Ambassador Mark Brzezinski’s Interview with PAP

26 September 2022

Ambassador Brzezinski: (Good Day) Wojciech, thank you for having me.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: It’s a great honor to host you in the Polish Press Agency. Thank you so much for accepting the invitation.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Thank you for having me Wojtek.  I have to say that PAP is a acronym that I grew up hearing in the Brzezinski household, because my late father, Zbigniew Brzezinski, would refer to PAP data, PAP articles in his own research, in his own work. And so for me, it’s such a huge honor to be here at your headquarters, to be talking with you today.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: It’s a great honor for us that you are here at PAP. So let’s start with the breaking news.  Poland has just officially, right now, opened and launched the Baltic pipe gas pipeline. What is your opinion on this project?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Well first of all (Congratulations.) (Congratulations) to Poland for investing in its future.  The Polish economy, the Polish people – to grow, they need energy. And they have had to move away from the two addictions of coal and Russian sources of energy. So this announcement today is so important. And I congratulate the Polish people. I will also say that as the Polish people look to its future – and of course, we the Americans want for the Polish people, not just your freedom, but prosperity. And we want the Polish people to thrive. And new sources, diversified sources of energy are a key to thriving. And I am hopeful that the Polish government makes the choices that I think would benefit the Polish people in terms of nuclear power, being part of the future. American firms, Westinghouse and Bechtel, have submitted an offer that I really think can mesh our two countries together for the next hundred years in combined work on energy, in this case, nuclear energy. It’s important for Poland itself, for its own future to have a nuclear industry. And I’m just so hopeful that the Westinghouse/Bechtel deal will go through because it would be a culture plate for a nuclear industry that would benefit this region. And the focal point of it will be Poland.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: So we are talking at high noon. Do you remember the movie starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly?

Ambassador Brzezinski: I sure do. One of the most famous movies.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: Who is right now the brave sheriff Will Kane? and of course I have in my mind the Russian attack on Ukraine.

Ambassador Brzezinski: Right. So Wojtek, when I think of “High Noon”, I think of that poster. That poster that you could see in any “bar mleczny,”  any Polish restaurant, any Polish bar in the 80s, in the 90s. Gary Cooper walking like the sheriff, the lone ranger sheriff.  Sometimes it had the head of Ronald Reagan.  It’s important to know that while that was the head of Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan wasn’t alone.  The entire West was with Poland, for Poland to be free, for Poland to return to Europe. Today, Gary Cooper is Presidential Zelenskyy and he is not alone.

Wojciech Surmacz , PAP: Okay, we will come back to this question. Do you think Russia is losing the war right now? What is your opinion?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Russia has been losing the war since it started.  You have to ask yourself: have any strategic goals been accomplished by President Putin? Any? Did President Putin invade Ukraine to push Sweden and Finland into NATO? Of course not. As a former US ambassador to Sweden for four years, President Putin performed practically a miracle in making that happen. And I’m so happy that the Swedes and the Finns are acceding into NATO. I’m happy that the Polish parliament recently voted to support that. And of course, the American government supports that. Did Putin invade Ukraine to push the Americans and the poles closer together?  Did Putin invade Ukraine to bring the defensive and military ramparts that you now see in Romania and other parts of Central Europe? Of course not. There is not a single strategic goal that has benefited Russia’s people or strategic posture.  So Russia has been losing this from day one. Now of course, we see the new information from Ukraine of the Ukrainian freedom fighters making real gains in pushing the Russians out of Ukraine. So yes, Russia is losing and they’re losing from day one.

Wojciech Surmacz , PAP: Okay, what are the implications for Poland – and not only for Poland – of Russian threats to use nuclear weapons? is such an attack realistic?

Ambassador Brzezinski: So you have several questions there.  First of all, just what are the implications for Poland?  The implications for Poland, in terms of what has happened in Ukraine, I think, are as important a moment in time as the Solidarity moment of 1989 and other seminal moments in modern Polish history, in that the collision between authoritarianism and democracy is happening here. And not only are we winning, and not allowing that conflict to expand, but the Poles and countries in the west, and in particular America, are meshed together more closely than ever before in history. For the first time, there is now a permanent US military facility in Poland. That’s the US Army Forward Command Headquarters in Poznan. For the first time, there’s more than 10,000 US soldiers in Poland, all on Polish bases spread out all over the country. That’s not by accident. These are very important footprints, in terms of collective defense. So one implication is the security implication. The second implication I cannot emphasize enough, and that is, the rapid mobilization of the Polish people, to the fleeing refugees from Ukraine to the west, is something the entire world has seen. And it has been an act of great humanity, an act of a humanitarian superpower. And it reminds me as an American, as a guest in your country, of our moments of rapid mobilization when Pearl Harbor was attacked, Americans mobilized to fight a war on two fronts, Atlantic and Pacific.  The race to the moon, in the late 1960s, unleashed an incredible technological revolution, and empowered our country. Polish history has seen this before: the Warsaw Uprising during World War Two, the solidarity era, which was peaceful and which caused great change. And now 2022, the Polish people have shown rapid mobilization that gives hope for the possibility of national renewal in a broad sense. I can’t emphasize that point enough. It gives hope about broad national renewal, the potential of this country to thrive, the potential of this country to be profitable, is seen by this national act of rapid mobilization. So that is a an important moment, I feel, in the history of your country.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: Okay, that was my next question, but I can ask you just one thing. Do you think Poland should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

Ambassador Brzezinski: I was ambassador in Sweden for four years. Sweden is the land of the Nobel Prizes, and what the Nobel Prizes are all about, is awarding great acts that know no borders. So that’s what the Nobel Prize is about. What have we seen in Poland? We have seen a rapid mobilization of its people to help refugees, a mass movement of refugees.  Tragically, this will not be the last time there’s a mass movement of refugees and no mass movement of refugees in the future will be able to ignore the case of Poland, in terms of people by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands, mobilizing themselves to help those refugees, to give every single one of them have a roof over their head and a meal on the table in front of them. So to me, I definitely feel that is Nobel Peace Prize material. Of course, I’m a little bit partial, because I’m the US Ambassador to Poland. But I do believe that I speak on behalf of all Americans to say that we are profoundly touched, profoundly impressed, profoundly moved by the selflessness and the greatness of every single person who did something for the refugees, because they didn’t have to, and they did something bigger than themselves.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: Okay, one question about the Russian disinformation. Is Poland today particularly exposed to high concentrations of attacks by Russian active measures? Called in Poland, special Russian export commodity?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Poland is definitely a target of Russian disinformation. And we can see examples of that all over the place. But the Polish people are savvy; they have a nose for something that’s phony.  They have a nose for it,  because they’ve been targeted with propaganda and disinformation in the past as well. And so their sensitivity to it is much more refined, I feel. And they now, the Polish people know that actions speak louder than words. They know that Ukrainian refugees aren’t taking the jobs of Polish people. Quite frankly, Ukrainian refugees are helping bolster parts of the Polish economy, that I have been able to bear witness to: the tech fields, some of the social sectors and so forth. The Polish people know that the Americans and the Poles are closer now than any time in history, that we are more meshed together, both in terms of our military cooperation, our cooperation to help humanitarian efforts, our business to business cooperation, our values. And so Poles have a nose for disinformation, but we are working on it at the US Embassy. We have specific countermeasures that we pursue, and we also assess the situation very closely.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: Okay, going back to the beginning of our interview: “High Noon” the movie. Did you know that the award winning movie score – Oscar and Golden Globe – was written by Ukrainian born composer Dimitri Tiomkin?

Ambassador Brzezinski: You know, I didn’t know that that’s really interesting.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: I think there is probably another Ukrainian trace there.   “High Noon” was promoted with the sentence “the story of a man who was too proud to run.”  In February just before the attack Volodymyr Zelenskyy said to the Russians in the Russian language: “If you invade us, if you take away our freedom, our liberty, our lives, the lives of our children, we will fight. We will defend ourselves – not attack, but defend ourselves. And so when attack us, you will see our faces, not our backs, but our faces.” Do you think that President Zelenskyy is too proud to run?

Ambassador Brzezinski: I think President Zelenskyy and the people of Ukraine have shown the kind of courage and the kind of will to fight that are emblematic of the greatest moments in the history of humanity. And that is being willing to risk everything. Being willing not to flee. But to stand in the face of overwhelming odds and say: “No, you can’t do that. And we’ll do everything we can to stop you.”  And what is good about this moment, is that we live in an age where that can be shared around the world – and the Russian leaders look to the world like atrocious monsters in the face of every Ukrainian man, woman, “babcia”, who’s out there fighting the good fight. The world sees this. Putin is completely delegitimizing everything about the Russian government and that’s tragic, in certain ways.  This effort to find more conscripts in Russia now to throw them into Ukraine, how tragic for those young people to be forced into that situation. And yet, that’s the challenge we collectively face.  America, Poland and Ukraine are together.  Supporting Poland and Ukraine is a political imperative in America. I can report to you as the US Ambassador, that Washington is focused on delivering aid and delivering assistance to both Ukraine and those helping the Ukrainians including Poland.

Wojciech Surmacz, PAP: Ukraine will win?

Ambassador Brzezinski: Ukraine will win.  There’s no way the Ukrainians will ever give up their land.  What they have shown the world is that they know how to fight, and there are millions and millions of Ukrainians willing to do that. We’ve seen Russia lose other conflicts.  Over time, that’s going to happen in Ukraine.

Wojciech Surmacz: Okay, and with this optimistic note, let’s end our conversation.