Polish ambassador: War in Ukraine not only about Ukraine's freedom but 'also about ours'

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Detroit — More than a year into Russia's war in Ukraine, the attention of U.S. politicians, media and the public has faded to some degree — but Marek Magierowski, Poland's ambassador to the United States, believes the crisis has implications even for Michiganians.

“It is not only about Ukraine’s sovereignty, Ukraine’s freedom — it’s also about ours," Magierowski said in an exclusive interview Thursday with The Detroit News.

Marek Magierowski, Poland's ambassador to the United States, says not only Ukraine's freedom is at stake in its war with Russia.

“We have to be aware that it’s not only a question of what Europe is doing now and how Poland is assisting Ukraine in terms of the humanitarian crisis or providing weaponry in order to help Ukrainians defend themselves — it’s also a question of how our relationship with Russia will look like in the years to come," he added. "And that’s why it’s also important for people here in Detroit and Michigan and in the United States, as a country that has assumed the role of leader of this collective West, in the confrontation with Russia.”

Magierowksi, a former journalist who has served in his current post since 2021, was in Michigan visiting members of the Polish diaspora and having meetings with officials such as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and members of the Polish-American business community. As Poland's top diplomat in the United States, he's tasked with connecting with the large Polish diaspora that exists in communities across the country. And on this visit, he hoped to talk with elected officials and business leaders about opportunities for Polish businesses to invest in the United States.

“Until recently, it has been basically a one-way street. Namely, thousands of American companies investing directly or indirectly in Poland," Magierowksi said. "We would like to change this a little bit and encourage Polish companies to invest in America, which is a very competitive market. It’s not so easy for a Polish company to leave a footprint here or to get some position in the American market."

He noted, for example, Elemental Holding — a large Polish company focused on battery recycling: "It could be pretty beneficial for American companies, especially here in Detroit.”

But the issue that has been top of mind for Magierowksi since Russia's Feb. 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine has been the war that has devastated Poland's neighbor, pushed millions of migrants and refugees across borders, destabilized eastern Europe, and stoked heightened fears of Russia's aggression. And though the cost of American support of Ukraine has prompted debate, Magierowksi argued that the cost to the average taxpayer is relatively low.

“We know very well that maybe the conflict in Ukraine is not as important for an average American media consumer, but it is also our priority and our task as Polish diplomats here in America, for whom this conflict is of fundamental importance," he said, "to persuade the American public opinion that it is also in America’s interest to do as much as possible, as much as it takes, to help the Ukrainians win in this war."

Poland has committed billions of dollars' worth of military aid to Ukraine since the start of the war last year. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Warsaw last month, at which time he announced additional support from Poland, including fighter jets and a joint memorandum between the countries on the reconstruction of war-damaged areas in Ukraine and the production of 125mm tank rounds, the Kyiv Independent reported.

"Poles know the great value of freedom and solidarity, so we support Ukrainians in their struggle," said Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, according to the Kviv publication. "The security of the whole of Europe and the security of Poland are also at stake in this war."

Marek Magierowski wears the Polish White Eagle with a crown in the center surrounded by "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs," in Polish, on the lapel of his jacket during an interview Thursday with The Detroit News.

Magierowski said Thursday that the move, recently endorsed by the Biden administration, to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 fighter jets was a "very positive development." Poland also is supportive of Ukraine joining both the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“I think this is (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s primary fear, to have one of the biggest post-Soviet republics, Russia’s neighbor, becoming a member of these two organizations … and becoming more prosperous, more democratic, more liberal in terms of the development of the economy," Magierowski said. "If Putin loses his last sphere of influence, that might mean the beginning of the end of his rule. And that’s why we’re supportive of Ukraine’s aspirations.”

Meanwhile, Poland is closely following the latest in U.S. domestic politics, including the debt ceiling battle in Washington and the looming 2024 presidential election, but, as a foreign diplomat, Magierowski declined to comment in detail on American political issues. But he offered a rosy assessment of the decades-long alliance between Poland and the United States.

“It’s very hard to predict what will happen in America in two years’ time," he said, "but the one thing I’m sure of is that our alliance will remain as strong as ever, no matter who wins the next election.”

Even in the event of a second Donald Trump presidential term?

"No comment on that," Magierowski said.