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    Mark Brzezinski: Poland is safe. The interview for “Gazeta Polska”

    Interview with Mark Brzezinski, Ambassador of the United States to Poland.
    The interview was conducted by Tomasz Sakiewicz and Maciej Kożuszek for “Gazeta Polska.”

    “It can be said that our military cooperation has never been so close because never before have American troops been stationed in Poland in this formula. Before that, we cooperated in Iraq, which was a completely different battlefield, whether in Kosovo or Afghanistan, but these were the territories of third countries. Now we are here in Poland with you. There is a phenomenon of harmonization of the actions of both armies, and this has an impact on the multi-level and thorough strengthening of our combat readiness. Poles need to understand this, we have a high and multi-level combat readiness here, which is security in all directions,” Mark Brzezinski, US ambassador to Poland, says in an interview with ‘Gazeta Polska.’

     

    Mr Ambassador, when you were preparing to take position in Warsaw, did you expect that Russia would start a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and Poland, the country, in which you will be an ambassador, will become a key logistical hub for Western efforts to aid Ukraine?

     

    I began the process of preparing for the ambassadorial service in Poland in October last year when I attended the ambassador training that the Department of State conducts in Northern Virginia. Even then, there was a lot of talk about Putin’s intentions toward Eastern Europe. It seems to me that President Biden has repeatedly hit the bull’s eye when it comes to assessing the situation in the region. This was the case with his decision to share with countries in this part of the world, such as Poland and Romania, intelligence information about the military capabilities, both defensive and offensive, that Russia has, and about how the political elite in Moscow wanted to take advantage of these opportunities. President Biden made this assessment early and began the process of communicating it to countries in this part of the world.

    I had a feeling, based on the President’s assessment, as well as my experiences and knowledge about Russia and the Russian leadership, in particular Putin, who came to power when I took a seat in the National Security Council, that something was going to be prepared. Of course, you couldn’t predict intensity, scale, direction, or time. But I have a feeling that thanks to our President’s instincts, I had a certain advantage at the start, I sensed that something could happen.I came to Poland on January 21. The invasion took place on February 24 and we already had a fairly accurate and verified picture of border crossings in Medyka and Korczowa. We knew where we would organize our welcome centre – in Przemyśl. We knew what infrastructure was located in Rzeszów (G2 Arena) and other centres in south-eastern Poland.

     

    So, these preparations had already started before February 24?

     

    Absolutely, these preparations were ongoing because we wanted to be ready for all scenarios. We knew that something on a very large scale could happen, and the role of diplomatic and security professionals is to understand all possible scenarios. As we can see, one of these scenarios, i.e., the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, has come true. Along with the cruelty that the Russians commit to the Ukrainians, which, frankly speaking, was to some extent unthinkable in the sense that it resembles images that could be seen in films from World War II. It was the same with the scale of the influx of refugees. It was something we might have expected in terms of numbers, but the magnitude of the wave was hard to imagine anyway. Here, of course, the Polish nation and Poles played a key role, they came to the rescue. They were like the legendary John Wayne. For me, the Polish nation was John Wayne, who came to the rescue of the Ukrainians who crossed the border in Medyka or Korczowa. Poles have come to the rescue and they are still doing it, and we are still very impressed with their attitude. We are grateful for it.

     

    You spoke about the infrastructure in Rzeszów. When it comes to supporting Ukraine, discussions often focus on political decisions regarding the provision of a specific type of equipment. However, many probably underestimate the logistical effort that this process requires and the level of coordination between the allies, between the Polish government and the US administration. What does this coordination look like in practice?

     

    Coordination within an alliance is something like the Holy Grail for us. In other words, we will achieve victory together. What do I mean when I speak of victory? Ukraine will be a sovereign, independent state. To achieve this, we must work together. Both the countries that are closer to Ukraine and those that are further away. We all deal with this problem. What we achieved, quite quickly, on a tactical level, is mutual alignment and synchronization in terms of coordination between our various management and command systems, so that we understand what each ally is doing. We share information to avoid any surprises. It seems to me that now we have managed to work out a good rhythm of this cooperation, thanks to which we are ready for any scenario. I am saying this because we do not know what Putin will do in the future.

     

    President Biden never spoke favourably of Vladimir Putin, but when he took office, one had the impression that he was trying to build at least a draft relationship with the Russian president, we had a summit in Geneva. After the start of the war, President Biden said in Warsaw: “This man cannot remain in power,” and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the goal was to “weaken Russia.” What is the long-term strategy of this administration for Ukraine and our region in general?

     

    In addition to the goal, I mentioned – independence and sovereignty for Ukraine – we also want Ukraine to be able to defend itself and defend its citizens in the future, against the cruelties that are taking place now. We also don’t want Russia to be able to do it again. In my opinion, President Biden has been quite consistent when it comes to his approach to Putin. There was no hesitation or a change in the perception of Putin. President Biden was consistent in his perception of Putin – as a KGB agent, as the son of a KGB agent, as a cruel thug who persecuted others, long before the latest aggression against Ukraine.

    It is also worth remembering that after Ukraine and Crimea were invaded in 2014, then-vice-president Biden was one of the first high-ranking US officials to visit Kyiv. I am talking about this because the President has personal knowledge and experience related to this part of the world and its important figures, the knowledge that goes back more than 50 years. He has always been deeply committed to getting to know and understand this part of the world. To this should be added something that you might have seen yourself at the National Stadium in Warsaw – President Biden has great empathy for people from this part of the world. That is why he was so moved by the reaction of the Poles who were helping those who had to flee from Ukraine. It was a crucial experience for him that he had shared with many people.

    A few days ago, the former Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, was also in Poland. On behalf of the United States government, he also conveyed deep thanks from all of us for what the Poles are doing. Poles set a new standard and they do it on their own. This is amazing.

    What I want to say is that some of the things we’re talking about were planned, such as sharing intelligence information, but some happened spontaneously. Together, all of this contributed to the sum of responses that strategically turned out to be a punch to Putin. Nothing that happens is strategically beneficial for Putin. Did Putin invade Ukraine to have Sweden and Finland join NATO, or was that his goal? Absolutely not. Has Putin invaded Ukraine to bring Americans and Poles even closer and for the first time in history to find a permanent US Army command centre on NATO’s eastern flank, which will be supported by the new garrison and logistic operations? Certainly not.

    Has Putin invaded Ukraine to increase the number of American destroyers in Spain from 4 to 6, to increase the number of F-35s in Great Britain, and to strengthen NATO forces in Romania or the Baltic states? No, that’s not what he did. It didn’t work out strategically. What he will have to tell his people is the death of many young Russian soldiers. I do not know how such a situation can be called a victory. Only a dictator can justify, in his mind, such an action, because any leader, democratically elected, in a real election, would pay a high political price for it.

     

    Most of the Polish society, regardless of political beliefs, does not contest a close and strong alliance with the USA. But that is why we asked about the Geneva summit earlier; some Poles feel that the US obligations towards our region will not be long-term, Americans will get tired of the war, and everything will end in a peace agreement, unfavourable for Ukraine, and thus also for Poland. How would you address these concerns?

     

    Let me start by highlighting something that I believe is extremely crucial. Last week, a public opinion poll in Poland was published by the Pew Research Center, a very reliable research centre. This survey showed an increase in Poles’ support for close relations with the US, which now stands at over 80%. Poles’ support for NATO has risen to a similarly high level, and these are not small increases compared to the last survey conducted a few years ago. For us, the growing support of Poles for accepting refugees from conflict-affected countries is also of great importance. These are extremely important trends that we pay great attention to. They are impressive and are heading in an amazing direction that meets our approval. This is a very important starting point. 

    It is worth noting that in the last few months alone, I have hosted 95 members of the American Congress, senators, and members of the House of Representatives in Poland. This is a very large number in such a short period. And let’s not forget, of course, the visit of the President, and Vice-President, these two visits were only two weeks apart. This frequency, in the case of bilateral visits, is something that is not always the rule. Poland was visited three times by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Agriculture and many others. Many high-ranking US officials want to witness what is happening here, and that is very important. It is important that they can see our troops here, and how our money is spent here so that they can see the scale of this crisis. It is important that they can see Poles who continue to work normally, even though there is a war in their neighbourhood. It is important. We would not like Poland to be destabilized, so it is so important that we see Poles who remain calm and live normally. My theory is that Poland’s membership in NATO is also partly responsible for this. It should be so, that membership in NATO has its importance and the President made it clear when he said frankly and shortly: “We will defend every inch of NATO territory,” and this, of course, also applies to Poland. These assurances were also repeated by Secretary John Kerry during his meetings, with, incl. President Duda and Prime Minister Morawiecki.

    Returning to your question. We certainly understand that the current situation may drag on and we are prepared for it. I will certainly do my best to bring it to the attention of as many people as possible.

     

    You mentioned the permanent command of the US V Corps, which is to be stationed in Poland. For those readers who do not know the details of the functioning of the American armed forces, could you explain what this presence will be related to?

     

    This is the command of the 5th Army Corps and, as we said, it will now be stationed in Poland permanently. What will it do? It will develop extended cooperation within the joint command and control system. It is crucial that the armed forces of Poland and the USA, which have separate command and control systems, understand, and have mutual awareness of their actions. Secondly, its task will be to deepen the interoperability [ the ability of the forces of two allied countries to conduct joint operations – ed.]. Today, two sides use high-tech weapons.

    Everyone must understand how these systems can work together so that they function within a connected network that is integrated and encompassed entirely by the land masses they are intended to protect. This is the essence of the operation of such a command centre. It will be here permanently, but at the same time, we strive to strengthen the rotational forces that serve on Polish territory. All of this will, of course, be adapted to the situation on the battlefield, and we are prepared for any eventuality, and we are closely watching not only what Putin is doing but also what he is preparing for.

    I think we have a deep and far-reaching knowledge of what this man is doing and where it is all going. This entails that Poland is safe. This is the goal of our cooperation, and it can be said that militarily, this cooperation has never been so close because never before have American troops been stationed in Poland in this formula. Before that, we cooperated in Iraq, which was a completely different battlefield, whether in Kosovo or Afghanistan, but these were third-country territories. Now we are here in Poland with you.

    You know the area very well, but we have become acquainted with it over the years. There is a phenomenon of harmonization of the actions of both armies, and this has an impact on the multi-level and thorough strengthening of our combat readiness. The Poles must understand this. We have a high and multi-level combat readiness here, which is security in all directions.

     

    We would also like to ask about the concept of the Three Seas Initiative. How does the United States relate to it?

     

    Although the United States is not a member of the Three Seas Initiative, we support this project. At the recent summit, we announced another important financial step, investing 300 million dollars to support the Three Seas Initiative. There is a “money talks” principle in Washington, or, as another great saying goes, “you are your budget,” if you don’t have the money there is little you can do. So, the US is increasing its support for the Three Seas.

     

    Can the extended and deepened military cooperation also translate into American investments in Poland?

     

    I have been in Poland for six months and I did my best to make the embassy a platform for American CEOs so that they could come here, and say: ‘You can do business in Poland.’ Who visited Poland? Google chief Sundar Pichai, first donated 38 million dollars in aid to refugees. In addition, we have the purchase of the Warsaw Hub, worth one billion dollars. This is the highest-value real estate contract concluded by a foreign company in the first quarter of this year. Susan Wójcicki, the head of YouTube, with Polish roots, came and announced the creation of thousands of new jobs in the technology sector. There was also the head of McDonald’s in Poland announcing the opening of the company’s 500th franchise.

    The visits of these and other American businessmen also serve to send a message to the world that we are convinced about a certain future for the Polish economy. Because we have this belief. Of course, we are aware of rising inflation, gasoline prices, etc., but we also know that Poles are talented, have scientific and technological talents, and have a lot to offer to Western companies.

     

    Read also in Polish ⤵️ 

    „Polska jest bezpieczna”. Rozmowa z ambasadorem Stanów Zjednoczonych w Polsce Markiem Brzezinskim

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