29 June 2022
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: Good afternoon, sir. Thank you very ..,
Ambassador Brzezinski: Good afternoon, Michal. Thank you for having me.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: Sir, what is the significance of today’s announcement by President Biden?
Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, let’s first discuss what was announced. A current V Corps Command Headquarters is going to be placed in Poznan on a permanent basis; a US Army Garrison to support that Command Headquarters will be placed permanently in Poznan; and that there will be a field Support Battalion in Poland to support these entities. The significance is that this is the first permanent US forces on NATO’s eastern flank. Now, when I think of what my late father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, when I think of what Jan Nowak Jezioranski fought for, for enduring safety and security of Poland – that is the significance of today’s announcements. It could not be lost on anyone in NATO, and it will not be lost on Putin’s Russia, as to what the United States is declaring today with this permanent presence.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: Sir, what is the message?
Ambassador Brzezinski: The message is “Polska jest bezpieczna i Polska jest zabezpieczona.” Poland is safe, and Poland is secure … and that at Madrid, the United States announced deployments across Europe: from four to six US Navy destroyers in Spain; two additional squadrons of our most elite fighter jets, the F35s, in the UK; announcements pertaining to Germany; announcements pertaining to Romania; announcements pertaining to the Baltics. But when it comes to Poland, we have always hoped that the word “permanent” would be attached to US forces in Poland. And that is the historic nature of what’s happening today. And I must say, I thank the government of President Duda and Prime Minister Morawiecki. Their alignment with the US military and the Department of Defense has been exemplary. Minister Blaszczak has been very, very good to work with, and by collaborating today, we are safer and more secure here in Poland. That’s the significance of today’s announcement.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: It is, without a question historical, but someone who is not an expert on geopolitics could ask: “What changes?” I mean, there are already American soldiers in Poland.
Ambassador Brzezinski: There are. There are more than 10,000 US soldiers all across Poland, all on Polish bases strategically spread out – with an intended purpose to have them spread across Poland. The importance of having the V Corps Command Headquarters permanently stationed in Poznan is to continuously improve interoperability between US forces, NATO forces and Polish forces to make sure that command and control – in other words, how our military is postured in alignment with how Poland’s military is postured – is an important message in terms of collective defense, because what’s going to work against Putin is a message and a practice of collective defense that we are all for one / one for all “Za Wasza Wolnosc i Nasza.” as General Kosciuszko said. And that is what is being implemented today. So it is important that we have this multiplier effect of not just your army, or our army, or armies in NATO, but all of us with synchronicity, working together, in this case in Poland. That is what will make sure that Poland is safe and Poland is secure. I just actually returned from Washington. I arrived at Chopin airport (a few hours) ago. You and I were talking before the show started. And last week, I was fortunate to have almost a one hour one-on-one meeting with President Joe Biden. President Joe Biden asked to meet with me because he wanted to learn more about this fantastic response by Poland, by the people of Poland, to this Ukrainian humanitarian crisis. He wanted to know what is underpinning this inspired humanitarian response by the Polish people – sso warm, so loving, an example (for) the world. And that was a message he asked me to convey. So I’m so pleased that you gave me the chance this afternoon to convey a message from our American President Joe Biden, who is not just “talking the talk” to in terms of security, but “walking the walk”.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: Certainly, as you said that was quite a long meeting with the most important person in the world. And if I understand correctly, sir, there was this talk about 1939. Can you please share that context?
Ambassador Brzezinski: Sure, absolutely. Well, the President asked me to tell him more about what drives this fantastic humanitarian response by Poland. Four million refugees coming to Poland. Almost 3 million are in people’s homes and apartments. Never before in world history, has there been a national policy to put every arriving refugee into someone’s house or home. Until now. Poland is setting the bar and there will never be another refugee movement in the future – and unfortunately, there will be mass movements of refugees from one country to another in the future – without invoking the case of Poland. And I said, Mr. President, for Poland, this is 1939. This is the young people of Poland doing what previous generations wanted to do, which is stand up to attackers, stand up to a horrific attack, and say” “You’re not going to crush these people. You’re not going to hurt these people. We’re going to put them into our homes.” And the President, I think, liked that analogy, liked that metaphor that this is 1939. That was my number one message to him.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: Because a Polish person might think, when they hear 1939, they might also think about the horror of being left behind by friends, by allies or partners or colleagues who didn’t come to help Poland. There were some intellectuals in France and says why should we fight for them? What would you say? Especially for some American person who has the right to ask “Why should we fight for Poland?”
Ambassador Brzezinski: And today’s announcement, not everyone is for. And, of course, people with principles can disagree. But I would say the gutsy and courageous decision by President Biden to attach the word “permanent” to the V Corps Command Headquarters in Poznan speaks directly to history, speaks directly to the fact that there were times in the past that the people of Poland were abandoned. And that’s why “permanent” means so much to me personally, as a Polish-American. And I know my late father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, looking down from the sky today is smiling, because of this announcement by President Joe Biden.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: In this way, it’s a kind of shift.
Ambassador Brzezinski: Absolutely, it is a massive strategic shift. And again, we know not everybody is for it. You only have to Google the op-eds in the major American newspapers, to see principled arguments against it. And that’s not the posture we’re going to take. This is about collective defense. This is about ensuring that the Polish people can continue doing what they have been doing, because they feel not anxious, and not uncertain. I lived in Poland 30 years ago under the Fulbright scholarship program. I saw what Poland was like when it was not a member of NATO. It was more anxious. It was more uncertain. Today, it is a member of NATO. And while we have a war immediately to the east, just a couple hundred miles, actually, to the east. Poland is going along, is doing great. We’re proud of Poland’s response. And that was an important part of the President’s message. And I asked him, I said, “I’m going back to Poland. What can I say?” And he said, “Well talk about my visit, when I came here in March. Talk about what I heard from the refugees.” Because what did President Biden hear from the Ukrainian refugees at the stadium? The refugees said to him, “Please, know, we thank Poland for what they did.” That’s what the Ukrainian refugees said to President Biden. And I think all of this is interconnected. All of this is interdependent: the security response, the humanitarian response, the economic response because Poland continues to grow. And we’re continually trying to attract companies here to be excited about Polish workers who work hard and work smart, and now joined maybe by Ukrainian refugees. We’re excited about the example of Polish young people. I’m going up to Gdynia this weekend for the Open’er festival.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: I was so excited ..
Ambassador Brzezinski: I feel very lucky. And it’s the Polish young people who will share on social media which Ukrainian family needs help at 11:35 pm at the Medyka border crossing, for example. Then they get down there, and they drive them to the Bydgoszcz or Bialystok or Poznan or Gdynia or Krakow, wherever. That is what is so impressive to Americans. And I want the Polish people to know that not only do I see it here in Poland, our President sees that. And that this response in terms of the permanent presence that is historic, and this permanent garrison is historic. And this is you that did that, not us. You’re the ones who made that case – quite the impression it was to the American decision makers. We’re proud of you. We are proud to stand next to you. And we’re proud to stand next to you permanently.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: And it’s a privilege to hear that. Sir, my last question, perhaps a more geopolitical one: Sir, would it be fair to say looking at everything that has happened, that perhaps Putin has miscalculated? Because, arguably, he was hoping for an extremely divided Europe.
Ambassador Brzezinski: Excellent question, Michal. You have to ask yourself, when Putin attacked Ukraine, was he hoping to push Sweden and Finland into NATO? When Putin attacked Ukraine, was he hoping for a permanent (U.S.) military presence in Poland? For all these big steps announced today by the U.S. and then separately, also by NATO? Because there’s a U.S. announcement and there’s a NATO announcement as well. I think this is a massive, colossal strategic failure by Putin of epic proportions. He wanted to make history. He sure did: a strategic blunder for the ages by Putin, if you look at the strategic map.
Michal Sznajder, TVN24: Sir, everything you say is extremely important. We appreciate so much your being here straight from the airport to announce all these things at our studio.
Ambassador Brzezinski: Thank you much. Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.