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It will be a long war. We all need to prepare

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The US Department of State is aware of the case of a Polish judge who escaped to Belarus, says Mark Toner from the US Department of State in an interview with the correspondent of “Fakty” TVN, Marcin Wrona. Toner adds that the United States is aware of the challenges on NATO's eastern flank created by Russia's aggressive attitude and the war in Ukraine, and is doing everything to support Poland and other allies in them. He was also asked about the case of Polish judge Tomasz Szmydt, who fled to Belarus. He said the State Department is aware of what happened. – But this is an internal issue of the Polish government – he added.

Marcin Wrona, “Fakty” TVN: Mr. Secretary, how would you assess Polish-American relations six months after the creation of the new government? Are there any changes when you compare the current situation to the previous one?

Mark Toner, US Department of State: Yes, as it shows visit of the president and prime minister to the White House, probably on March 3, our relations with Poland have never been stronger. We assess Poland's role in the region as a key role for NATO's security, but also for the security of Europe as a whole. But I would also like to add that we are very pleased to recognize the external role that Poland has played in relation to Ukraine. Poland is a successful Western democracy. I was in Poland in the 1990s and saw what trajectory it was following. The current leadership makes me more confident (that this path will continue – editor's note).

Marcin Wrona: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned Ukraine. Of course, this is the number one topic in Poland, because the war is raging in our neighbor. The question is, are we doing enough to stop Putin?

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Mark Toner: First of all, you are absolutely right when you say that your neighbor's house is burning. We in the United States recognize the critical role Poland plays as a frontline nation in this conflict. Poland's actions are very good. The world perceives the generosity, generosity and solidarity of the Polish nation towards Ukraine. I would just like to say that we are in better shape today than we were a month ago, before Congress passed aid to Ukraine. I think many of your listeners have followed this epic. $60 billion in military aid, other types of aid to Ukraine. Of course this will make a big difference. It depends on how quickly we can deliver it to the front line – the air defense systems that have been sorely lacking in recent months.

Russia is currently attempting to attack Ukraine's key energy infrastructure. The sooner our help reaches the front line, the better. But I would like to emphasize again – Poland understands this perfectly. Better than many European and Western countries. He sees this threat just beyond his border. Unfortunately, it will be a long war. I think we all have to prepare, we have to gear up, we have to be ready for this.

MW: Coming back to my previous question. You mentioned the delay at the Capitol. It's a lot. Half a year. Will this be enough to stop Putin? Isn't it too late? Too little?

MT: No, I wouldn't say that. Of course, it was difficult to reach this point, but in Poland you know well now – you have to dig deep into your pockets to help. This is an existential fight for Ukraine. This requires a lot of help from all sides. We had to convince Congress, but we see great commitment from Congress to help Ukraine. They understand, they see it well, that what is happening in Ukraine is not only an existential threat to Ukraine, but to the security of all of Europe.

“This is not just an existential threat to Ukraine”Marcin Wrona/Fakty o Świecie TVN24 BiS

MW: Mr. Secretary, one of the very hot topics in Poland is the development of the situation related to one of the judges in Poland who escaped to Belarus. Do you follow these events?

MT: I realize what happened. We at the Department of State are aware, but we believe that this is an internal issue of the Polish government and I think that the Polish government should take care of it.

MW: This somehow fits into the broader issue when it comes to Poland's security, of infiltration by Russian agents, Belarusian agents. Is this part of that bigger picture? How would you assess the security of Poland, NATO's eastern flank, especially before the NATO summit begins in Washington in July?

MT: I will try to answer this question as best as I can. Speaking specifically about the security of Poland and NATO's eastern flank, of course this is a big issue for NATO, we are very worried about it. We are making great efforts to strengthen this eastern flank of NATO. We are, of course, perfectly aware of the threat posed by Russian aggression in Ukraine. We have our best units on NATO's eastern flank. Interoperability between Polish and American forces is at a very high level. We're seeing efforts across NATO to really strengthen NATO's readiness.

Coming back to the other points – agent infiltration, covert operations, but also the disinformation campaign, hybrid warfare – this is obviously a cause for concern. We've been trying to deal with it for years. For example, we detected Russia's attempts to invade Ukraine. We shared it. Our intelligence picked this up. We shared this with our partners and allies in the region.

Mark Toner on Russian hybrid warfare and cooperation with allies

Agent infiltration, disinformation campaign, hybrid warfareMarcin Wrona/Fakty o Świecie TVN24BiS

MW: Mr. Secretary, do you expect any decisive moves after this NATO summit in Washington?

MT: This is an excellent question. Taking a step back, this is the 75th anniversary of NATO. I would say, and this is no hyperbole, that NATO has never had a greater role to play than it does now with Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine. First, President Zelensky intends to go to Washington. This will be an opportunity for NATO allies to show their solidarity with Ukraine and to show this solidarity at every stage of the journey. Send a strong message to Moscow, to the Kremlin. The second thing – going back 10 years, there were maybe two or three NATO member countries that met the criterion of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. Now over 20. Poland, of course, is an example here. Poland understands the need to spend money on defense. But I think we'll make more progress here too.

MW: Let's now move on to the Middle East. Do you see any risk of escalation of the conflict that is currently simmering in Gaza between Hamas and Israel? Given the invasion of Rafah, is the United States seriously considering stopping arms shipments to Israel?

MT: Let me start with what the president said yesterday. Our alliance and support for Israel's security is unwavering. The president said that we are concerned about Israel's prepared invasion of Rafah, which could put more than a million Palestinians who seek refuge there at risk. We have discussed with Israel other ways, other efforts that could achieve the same goal of destroying Hamas that would not put civilians at risk. As part of this process, you may have heard the president say, we are keeping one of our arms shipments to Israel because it can be used in this invasion of Rafah.

A broader question, a broader context – the possibility of this conflict escalating to the entire region. We saw an attempt to do this a few weeks ago when Iran fired its rockets and missiles at Israel. The United States helped Israel. We ensured that this attack was destroyed and failed. We probably destroyed 99 percent of the incoming missiles, rockets and drones. It was also a successful operation. The United States and our friends and allies in the region understand that everything that is done to de-escalate the situation is extremely important. We've seen Iran, Hezbollah, inciting, trying to find ways to create more instability, to take advantage of this conflict that's brewing there. We've seen this time and time again. The absolutely key issue now is to achieve a ceasefire. Then we can get the hostages released. Secondly, flood all of Gaza with the humanitarian aid that is so desperately needed there. Then we can walk into the future, but first we must start with de-escalation. Yes, we are very worried about this.

The entire conversation between Marcin Wrona and Marek Toner

The entire conversation between Marcin Wrona and Marek TonerFacts about the World TVN24 BiS

Facts about the World TVN24 BiS

Main photo source: TVN24 BiS

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