Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview with TVN24

9 January 2023

Ambassador Brzezinski: Good evening, Kasia.  Thank you for having me.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: Welcome to 2023. It’s the beginning of the new year.

Ambassador Brzezinski: “Szczesliwego nowego roku.”

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: “Szczesliwego nowego roku.”  It’s the beginning of the new year. It’s the beginning of a new era, sort of a new chapter. What’s your hope for this year?

Ambassador Brzezinski: My hope for this year is peace in Ukraine, prosperity and thriving in Poland.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: With can share all those hopes. I remember we talked last year, when you become the Ambassador to Warsaw on the very first day when Russia invaded Ukraine. Where are we now?

Ambassador Brzezinski  We’re at a situation where the Ukrainian people are winning in their fight against the Russian soldiers, pushing the Russian soldiers back against all odds – and the West united, dozens of differentially situated countries …

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: … democratic countries …

Ambassador Brzezinski: … democratic countries united …

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: … it’s important …

Ambassador Brzezinski: … in their support of the Ukrainian people.  I was so proud when I saw the US government work with the President of Ukraine, to bring him to the US Congress last month, to speak directly to the American people and for the American government to respond with a unity of purpose and a shared definition among all our allies, including Poland, on what the challenge is, and also what the opportunity is.  Because if the Ukrainian people win, and push Russia back out of Ukraine, it will be the biggest endorsement of the Western definition of democracy and free market that we will have seen in years. And so those are my hopes for 2023.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: So let’s talk about Poland-America cooperation, military cooperation, and I presume you’re very satisfied?

Ambassador Brzezinski: The military cooperation between America and Poland is stronger than it’s ever been because we are doing more together than we’ve ever done before. Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s words “Za wasza wolnosc, a nasza” truly are given practical meaning today with the thousands of US troops in Poland, spread out all over this country, shoulder to shoulder with Polish troops looking east, and making sure that President Biden’s requirement that we defend every square inch of NATO soil, including Poland, is realized.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: You said so in the very first interview “Polska jest bezpieczna.”

Ambassador Brzezinski: Yes, that’s right. And indeed, “Polska jest bezpieczna i Polska jest zabezpieczona.”

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: So let’s go to the details. The U.S. is allocating $682 million to strengthen the countries of the Eastern Flank of NATO. When it comes to Poland, what can we expect?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Sure, well I personally approached Washington DC to get as much of what we call Foreign Military Financing of Poland’s military as possible. That’s where the US government helps close allies like Poland purchase equipment so that it can defend itself. And I was able to work with Washington to secure $192 million in foreign military grants to help Poland including on this announcement that we made last week in which 116 M1A1 Abrams tanks – the most sophisticated tanks -will be …

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: … the most advanced tanks …

Ambassador Brzezinski: … delivered to Poland in the coming year, as Poland delivers tanks to Ukraine, to provide the kind of backfill. the most sophisticated, technologically advanced and lethal backfill that money can buy. And so we’ve been able to secure that foreign military grant for Poland.  Then in addition to that, Poland has purchased 250 of the most capable sophisticated Abrams tanks, the M1A2, and those will be scheduled for delivery sometime over the next two years. In the meantime, a “Tank Training Academy” has been set up in Poland with 28 tanks from the US, in which US military trainers are working side by side with Polish soldiers to train 250 different units to man the 250 M1A2 tanks that Poland is purchasing.  This is the kind of collaboration on tanks alone that we’re doing. Similar collaboration is occurring on helicopters. Poland just announced the purchase of numerous Apache helicopters. Those are tank killer helicopters and the best battlefield weaponry in terms of some of the threats that Poland could face. F-35s; HIMARs; Patriot systems to protect itself …

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: What about the Patriots systems?  Because we have already two and we are expecting more.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Yes, that’s right.  Poland has purchased a number of different Patriot systems and those are already being deployed as you know in Rzeszow.  This is part of a seamless configuration that we would hope for across the eastern flank to protect Poland and other central European countries.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: When can we expect more Patriots on Polish soil?

Ambassador Brzezinski: We can expect the continuing arrival of the most sophisticated military equipment from the US stockpiles over the next couple of years because Poland has intelligently purchased equipment that can make its military interoperable with US forces. So there’s a congruence between our different militaries in terms of the weapons that we have, the technology that we have, that allows us to coordinate in a synchronized coordinated fashion.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: The American soldiers are here, not just because of the military but also we share the same values as rule of law, human rights and freedom of press.

Ambassador Brzezinski: That’s an incredibly important point. When the US military deploys abroad, including for example in Poland, we don’t deploy to support a particular leader, or particular political party – left or right. We deploy to defend democracy and values, and the rule of law and human rights, freedom of information, freedom of the press.  When the US and Poland deployed together in Kosovo over the last years, in Iraq over the last few years, in Afghanistan over the last few years – it wasn’t to advance the interests of a particular political party over in those countries. It was to advance democracy. That is a key point. That is why those US soldiers are on Polish soil today.  That’s the most precious foreign support America can provide any country in the world, our men and women in uniform.  When we give that as a form of defense and protection for a foreign ally, it means that we really believe that they stand and we stand for the same values around the focal point of democracy

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: Was there any concern about those values in Poland?

Ambassador Brzezinski: America and Poland I feel stand for the same democratic values. Each of our systems has to be vigilant in terms of threats to democracy, threats to human rights and threats to the rule of law. You see in America over the last couple of years, the challenges we face, but we’re upfront and transparent about them. Just as our president said when he was here last March: we have our own struggles, and Poland has it’s, and we each need to be vigilant for each other.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: President Biden .. that the biggest challenge today is a clash between democracy and authoritarianism. So when you look at Brazil, what do you have in mind?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Look, I’m the US Ambassador to Poland, so I don’t want to go too deeply into what happens in Brazil, but democracy, Kasia, is under threat worldwide.  The practitioners of democracy, those elected leaders put into very, very sensitive and important positions of leadership have to be especially vigilant in terms of protecting those values against what is expedient, what is easy to do, what are shortcuts that might be taken, because in the end, that’s not what the founders of our respective democracies fought for. They did not fight for subsequent democratic leaders to take shortcuts, or cut arounds, or to not have to follow all the rules.  To the contrary those in publicly elected positions of leadership have a special obligation to the people to follow all the rules with distinct discipline. That goes for the countries of Latin America and Eastern Europe as well as our own democracy in America.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: Can democracy prevail without rule of law and freedom of the press?

Ambassador Brzezinski: No, it can’t.  I think that that’s an important point. Freedom of the press is one of the most fundamental ways of protecting our populations against disinformation.  A robust exchange of ideas with competing ideas – sometimes they compete loudly – is the way to find the best way forward. You know, I come from a family that has been for a long time involved in politics. My late father Zbigniew Brzezinski – in the press. many, many terrible and hard things were said about him.  He always understood that that’s just part of the process. Sometimes the press can be tough. They ask probing, hard questions.  And you know what? It’s okay. We will be fine. As long as we are open and transparent about our positions. No one person has it all right. No one person has all the answers. That’s the beauty of democracy – that you have a competition of ideas within the press.  Freedom of the press, freedom of expression is important to preserve, to defend and to be extremely careful in its cultivation.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: That reminds me about the motto of the Washington Post “Democracy dies in darkness.”

Ambassador Brzezinski: That’s right. Exactly. “Democracy dies in darkness.”  I want to be clear that the US government does not not recognize the right of regulatory agencies to investigate matters within their purview. Regulatory agencies have a right to investigate matters in their purview. But in Poland over the last couple of years, it is a fact that some politicians, even some members of KRRiT, have expressed animosity to TVN. I think that’s why it is especially important to convey that in the current process, that it be approached in a deliberative and sober way to make sure that any kind of outcome truly reflects the facts and respects the rule of law because for the Americans, and I know for the Poles, we fought for our democracies to have as its fundamental underpinning, freedom of the media and freedom of expression.  I love being in a Poland with all kinds of press platforms, whether it’s Onet, or Tygodnik Powszechny, or Rzeczpospolita, or Gazeta Wyborcza, or TVN, or TVP.  It has a robust media environment. That’s something for Poland to be proud of. And I assure you the Western businesses here in Poland, see the presence of TVN as a source of tremendous reassurance. Those Western businesses provide thousands of jobs, thousands of jobs in Poland, and they are reassured by the existence and presence and the robust participation of all the media outlets, including TVN. And I can assure you also, I have to say this very clearly, that the US government very much sees the freedom of the press, of which TVN is an important part, to be essential foundations of the democracy that we see in modern Poland, which is our special friend at this time.

Katarzyna Kolenda-Zalewska, TVN24: Thank you, Ambassador for these words, your support for free media and for TVN has been always very relevant.