Feb 20, 2024

Poland’s Foreign Minister Discusses the War in Ukraine Transcript

Poland's Foreign Minister Discusses the War in Ukraine Transcript
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During the Munich Security Conference, Nick Schifrin discussed Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Along NATO’s eastern flank are several former Soviet satellite states, each with long and bitter memories of Russian dominance. Those nations are among the strongest supporters of Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion, and of American support for Europe more broadly. One nation loudly making that argument is Poland. Over the weekend, Nick Schifrin sat down with Poland’s foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski. They talked at the Munich Security Conference, which highlighted Europe’s anxieties about Putin’s invasion and about America’s resolve.

Nick Schifrin (00:34):

Foreign Minister Sikorski, thank you very much. Welcome back to the News Hour. As of now, the US House of Representatives has not approved vital military aid to Ukraine. Already, as we know, Ukraine is rationing ammunition. What impact is the debate in the US having on American credibility?

Radoslaw Sikorski (00:52):

Well, first of all, remember that Europe has contributed financially more to the effort than the United States.

Nick Schifrin (00:58):

In total, yeah.

Radoslaw Sikorski (00:59):

When you count Brussels and the member states. Secondly, remember that this is money for weapons to be manufactured in the United States. Thirdly, the Ukrainians have already destroyed half of President Putin’s army without the involvement of a single American soldier. And lastly, that it’s much cheaper to help Ukraine now than it will be if Putin conquers Ukraine and then has to be deterred. So we think this is good value for money and that this package is important, we appeal to the House of Representatives, to Mike Johnson personally-

Nick Schifrin (01:39):

Speaker of the House, yeah.

Radoslaw Sikorski (01:40):

… to please let it go to a vote.

Nick Schifrin (01:43):

Do you believe that it is damaging US credibility?

Radoslaw Sikorski (01:46):

Well, if Ukraine, having been encouraged to resist, the President of the United States, having put his standard on the ground in Kyiv, the famous historic visit, then doesn’t deliver on assistance, that would send a message around the globe that you have to be careful, because the United States, for important but regrettable reasons, might not be able to come through for you.

Nick Schifrin (02:18):

Be careful, you mean, trusting the United States in the future?

Radoslaw Sikorski (02:21):

And that would have important implications, not only in Eastern Europe, but around the globe, where there are other allies that feel exposed, bordering on more powerful countries, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, others, Philippines, Australia even. And so, the world is watching, this really is not only about Ukraine.

Nick Schifrin (02:47):

Can Europe make up the shortfall for Ukraine if the US does not send military aid?

Radoslaw Sikorski (02:54):

We can make up financially, but there is literally not enough production capacity of shells and of equipment. We are 20 times bigger than Russia economically, but Russia has gone on to war footing, it’s producing ammo 24/7, we haven’t, and without the United States, we are behind the curve in making the stuff that Ukraine needs to defend itself.

Nick Schifrin (03:24):

Many people here have admitted that Ukraine could lose without these weapons, but can Ukraine win with these weapons? It has struggled to even match its own goals for the counteroffensive last year.

Radoslaw Sikorski (03:37):

Ukraine has recovered 50% of the territory that the Russians once occupied, and Ukraine has cleared the Russian Navy from half of the Black Sea, and is now exporting grain, not thanks to Putin’s permission, but despite his best efforts. They just need the tools to do the job, they’re doing God’s work on our behalf, we just need to enable them, because they can’t defend themselves with bare hands.

Nick Schifrin (04:04):

If Ukraine doesn’t get these weapons, should it negotiate an end of the war?

Radoslaw Sikorski (04:09):

Well, then it will be US responsibility for having brought that about, for having allowed Putin to abolish a taboo that we established after two bloody world wars, that you may not change borders by force. It would then get noticed by dictators and aggressors around the world that, yes, the West will huff and puff, America will encourage to fight, but when push comes to shove, you can get away with it, and that would then be a very costly proposition.

Nick Schifrin (04:45):

I noticed though you don’t say no. Do you think Ukraine should negotiate an end to the war if it doesn’t have enough weapons?

Radoslaw Sikorski (04:51):

Look, I’ve said it before, there is never a shortage of pocket Chamberlains willing to trade other people’s freedom or land for their own peace of mind. If it were to come to pass, this should be Ukrainian judgments, it’s their people who are being conquered, who are being expelled, their children who are being stolen, not ours.

Nick Schifrin (05:15):

I know you’re not going to want to talk about US domestic politics, but I do have to ask about comments made by the former president recently, in which he questioned whether NATO should defend countries that don’t meet the 2% threshold of GDP spending in terms of defense spending. Do you believe the damage has already been done, in some ways, that the very questioning of Article Five, the idea that the US would come to European defense no matter which European country was attacked inside of NATO, do you think that’s already damaged Article Five?

Radoslaw Sikorski (05:46):

We heard the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, reporting to the Munich Security Conference that this year, 18 NATO allies will be spending at least 2%. Poland, I think, is number one, actually. So let’s hope that what the former president meant was to energize us, to accelerate the increase of defense budgets. We prefer to remember that, under his administration, the US sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

Nick Schifrin (06:23):

Is 18 countries out of 31, presumably soon to be 32, is that enough countries meeting their 2% threshold?

Radoslaw Sikorski (06:30):

Some countries are behind the curve, the flank countries are not. It’s not by-

Nick Schifrin (06:35):

Eastern flank?

Radoslaw Sikorski (06:36):

… it is not by accident that the closer you are to Russia, the more you’re spending on defense.

Nick Schifrin (06:43):

In the past, Poland has resisted or worried about Europe making military plans, making defense plans, outside of NATO. Are you reconsidering those worries that you’ve had in the past?

Radoslaw Sikorski (06:58):

A very high-ranking Pentagon official told me the US now supports European defense. They know that there may come circumstances in which, irrespective of who is president, you may be engaged in another part of the world, and you want to have the freedom, the knowledge, that the Europeans can, at least to some extent, fend for themselves, provide their own security. This means that we need to develop some capabilities.

Nick Schifrin (07:27):

Outside of NATO?

Radoslaw Sikorski (07:29):

This should be done in strategic harmony with the United States, and then I think it’s actually helpful to the United States.

Nick Schifrin (07:37):

Foreign Minister Sikorski, thank you very much.

Radoslaw Sikorski (07:38):


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