Morawiecki and his team and get underway with a good working relationship with the president’s office and Jakub Kumoch and Pawel Soloch, with the with Prime Minister Morawiecki and Foreign Minister Rau and Defense Minister Blaszczak and others. And I really feel that we have a good working relationship. We agree to disagree sometimes. But I think that in a crisis, we’ve managed to really pull together an alignment that works to advance our shared goals here. And it’s working. That’s the most important thing. When I was coming out to Poland, some people even said: “I’m not sure it’s going to work, in terms of your conversation with the Polish government.” It absolutely has. And we have a great conversation going on with opposition leaders as well, and civil society and NGOs. It’s been the busiest 11 weeks of my life, in the middle of the Polish winter. And I’ve loved every minute of it. I love living in Poland. And I’ve loved embracing the Polish people, really, especially at this time of crisis.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: The last question, Mr. Ambassador, when the war began, you said Putin could widen it to Europe and use tactical nuclear weapons. And now this threat, in your opinion, is greater or lesser?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Look, I think that we have a more and meshed unity in the West between America, Poland and Europe now than at any time earlier in this crisis. And I think that more than anything, is going to let Putin know that he cannot do anything on NATO territory. And at the same time, we have to keep in mind, the Americans and Poles alike, that there are things that we could do that could make matters worse, and so it’s important to keep that conversation going. It’s at a robust level. And I feel confident that Poland is safe and secure, that America has your back, and that President Biden means every single syllable of the sentence he said when he said America will protect every square inch of NATO including Poland.

Jan Mikruta, Polsat: Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, thank you very much sir.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Thank you, Jan, for having me.