Ambassador Brzezinski’s Interview with Dziennik Zwiazkowy

14 July 2022

Alicja Otap, Dziennik Zwiazkowy: Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador for agreeing to meet with us this morning. We really appreciate your time spent with us, and your willingness to answer our questions. So Joanna will be asking the questions that we all thought about for the past few days. I would like to ask you the first question, what are your thoughts and feelings about your first remote visit in Chicago? Back then when we gathered, and now we are seeing you. During your remote visit to Chicago with Mr. Spula being the host.  What are your thoughts and feelings about that visit?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Alicja, my thoughts and feelings were as follows: First and foremost, it is special to be a Polish American at this moment. Poland is the focal point of what is really a collision between dictatorship and authoritarianism on one hand, and democracy on the other, and the Poles – where we all come from, because I am a Polish American as well – the Poles have performed magnificently in the humanitarian response by embracing Ukrainians, victims of oppression, and repression and crimes of the kind that you see in footage from World War Two.  So it has been awesome to be the US Ambassador to Poland. Because obviously, America cares deeply that democracy triumphs at this moment.  That will happen because of the absolutely fundamental role that Poland and Polish people are playing right now. I welcomed two days ago to the US Embassy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, who serves as President Biden’s climate envoy right now. But when he spoke to a wide gathering of Polish people at the embassy, he said it is truly awesome what the Polish people are doing.  It is seen around the world. It is a fundamental mission in terms of the overall response that the Poles are executing. And we are grateful for it. So my first feeling when I was speaking with Polish Americans in Chicago is “What a moment to be a Polish American! What a moment to be someone for whom Poland has a special place in their heart!”  And second, I was grateful to Frank for allowing me to connect via video because I had had, unfortunately a very important meeting at the White House that morning, and I couldn’t be there in person.  I was grateful that Frank allowed that connectivity, but in the end, I regretted not being in Chicago in person, because I want to sit down with my fellow Polish Americans in Chicago and share what I am bearing witness to here in Poland; share what I’m working on; and gather their ideas and questions regarding what happens next. We are still waiting for this meeting. I’m Looking forward to that.

Joanna Trzos, Dziennik Zwiazkowy: Good afternoon. Good morning for us.  Joanna Trzos.  As Mr. Spula mentioned. I am also a news person with our radio station. 103.1 FM.  You mentioned John Kerry visited recently; you were hosting this visit also.  He’s a former Secretary of State, but right now he’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.  We know that John Kerry talked a lot about refugees, about the crisis in Ukraine, but he also talked about European energy security. Can you tell us more about this subject?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Absolutely. Well, Poland’s security is an absolute imperative for the American government, and Poland, being one of the frontline states of NATO to this crisis, has an incredibly important security role. I’m so proud of President Biden that he has maintained unity in the Alliance, as we confront the attack by Russia, on Ukraine. That unity, I think, is one of the scariest things to Putin, whom we don’t know what he will do next. And so we are prepared for every contingency and security, Joanna, comes in different forms. First of all, there’s hard military security. At this moment, there’s more than 10,000 American soldiers in Poland.  Think about that: 10,000 American soldiers deployed in Poland, all on Polish bases, spread out all over Poland, ready for every contingency. Second, the White House announced two weeks ago that we will be making permanent, our V Corps Forward Command US Army headquarters in Poznan.  The first permanent operation anywhere in NATO’s eastern flank.  What an important message to Putin, that we will be here in an enduring way!  And of course, that V corps headquarters will be supported by a permanent Garrison, and also a supply operation. That is an incredibly important tectonic and historic step that the US is taking in the hundreds of years old American Polish alliance. And so there’s the military piece of it. There’s also of course, as you mentioned, the energy security piece of it.  It is in everyone’s best interest, that Poland move beyond coal, move away from Russian sources of energy towards a diversified supply of energy. And what I’m really impressed by since I’ve gotten here is how much work has already been done in developing alternatives, in developing a diversified energy source footprint for the Polish people. So work is already very much underway. Secretary Kerry was here to have important discussions on alternatives, on further ways to diversify the energy supply. There is a remarkable opportunity to mesh even more America and Poland, through nuclear power, through nuclear technology. And it’s something the American government very much hopes that we can get to yes, as they say, with the Poles, in terms of providing a highly reliable, really important, enduring supply of energy through nuclear power, so that America and Poland are meshed together in that way in energy security for the next 100 years. So of course, we talked about energy security, there’s also of course, economic security. It’s pretty awesome that Poland’s growth rate is close to 4% right now.  That’s despite everything. That’s despite the crisis in the east, despite COVID, inflation is high. Inflation, according to government statistics, is at 15%. So we are working assiduously to convey really the message that we’re hearing from America’s leading CEOs.  In the last couple of months, I’ve had the chance to welcome at the US Embassy, Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google. Susan Wojcicki, Polish American, the CEO of YouTube, who announced 1000s of YouTube jobs in Poland for Poles, important white collar, high tech jobs.  Polish-American Chris Kempczinski from McDonald’s – they are opening there are over 500th store in Poland.  The global chairman of Boston Consulting Group.  Given the ambitions of Poland to develop a consulting dimension to its economy, and really harnessing the reach and power of consultancy, through Poland’s really impressive, incredible workforce. Polish young people are so technically gifted, have tremendous grasp of science, and a understanding of the world. And many of them haven’t traveled the world. They understand that through the technology that gives them the world through the internet. And they are loyal to their employers. And so these are the messages that we’re trying to convey to American CEOs who are coming to Poland. Saying Poland is open for business. And then of course, last couple of weeks, we held the Select USA Conference in Washington, DC. And I was able to take leading impressive Polish businesses to the United States to introduce them to possible collaborators, stateside. And so those are important dimensions to security, among others. And, you know, I wish I were 1000 people, because there are so many different ways I feel I could take this ambassadorship to really try to mesh together the American Polish relationship, and I’m doing all I can.  This is a special time.  We know what Russia did with the oil markets.  We are still very worried?

Joanna Trzos, Dziennik Zwiazkowy: You’re doing wonderful job, Mr. Ambassador.

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Thank you so much.

Joanna Trzos, Dziennik Zwiazkowy: You mentioned the NATO Summit in Spain, in Madrid, and just before President Biden went to Spain, you had this one hour conversation with the President and can you tell us more about this conversation? What did the President say about Poland?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: The President asked me what inspires the Polish people to react the way they’re reacting, to embrace Ukrainian refugees pouring across the Ukrainian Polish border. That was the essence of what we talked about. And he was absolutely fascinated about it. And when I asked him, “What can I say to our fourth of July celebration, when I come back here, from you through me, to everyone gathered?” he said, “remind them what I saw when I visited the Warsaw stadium, that I met with Ukrainian refugees.” And what the Ukrainian refugees said to President Biden is “we thank Poland.” That is that is an incredibly important message.

Joanna Trzos, Dziennik Zwiazkowy: Mr. Ambassador, I recently talked to a Polish priest who lives and works in Ukraine. And, of course, he told us the Ukrainian people are so grateful for any help.  He actually works not far away from Lviv,  and there are also a lot of people of Polish descent there, and he said that people right now in Ukraine, they have this feeling that world is just not remembering all the time that there is a war. There is a war still, that people are dying every day. And this is what I heard from him recently. What do you think? Are we remembering? Are we helping enough? He said, of course, (there was hope) during the first month, second month, but right now they don’t feel this way.

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Well, I understand the perspective of Ukrainians who are under attack, who want the world to see – because of course the world should bear witness. You know, the words “never again” must mean something, and the kinds of atrocities, the genocide that we’ve seen in Ukraine, should not have happened again. But I also feel that the West is responding. I think America is responding, for example, by passing legislation of over $50 billion to assist the Ukrainians at this time, in terms of relief, in terms of beginning to deploy on some kind of rebuilding, and reconstruction. And that pertains to those in the immediate neighborhood of Ukraine who are helping as well. I also think that not everything that happens, needs to be talked loudly about.  We are supplying the Ukrainian people, so that they can defend themselves. And they’re doing that. And they’re doing that against a well organized, trained army. And the Ukrainian people are holding their ground against tremendous attacks from the ground and from the air. And we are helping them do that. And so I’m actually pretty careful, Joanna, about going into detail about that. It is a fact that the Ukrainian people are defending themselves. And they’re doing so with our assistance. And let me just leave it at that. We’re in this to win this. I can tell you this. We are with the Ukrainians, until they force the Russian attackers out of Ukraine. And if it takes a week, a month, a year or more, we will be there. That is our commitment. And we live in an age where forensically you can investigate and see what happens on the battlefield. And so we’re getting the footage like we’re getting right now today at this time. I don’t know if you saw the news, just breaking, of a missile attack that killed at least 20 people. And that is something that happens quite much, or very much all the time. And so these horrific, humanitarian tragedies are also occurring. And so we see this; we are reacting to this; and that will continue until we win this.

Joanna Trzos, Dziennik Zwiazkowy: I guess this is our last questions because we still have another media organization. So yesterday I saw what was new on your Twitter account just before the outage, because as we know we had a (Twitter) outage today, but I know you are still discovering Poland.  You went to Wieliczka recently.  You visited Przemysl, your family’s home. And you know, I read some comments, right? And under your tweets, I read some comments from Polish people, and they are asking you, why don’t you speak Polish and they were praising you because they also wrote that your Polish is very good. So how is your Polish, Mr. Ambassador, and can you say something for our listeners and readers in Polish?

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: (First of all, my Polish must be better and unfortunately I don’t have opportunities to practice it every day. I try though. Secondly, I lived in Poland 30 years ago, while on a Fulbright scholarship here, at Warsaw University’s Law and Administration Department. I had the occasion to study the Polish language, first of all, but also I had the occasion to write a book about constitutionalism. I wrote about the collision between law and power. I used to live on Tamka street and I had an opportunity to watch and observe how the U.S. Embassy worked here and it was so impressive. This is why I am that proud to be here now, but I still need to practice my Polish. – English translation of remarks in Polish.)

So you asked me why I speak English. And let me answer those comments. I have not seen those comments. So that’s actually very interesting to me. Because we live at a very sensitive time, here in Poland.  There is a war happening next door, and I cannot let less than exact words create trouble for the embassy or for the US role in Poland. And so I am extremely careful. It’s not a joke, what’s happening. And I’d rather be precise, with my English language. And if there was anything I learned from my late father, it was to be extremely precise, when you communicate than to accidentally say something that’s lost in translation. And then we spend a good amount of energy and time unraveling it.  We have too much at stake in this relationship, which I am pleased to report to you – Joanna and Alicja – that the relationship is working. And it’s working really, really well. And not everyone predicted that before I got out here, but the relationship is healthy. It is strong. It is multidisciplinary, meaning: It’s not just military to military. It’s democracy to democracy; it’s economy to economy; its people to people. And it is catalyzing around something very powerful. And that’s a unity of purpose, and a shared definition of the challenge. And so, I treat this extremely seriously. And I want to make sure that it works because America and Poland have a very special friendship. And of course, I’ll be speaking Polish.  When I do some public remarks, I’ll wrap in some Polish and this type of thing. But it’s also important for me to communicate extremely precisely.

Joanna Trzos, Dziennik Zwiazkowy: Thank you again, it was a pleasure talking to you. And yes, we’re waiting for this meeting in person. Remote wasn’t that bad. 

Ambassador Mark Brzezinski: Excellent. And I welcome you when you come over to Warsaw to come and see me here at the American Embassy. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you in Chicago. “Do widzenia i do zobaczenia.”