Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview with TVN24

16 November 2022

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: Mr. Ambassador, like always, it’s an honor to have you here.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Thank you for having me here tonight.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: Thank you so much, Mr. Ambassador. For the last 24 hours you are in very close contact with Polish authorities. Whether the results of these meetings and conversations?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Literally it’s been 24 hours because it was around 6pm yesterday that this incident occurred in eastern Poland. I want to report from the top that there has been an absolutely disciplined and responsible meshing together of the American government and the Polish government as it pertains to this incident. And it is very much our perspective on the US government side that President Duda’s government Prime Minister Morawiecki’s government has handled this situation responsibly, carefully, with discipline. That’s a tribute to their work for the security of the Polish people. Yesterday we did learn around 6pm that this incident had occurred. We immediately had our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, get in touch with the Polish President’s National Security Advisor, Jacek Siewiera, and a phone call was arranged very quickly between the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, and President Duda. And from that there was an offer to work together on the investigation to figure out what happened and how we can clarify attribution. And that work has been ongoing ever since. I do not want to get in front of the investigation. That investigation is ongoing. But the information that we have on the American side points to what President Duda said earlier today that this appears to have been an accident. We express our condolences and sorrow to the families of the two Polish people who were killed in this tragedy. Whatever the final conclusions, Piotr, it is clear that the party responsible is Russia, which launched a barrage of missiles, a barrage of missiles against civilian targets, and specifically intended to cripple Ukrainian infrastructure. Ukraine has every right to defend itself and an accident occurred that we’re still investigating.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: Mr. Ambassador, it was shocking information for all the people in Poland when they heard what happened in Przewodow yesterday. But I do believe that it was shocking information for you as well. What was your first reaction when you first heard about this tragedy?

Ambassador Brzezinski: My first reaction is we have to now walk the walk, not just talk the talk in terms of developing absolute synchronized conversation with our counterparts in the Polish government. This was the first time something like this has occurred on NATO soil. So we had tested; we had exercised for this previously, but something like this had not happened before. And what I’m really pleased to convey to you Piotr, and to your viewers, is that the process worked, that we were able to sync up immediately with our Polish counterparts. Our President and President Duda immediately connected. Our Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, immediately connected with the Polish Foreign Minister, Zbigniew Rau. Our Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, immediately connected with the Polish Minister of Defence Mariusz Blaszczak. Our General Cavoli immediately connected with the Polish Chief of Defense. And so there was a synchronicity from the start to clarify what happened and what it is we will do together. It was absolutely disciplined. And it validates the special friendship between America and Poland at a time of crisis in Ukraine.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: I was watching yesterday late evening, maybe the most important political program on American television, “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer and there were two major events going on in the U.S. Donald Trump was just about to announce that he will run for the office again, which is quite a big story and unfinished battle for American Congress, and yet Wolf Blitzer decided to start the program with the information from Poland. Is it correct to understand that there is a deep understanding on the US side – as well as on our side, of course- that the consequences of such a tragedy that happened yesterday can be incredibly serious for all of us and for the future of our country, Europe and the United States?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Piotr, to we Americans, what’s happening in Ukraine is the collision between dictatorship and autocracy on one hand, and democracy on the other hand, and the people of Ukraine are undertaking a heroic battle, and they’re winning against the organized Russian Army. On the front lines of that are the people of Poland and the Polish government. Not only do we want the Ukrainians to win this war, we certainly do not want this war to expand. And we were looking at a situation last night in which we feared different contingencies. We’re still investigating what happened; I want to emphasize that. The information we have points to the fact that this was probably an accident, and that’s consistent with the statement made by the Polish President earlier. But the different possibilities of what could have been were obviously in all of our heads last night: what had happened, and what is it that we would do together – but it was an important moment of testing. And that’s what I want to convey to you. We have not had a live situation like this on Polish soil in which we had to immediately synchronize the American military and political establishments with their counterparts in Poland. And it happened immediately, and with great synchronicity, and with great professionalism. It shows that we, this American Polish Alliance, are ready and we were able to work with our NATO counterparts. We were able to develop a responsible and professional way forward. And I think that, quite frankly, the Polish side in particular, deserves high compliments, high compliments today, for the last 24 hours.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: Mr. Ambassador, we’ve heard it from you in a TVN24 studio many months ago. We’ve heard it from President Biden in Warsaw. I think it’s important, incredibly important, to hear today from you, sir. How solid is the US commitment to defend every inch of NATO territory, including Polish territory, my country,

Ambassador Brzezinski: The American commitment to defend Poland is sacrosanct. And we will defend every inch of NATO territory, including Poland. Part of defending every square inch of NATO territory is having a responsible and informed understanding of what is happening and what happened. And I’m pleased to report to you that when faced with brand new information 24 hours ago, we were able to immediately bring together our best experts and our political leaders from far flung places. Our President, the President of the United States is traveling right now, and he had to break from other things and immediately get on the phone with the Polish President. His National Security Advisor, his Secretary of State had to do that with their counterparts. And the process worked immediately with synchronicity, with literally nothing lost in translation. That is important in terms of preparedness and readiness to defend every square inch of NATO territory. So while on the one hand, a tragedy occurred last night. Two families lost loved ones, and we will all grieve that. On the other hand, we learned that this process works and that we’re ready for, I think, any contingency.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: Mr. Ambassador theoretically, we knew it from the very beginning – that there was a very thin margin between the war in Ukraine and – I want to be very cautious choosing words – the war on a larger scale. That’s a very thin margin and a tragedy happened yesterday. What lessons should we learn from what happened yesterday? Because every next day of this war is a tragedy for Ukraine, but it may also have tragic consequences for tens of millions of lives on the whole continent.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I think what we’ve learned is that practice and exercises lead us to the best result on “game day”, as we say in the United States. Both sides, the American side and the Polish side had thought through over the last number of months contingencies including, for example, what may have happened in eastern Poland – whereby an accident probably happened, but we had to clarify specifically the facts. Through coordinating practices and working together and sharing possibilities in terms of what could happen, we were able to have a result yesterday, which was a responsible approach by all sides to clarify the information and develop a plan on a thoughtful and responsible way forward. I think that’s Lesson number one. Lesson number two is that we all, each side, now knows each other a little bit better, because there’s nothing like crises to bring people together – and having to deal with a challenge. And we dealt with that in the last 24 hours. Everyone acted appropriately, responsibly, professionally. Information was shared. People were available into the early morning hours. That was so important for our side, for our leaders to see through and the Polish side as well, to see that the Americans were on the spot ready to think through the different alternatives and to make our capacities, our experts, our experts on explosives, our experts on tracking available so that we can immediately compare notes and share information to produce a conclusion that would inform us as to a way forward.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: Mr. Ambassador, we can be sure that the Russians and Putin were working very closely what was going on in Warsaw, NATO headquarters in Washington, from the very first moment when he heard about his tragedy. And what do you think they have learned? from our common reaction?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Excellent question. You can bet that Putin and the Russians would be watching how this will work. And I think what they learned is that we have synchronicity between the American and Polish sides, that the two sides’ leaders and the two sides’ military and civilian professionals know each other, know each other well, can work together, can immediately share information about what we know, what we don’t know. Get experts onto the ground quickly. Make an offer to share investigators and to share information through investigations that then can be quickly executed. So what I feel Russia and Putin learned is that the American Polish relationship is truly ready for any contingency and that we are ready on a second’s notice to come together. That is an important message to send to the other side, because I have a feeling that what Putin and Russia would want is for our side not to be able to work together quickly or well. That’s not what was shown, quite the opposite. That’s a very important lesson for the other side to see as well. And then, of course, the people that Ukraine and the Zelenskyy government were able to see that their neighbor Poland and their friends, the Americans are able to have their back quickly, effectively and to work with synchronicity. That’s also a message that I think should reinforce and reassure the Ukrainian side that they have their team ready for any possibility.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: On the very first day of the Russian aggression, President Zelenskyy said that the Ukrainians are defending not only their country, but they’re defending Europe. And it’s not a theory; yesterday we realized it’s a brutal reality when our citizens died. Are we doing everything whatever we can to help them not only survive that to win this war?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I think you know, as we say in America, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Ukrainian people are winning this war. Look what happened in Kherson. Look what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. And so the facts speak for themselves. Tragically, Russia, unleashed a barrage of missiles on civilian targets, which frankly also exposes their own weakness that they would undertake such an attack on civilian targets to break the infrastructure of the people of Ukraine. Those are things that unfortunately, I think we will continue to see in terms of what Russia is trying to do. I think that while we want the Ukrainians to win this, we have to be prepared for the long haul here. And what yesterday shows is that we are. So I think while this is far from over, we are together; we are united. I will say that there’s high respect in Washington, high validation in Washington today that this relationship works, and it works under the most difficult circumstances in the most remote areas. Because where this incident happened, is actually in a remote area. And we can get the facts and we can get the facts quickly and compare notes and convey that to our top leaders and our top leaders can mesh together quickly and professionally.

Piotr Krasko, TVN24: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much. We really appreciate what you’re doing for our country and we do appreciate your countrymen, American military soldiers, being here ready to defend my country. Thank you so much. We appreciate that.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well, I’m so proud to be ambassador to Poland now. But I think today, I’m particularly proud of the American Polish relationship. It delivers security for our collective peoples.