Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview with Super Express

2 May 2022

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Welcome, and thank you for joining us.  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Good morning, Tomasz. Thank you for having me here. Thank you to Super Express.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express : Thank you. And I would like to start with a statement by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin a few days back. He stated that we want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kind of things that it has done in invading Ukraine. Was that the American plan all along in Ukraine, or it emerged during the war.  

Ambassador Brzezinski: The goal of America with regard to Ukraine is that the Ukrainians win and throw the Russians out of Ukraine, the Russian attackers that have come into Ukraine, and that is the goal of the collective efforts of us and our special friends, the Poles, our allies, others, when it comes to the sanctions, when it comes to supplying the various forms of aid, that we are supplying to the heroic Ukrainian fighters who are protecting their “Ojczyzna,” their homeland.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Mr. Ambassador, these words by the Defense Secretary sound like America plans to destroy the Russian army with Ukrainian hands, so it wouldn’t attack any other country’s in the near future. So my question is: is that the plan of the West? to cripple Russian army for a long time?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, Tomasz this is Ukraine’s fight with Russia, not America’s fight with Russia. So let me be clear about what is happening here.  We are supporting to the hilt, the fighters in Ukraine who are defending their homeland. We have no fight with the Russian people, per se.  It is Putin, who has created an unnecessary, totally avoidable conflict that has resulted in tremendous violations in human rights, in genocide, in the words of my President, Joe Biden, and it must stop and we are doing everything we can to help the Ukrainian people stop this attack, and to protect their homeland and ultimately, to throw the Russian attackers out of Ukraine.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Of course, for Ukraine to win, it needs a lot of weapons, especially heavy weapons, and President Zelenskyy was asking for this. All politicians in Ukraine were asking for this. As you see the situation right now, has the West delivered as many weapons as it could to help the Ukrainians – or is there still capacity to help Ukraine and still, we can send more weapons to them.  

Ambassador Brzezinski: We are supplying the Ukrainian fighters with what they need: anti-armor weapons, anti aircraft weapons. We have sent 50 million rounds of ammunition.  We would need a lot of time, Tomasz, to go through all the things we have sent to the Ukrainian fighters. I think the most important point is we have a very clear understanding of Russia’s defensive and offensive structures. And we are arming the Ukrainians for the battlefield, a battlefield, that Russia on its own volition created, a totally avoidable conflict that’s resulting in the death not only of Ukrainian civilians and Ukrainian fighters, but of Russians as well. I hope that Putin has a good explanation to the mothers that will be receiving the bodies of fallen Russian soldiers, because that’s also sad, and a tragedy.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: I would like to do a small historical parallel here, if you if you let me.  I remember those words by FDR in December 1940. He said that the United States has to become the arsenal of democracy. He meant helping the European countries fighting Hitler. And can you say right now that the West – NATO countries – became that kind of Arsenal of Democracy for Ukraine?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, there’s no question that what is happening in Ukraine is a standoff – a fight between authoritarianism and democracy. And that’s why I’m so proud to work for a President and a Vice President – Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – who have been here in Poland over the last two months, and who have said that we will defend every square inch of NATO territory. And of course, that means Poland. And that is to be taken very, very seriously. We are not looking to arm anyone except those who are the victims of Russian aggression in this fight. We’re not seeking conflict; we’re not seeking bloodshed. And in fact, the US government has continued to try to create diplomatic off ramps to this conflict, even when it seemed that there was no hope to those off ramps. I’m proud to work for a government that continues to hope and pray for a diplomatic solution to this absolutely awful crisis created by Russia. But until that is possible, we will arm and we will help the Ukrainian people protect themselves against this attack.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Mr. Ambassador, can you see this huge coalition that became part of this effort to help Ukraine still working well? because many people suggest that not everybody’s on board here.   I mean the countries from from the west, from NATO. Can you say that everyone is doing the best they can to help Ukraine?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I think Secretary Lloyd Austin was very clear in his remarks earlier this week, when he did a press conference after visiting Ukraine. And that is, we are very carefully assessing the capacities of our partners in this coalition, and drawing from them the weapons systems that are appropriate for the battlefield in Ukraine. So that kind of coordinating activity, I think, is very important to winning – because we want the Ukrainian fighters to have the tools they need that are absolutely appropriate and aligned with what are the defensive and offensive structures of the Russian military. I also am very proud that the President has maintained coalition unity, Alliance unity in all of this. I think that that has been a tremendous focus on his part, because unity of purpose and a shared definition of the challenge, I think is something that Putin fears. And that is what the President has maintained across the transatlantic community to send that clear message to President Putin.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: You mentioned that the United States tried to offer a diplomatic solution to this conflict to Russia. And what is the assessment of the United States and Washington? Will this war be ended in a diplomatic way or on the battlefield?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, we are pursuing every line of effort to end this war, including the diplomatic path, but also the path of supplying the Ukrainian fighters so that they themselves will be able to throw the Russian attackers out of Ukraine. And it will be the choice of the Russian leadership regarding which way they choose to go. There’s obviously a right and moral and humane way for them to act now: to leave, or they can continue to do what they’re doing, which has caused bloodshed in Ukraine, not only of the Ukrainian people, but of Russian soldiers as well, who are being forced into this fight. I think that is a tragic statement in 2022, for Russia to be essentially cutting itself off from the rest of the world, to be removing itself from among the more economically successful nations through isolation. But that’s the choice that seems to be singularly being made by Russia’s President. I think it’s absolutely crazy in terms of what are the interests of the Russian people, but that is what’s happening and we have to react accordingly. On the flip side, I will say that there is tremendous pride on the part of America regarding how Poland has conducted itself in this crisis. It is not lost on America, that Poland has a national policy to bring into Polish homes and apartments, Ukrainian refugees. Poland is a land where tremendous victimization has occurred in history. And here you have the children of victims rushing to the border to help today’s victims. That is an awesome human interest story. And you know, when I think Tomasz of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, you know, every year Time Magazine has a person of the year, I can imagine a split cover of the Ukrainian fighter – and on the other side of that page, the Polish young person using his or her iPhone, to get to Medyka  or Korczowa to rescue that Ukrainian refugee. It’s an awesome statement. Both are heroes. We’re proud of the Ukrainian people. We’re proud of the Polish people for what they have done.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Well, I hope when the war is over soon with the victory of Ukraine we will be able to see such a cover on Time magazine.  While we are debating an embargo on Russia energy, Russia is cutting off deliveries of gas to Poland and Bulgaria.  How do you assess that? Is this something dangerous for the West and the global economy or the European economy? Or can we do without Russian gas and oil right away?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I think importantly, the Polish leadership has been undertaking energy transformation and diversification for some time now. I’m proud to say that America has been a supplier of LNG (liquefied natural gas) to Poland as Poland has diversified its energy sources. And I think that Poland’s energy plan is appropriate for this moment. And Poland is able to stand its ground despite what Russia is doing with regard to using energy, once again, as a weapon against the West. I think Poland is well positioned to withstand that.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Is this Putin’s gamble to intimidate the West and show that the West can’t do without Russian gas and oil?  or this is kind of despair of Putin, his last weapon to scare the west?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: It is an effort on the part of President Putin to intimidate the West and particularly the countries most immediately west from Russia. And it’s not going to work. Poland effectively has been planning energy transformation and diversification for several years now. I’m proud that the Americans have been partnering with the Poles on energy transformation. And there’s a number of different strategies that are being pursued including delivery of LNG (liquefied natural gas), by the Americans to Poland; and I think it is a great step. So Poland is absolutely ready to withstand this intimidation. And on the flip side, I think Russia looks like a terribly unreliable partner in yet another area as it attempts to use energy as a weapon.  What it does, in addition is to turn away its neighbors. I mean, the Russian leaders should should think about what is best and what is in its self interest. Is it good for Russia, that its neighbors fear it? Is that good for the Russian people? I think that that is absolutely crazy thinking. And yet, that’s what Russian intimidation is doing. And it shows itself as a terribly unreliable partner. And I think that will affect, unfortunately, Russia’s economy, and Russia’s next generations, so tragically, but it will.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: A few days back Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in a call to EU cautioned on Russian energy ban, because as she argued, it would inflict damage to global economy. So I see that the United States are not supporting total ban on Russian resources being exported to the US.  

Ambassador Brzezinski: You know, Tomasz, we have more than 400 entities now in Russia sanctioned. And that is a very targeted list of those entities and peoples across industries in Russia, who are close to Putin, who are fellow travelers with Putin, who have prospered from Putin, and who have helped Putin prosper. It is a highly strategic tactic that we are taking, and sanctions take time to work. But over time, they will work. And there will be ever increasing feeling of pain on the Russian side, because of the sanctions and embargoes. And this is only a product of Putin’s doings in Ukraine.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Thank you very much. And I would like to ask about NATO, you already mentioned that all NATO countries are safe. Article five protects them. But still, Russia tries to from time to time to escalate and scare the West that it would attack.  From time to time we hear Russian officials saying we could use nuclear weapons. So how do you assess? Not NATO? We’ll avoid war right now? And it will not escalate from Ukraine to the West?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, we can’t know exactly what is in Putin’s head, Tomasz. We don’t know what Putin will do next. But we also have 12,500 American troops now on Polish soil, all on Polish bases, with Patriot systems here, and all kinds of military systems that are designed to protect the NATO landmass – and of course, that includes Polish territor as well.  That is not lost on the Russian military, or on President Putin. So I feel that if President Putin takes it further, every one is prepared. We certainly don’t hope that or seek that, but I can absolutely confirm that we are prepared to withstand anything that President Putin will do next.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Mr. Ambassador, Sweden and Finland, are about to join NATO, maybe this year.  Something Putin couldn’t imagine when he started the war. So when we talk about winning or losing this war on a geopolitical level, I think he’s losing this, because more and more countries would like to join NATO and be more safe right now.  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Absolutely. Well, I served as US Ambassador to Sweden for four years.  So I’m intimately familiar with Sweden’s practice of neutrality. And what President Putin has done, I feel is President Putin’s own worst nightmare, because you have to remember that Putin was the KGB agent in charge of the St. Petersburg office of the KGB. And the job description of that office is to make sure that the Nordic countries don’t join NATO. And here they are doing that because of Putin’s crazy actions in Central Europe, and in Ukraine, and he has created his his own unfortunate mess for himself. But I think that Sweden and Finland have been tremendously positive partners on NATO.  It’s a choice ultimately for the Swedes and the Finns to make for themselves, but if they do take that step, I’m sure they will make a very positive contribution to NATO.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: Countries of the Eastern Flank of NATO are saying it’s high time NATO forces should come to our countries, and there should be a permanent stake in them – not the rotation we have right now.  Can imagine that in future that permanent bases will be in Poland, the Baltic countries, Romania.  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, let’s not mistake, language and terminology on the one hand, Tomasz, for what is being practiced right now. What we now have in Poland, are 12,500 US troops, and defense and military systems, spread out across Poland, to make sure that Poland as a NATO member, is safe. So regardless of the formulation, we now stand shoulder to shoulder as fellow NATO members with the Poles like never before.  Force posture reviews are conducted, of course, by my bosses back in Washington. And we’ll see what the outcome of that is. But I feel very confident that we’re positioned effectively to defend Poland and to defend NATO.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: And the very last question, Mr. Ambassador, the war in Ukraine will end sooner or later. How can you imagine the relations with Russia after the war? after what we have seen in Ukraine, all the murders, rapes and all the terrible things that Russian troops did to Ukrainian civilians? Can you imagine the going back to business as usual with Russia?  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, Putin has lost all legitimacy as a leader, because of the crimes and the genocide in the words of President Biden that he has committed in Ukraine. So I can never imagine business as usual, given what may well be war crimes in Ukraine.  That’s subject to a court and legal formulations and determinations. But I want to separate Putin from the Russian people.  Russian young people are talented. They want to have a connection with the world. They want to study and do business elsewhere in the world. Russian culture is a magnificent, beautiful culture. And it is a tragedy, that that will be isolated, at minimum in the near term, thanks to Putin’s criminal actions. And that is, unfortunately, a fact based result of what President Putin has done in Ukraine. And I feel that in the very long term, the Russian people have great potential for thoughtful leadership, for an embrace of the world. And so in the long term, I will remain hopeful, but in the near term, I cannot imagine any business as usual, with Putin, who may well be a war criminal, and who has committed genocide.  

Tomasz Walczak, Super Express: All right, thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.  Thank you, once again for joining us and finding time to talk for the paper. So we’ll be in touch and hope to talk to you soon.  

Ambassador Brzezinski: Thank you, Tomasz.