The annual Atlantic Council Freedom Awards recognize extraordinary individuals and organizations that defend and advance the cause of freedom around the world. These awards embody the Council’s mission to strengthen transatlantic leadership on global values. The recipients of the 2014 Freedom Awards were: Baroness Catherine Ashton, European Union Vice President and High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy; Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of the Republic of Estonia; Miklós Németh, former Prime Minister of Hungary; the People of the Maidan in Ukraine, accepted on the Maidan movement’s behalf by Ruslana Lyzhychko and Kateryna Kruk; and The Polish American Freedom Foundation and Jerzy Kozminski.
ATLANTIC COUNCIL FREEDOM AWARDS
PRESIDENT AND CEO,
FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2014
TRANSCRIPT PROVIDED BY
DC TRANSCRIPTION – WWW.DCTMR.COM
Please stand, gentlemen, so that we can applaud you. (Applause.)
Tonight, five more individuals and organizations will join this community of freedom fighters. We will first, tonight, honor Miklos Nemeth, former prime minister of Hungary, for his guiding hand in Hungary’s peaceful transition through the fall of communism, in 1989. Were it not for your decisions, a lot of other things wouldn’t have happened. Ron Freeman of the Atlantic Council board will introduce you.
Welcome, Prime Minister Nemeth.
We’ll recognize Estonian President Toomas Ilves for his lifelong dedication to a free, open, and democratic Estonia, integrating Estonia into the Euro-Atlantic community, and using technology to enhance the free exchange of information to strengthen liberal societies. Senator Chris Murphy will introduce him.
After the dinner break, we’ll present an award to the Polish American Freedom Foundation for seeking to advance democracy, civil society, economic development, and equal opportunity throughout Central and Eastern Europe. I was briefed this week on some of your most fascinating projects, and this is such a deserving award. It will be accepted by Polish diplomat Jerzy Kozminski, who played such a historic role himself – chairman of the board of the Freedom Foundation, tireless defender of freedom. And we’re very happy that former national security advisor, member of our international advisory board, Zbigniew Brzezinski will introduce Jerzy Kozminski for this award.
We will also recognize Baroness Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. And we’ll recognize her for conceiving a peaceful resolution to the turbulent Serbian Kosovo conflict. She is in the midst of issues right now that forced her to cancel her trip here yesterday. She sends her apologies. We’ll transmit your congratulations and her award at another moment.
We’ll close the evening with a special Freedom Award to the people of Maidan, who since November 2013 did not back down from their dream of a free and democratic Ukraine. Two key voices of the Maidan will accept the award on their behalf, the singer and activist Ruslana, who also received our Humanitarian Leadership Award at the Atlantic Council a couple of months ago, and Katryna Kruk. You’ll hear more about their story from the man who will introduce them, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
It’s now my great pleasure to turn the stage to one of my most active board directors who leads a lot of our strategic thinking in the Atlantic Council. And he’ll deliver a special greeting on behalf of the Atlantic Council’s board, former National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, who has not allowed me, because of his modesty, to give him a longer introduction. Thank you.
STEPHEN HADLEY: Thank you, Fred. Good evening everyone. I want to welcome you to the Freedom Awards Dinner on behalf of the board of directors of the Atlantic Council and our Chairman Jon Huntsman. We’ve had a terrific first day. And tonight is an opportunity for celebration, sober reflection, and recommitment.
Celebration. To celebrate the dramatic historic extension of freedom among the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe. To celebrate the tough decisions that those countries made to institute democratic political reforms and market based economic practices. And to celebrate the prosperity that this has brought to the people of this region. And few nations have done it better, in this respect, than Poland. And we salute the leaders and people of Poland for their accomplishments.
Tonight, we also recognize, as Fred said, some extraordinary men and women, who contributed to the progress that we celebrate. It’s also time for sober reflection. The post-Cold War consensus that helped produced this gains is now challenged by Vladimir Putin, first in Georgia, and now in Ukraine.
Internally, within Russia, and parallel to this effort to destabilize Ukraine, Putin has cracked down on the freedom of the Russian people. This is part of a dismal trend toward authoritarianism and away from freedom in several regions of the world. And that is why I was so pleased that yesterday the Atlantic Council sponsored the first democracy dialogue between Europeans and Americans. We sought to identify concrete steps to help civil society and concerned citizens peacefully advance the cause of freedom under conditions of repression and authoritarianism. It was a very productive session and I hope it will become a permanent feature of this conference.
And finally, it is an occasion for recommitment. There is no excuse for justifying what Vladimir Putin has done, but to some degree we have given him the opportunity by flagging in our efforts to build a Europe based on our values and principles. The expansion of NATO and of the European Union that contributed so much to the success of the last 25 years has largely ceased. And we have not pursued other ways to help the countries to the east and to the south to achieve the freedom, democratic institutions, market economies, and stable societies that we enjoy.
And we can do this without re-dividing Europe, isolating Russia, or ignoring the historical and economic bonds between the Russian people and the rest of Europe. And this will give hope to those Russians who want a democratic future for Russia after Putin.
Our vision is a Europe whole, free, and at peace, in which Russia finds its peaceful place. We are in new circumstances and need a clear strategy to achieve this goal. So I would hope that next year, perhaps the day after the forum, we could have the first strategic dialogue between Americans and Europeans to refine our strategy for achieving this vision and to identify the concrete steps we need to take together.
We must all recommit to this vision and the hard work required to achieve it, and then sustain that work over the long term. Success will not come easily and it will not come quickly. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, you have your freedom, Madam, if you can keep it. We have to show ourselves up to this challenge. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome His Excellency Ryszard Schnepf, ambassador of Poland to the United States. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR RYSZARD SCHNEPF: Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, good evening. I’m delighted to be back in Wroclaw and thank you very much, Global Forum, for giving me this opportunity. I see so many distinguished people here that to welcome all of them would take me probably an hour, but I cannot mention that the presence of my boss doesn’t make me feel much better.
I promised Fred Kempe to be brief and this was the only condition that he would invite me the next year, so I will.
Dear friends, Wroclaw today, tonight is a capital of the transatlantic world. And I’m so not surprised now that a couple of weeks ago, while traveling on a flight in the United States, my neighbor asked me where I’m from. And I said, I’m from Warsaw, Poland. And he replied, all right, how many hours drive is it from Wroclaw? (Laughter.) (Applause.) You can only imagine how I felt being from Warsaw exactly.
So congratulations Atlantic Council and Polish Institute of International Relations. Five years is not a long time. You are still very young. But looking at my daughter Antonia, five years old, I see that being five years, you can be bright, smart, and creative, so congratulations the Global Forum.
I’m expected here to deliver some words on the Polish-American relations, but is it a better proof than an unprecedented sequence of visits that we enjoyed here in Poland from the United States, twice Secretary of State John Kerry, a visit of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, and finally, the President of the closest ally of Poland – the United States. We all enjoyed so much his visit in Warsaw and all people in Poland will remember his words. Poland will never be alone again. Poland will never be alone again. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for those years. We all Polish people felt it deeply in our heart.
As in previous years, Global Forum will award this year very special people who have never ceased in the efforts to change our world for the better one. Congratulations to all of them and let me say that this award gala is under special circumstances. We all remember that not that far from here, in Ukraine, people are still struggling to take lead and to decide the future of their own country. So I can only repeat the words of President Obama. Ukraine, you will not be alone. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome His Excellency Stephen Mull, ambassador of the United States to Poland. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR STEPHEN MULL: (Foreign language.) My voice, there’s not much of my voice left after managing a visit of a president, but I’ve saved enough of it for this really special event tonight, which is such a great tradition and a milestone in the transatlantic relationship. Thanks very much to Mr. Sikorski for his patronage of this event, to Fred Kempe and the board of directors for supporting it every year, and of course, my colleague, Ryszard Schnepf.
It’s been such an incredible week to be the American ambassador in Poland and to be able to join in celebrating the 25th anniversary of Poland’s remarkable transition, a week during which President Obama affirmed strongly the sanctity of America’s commitment to Europe and President Komorowski vowed Poland would play a lead role in forging a stronger transatlantic relationship with the United States.
The 25th anniversary is not just a time to celebrate the accomplishments of the past. It is also a time to think about the challenge of the present and the future. Now, Poland, the region, and the transatlantic community can meet those challenges. It is an opportunity to renew our commitment to working together to maintain security, create jobs, economic growth, and ensure the vibrancy of our democratic societies. The Wroclaw Global Forum is the perfect place to consider and discuss those issues.
We in the transatlantic community often say that we are bound together by our common values. We also believe deeply that those values, especially our devotion to freedom and democracy, are by no means unique to any single region. Instead, as history repeatedly shows, the desire to be free of tyranny and have a voice is common to all humankind.
Tonight’s Freedom Awards recognize the extraordinary individuals and organizations who have courageously led the fight for freedom and democracy around the world and who have proven that the values that bind us together in our transatlantic community also bind us, in turn, to the global community.
Congratulations to the Atlantic Council and its partners for organizing another terrific event, especially my friend, Mayor Dutkiewicz – I’m glad he’s coming back to health – and for bringing all together such an incredibly distinguished group.
Ladies and gentlemen, now it’s my honor to please welcome Mr. Ron Freeman, member of the supervisory board Sberbank and board director of the Atlantic Council. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
RONALD FREEMAN: “Old men forget: yet all shall be forgotten.” These are Shakespeare’s words. He put them in the mouth of King Henry V to remind his troops never to forget the victory on Saint Crispin’s Day.
The next winner of the Atlantic Council Freedom Award gave us a date we must never forget: 10th September, 1989, fully two months before the Berlin Wall fell. His steely courage, his extraordinary political skill as prime minister of Hungary made 10th September, 1989, the date the Iron Curtain finally fell at long last.
Cut three rusting strands of barbwire on the Hungary-Austria border and that was it. By this extraordinary act, he delivered freedom and liberty to the many and endured personally and at length the curses of the few, those despots who would perpetuate the imprisonment of their fellow citizens as the cornerstone of a failed system of governance.
He followed this tremendous feat with another one, less dramatic, but no less necessary. He illuminated the way forward for us all by joining the senior management of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EBRD. There, he guided the newly created bank’s efforts to catalyze freedom with sharply focused non-bureaucratic finance. He did it because he knew them by identifying safe and competent and trustworthy hands throughout the former Soviet Union who could put good money to great purpose. These actions of one brave man must never be forgotten, a man who knows that you have to keep cutting that wire again and again because freedom is never definitively won.
It is my honor, my great honor to introduce my dear friend, winner of the Atlantic Council Freedom Award, Prime Minister of Hungary Miklos Nemeth. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER MIKLOS NEMETH: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests. It is really my great honor and privilege to be here today and to be the recipient of this very prestigious award.
Twenty-five years ago, Poland and Hungary embarked on a new path. The peoples of these two countries, first in Poland, then a few months later on in Hungary, voted in favor of a multiparty system. It was realized by the majority that without capitalism and market economy, democracy could not be established.
The citizens of Central and Eastern Europe struggling – really struggling under the one party yoke longed for freedom and democracy. At the same time, the population of a divided Germany yearned to be reunited. In ’89, the unthinkable happened: We tore down the Iron Curtain by the end of that year’s spring and on the 10th of September, ignoring all protestations from the former East Germany, I made the difficult and very risky decision to open our borders to East German citizens desperate to make it across to their relatives and friends in the West.
From that very moment, the Berlin Wall could have been bypassed through Hungary and has become irrelevant, falling down for all times two months later. In ’89, the reunification of Europe began. And I am really proud to have played a small part of that process.
The German writer Enzensberger once wrote that politics was the accompaniment to whatever would have happened anyway. While he may be right to some extent, there are times when strong leadership is essential. Eighty-nine was one such a historical episode, when the decisions and actions of a few key political leaders, such as John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, George Bush, and Helmut Kohl ensured the reunification of a broken continent in a peaceful way.
When today I look to the East and see what is happening in Ukraine or when I look across the EU and witness the rise of arrogance, isolationism, I cannot help but think that the world is desperately in need of a strong and fair leadership. If we do not act and stand up to any kind of aggression, chauvinism or coercion, we will face global crises. Therefore, the transatlantic bond is more important than any time before.
It is my hope that the current crop of politicians will have the resolve and courage to prevent the further fragmenting of our continent. And I am certain that the Atlantic Council will play its part in fostering the required leadership that we are so much lacking at this time.
Thank you all, once again, for bestowing this great honor upon my by such a distinguished organization. Thank you. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome United States Senator Chris Murphy. (Applause.)
SENATOR CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Good evening. As a United States senator and a Polish American, I am proud to be here in Wroclaw for this important moment in history. As we confront a historic crisis in Europe precipitated by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continued provocations in Eastern Ukraine, it is appropriate to honor someone who has been on the front lines of the fight to ensure that the sovereign citizens of Eastern Europe decide their faith and their destiny for themselves without outside influence.
President Toomas Ilves is serving his second term as president of Estonia. And thanks to his leadership, Estonia is an example of what can be achieved when countries are free to chart their own economic and political future. Estonia consistently ranks at or near the highest in Europe in terms of economic freedom, political rights, and press freedom. Maybe this isn’t surprising, since President Ilves has devoted a good part of his life to the cause of free speech and open debate, having begun his career in the office of Radio Free Europe in Munich, where he became head of the Estonia desk.
And as a computer programmer since age 13, President Ilves knows the value that interconnectivity adds to open democracy. So it’s also no surprise that Estonia sets the standard in Europe and around the world for Internet connectivity and cyber security. But while open debate and respect for the rule of law defines a thriving democracy, it cannot persist without adequate protection. That’s why, perhaps, President Ilves’s most significant contribution to personal and collective freedom has been his position as a vanguard in efforts to increase security for the Baltic region and for Eastern Europe generally.
He constantly reminds his allies that a commitment to common values can’t just be voiced. It has to be backed up with action. As President Ilves sets a strong example, his government is one of the few in NATO to meet its commitment of spending 2 percent of his GDP on defense.
In America, we’re proud of the contribution that we made to forming the consciousness of a young Toomas Ilves and we are in awe of him today, as no one in Estonia better represents his country’s reputation for punching above its weight.
As a point of personal privilege, when I was first named as chairman of the Europe Subcommittee on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I was told that one of the first people that I had to seek out for advice on both the challenges that Eastern Europe faces, but also the ways in which it can overcome these challenges was through the advice and counsel of President Ilves. He granted me that audience, as I’m sure he has with hundreds of other young new leaders in the transatlantic relationship.
He’s one of the strongest leaders in this alliance. And it is my distinct pleasure to present a Freedom Award to President Ilves for his significant contributions to enduring freedom and democracy in Europe. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES: Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking – actually, today, I’ve been averaging two speeches a day. So I’m going to be short, brief and quote other people.
But first of all, I’d like to thank Senator Murphy for his kind words. And I must admit I’m quite humbled. Actually, I feel rather small. Five years ago, at the Atlantic Council Awards dinner, I was in Senator Murphy’s position and I gave the introduction to the winner of the award on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. The recipient then was Vaclav Havel, who unfortunately, couldn’t show up because of his deteriorating health. So to be here today, I feel kind of – (laughter) – but times changed and the generation of Havels and Walesas and Kwasniewskis and Geremeks, the men and women who stood up and dared challenged totalitarianism are leaving the scene. My generation, really, we’re the ones writing the commentaries in the margins. We’re not risking it all.
The center of the battle has moved eastward to Ukraine, where people are risking it and where the outcome is still in doubt, just as it was in doubt when Solidarnosc and Magic Lantern Theater and the singers in Estonia were risking theirs – their lives. But the motivation remains the same. It is not in doubt.
Recently, Roger Berkowitz, in “American Interest” wrote, “In 1956, as Russian tanks bore down upon Hungary and the short-lived freedoms of the Hungarian revolution, the director of the Hungarian News Agency sent a telex to the world. As Milan Kundera reports in a 1984 essay in the New York Review of Books, this Hungarian newspaperman, facing imminent death, ended his dispatch with these words, ‘We are going to die for Hungary and for Europe.'”
The lesson Kundera draws is that the question of Europe, what Europe is and what it means for Europeans, had shifted from Western Europe to Central Europe. No one in London, he writes, would say I am prepared to die for England and for Europe. And while Russian dissidents – well, especially these days – (laughter) – it is in the countries of Central Europe where the idea of Europe came to express a value and an ideal for which lovers of freedom would make the ultimate sacrifice.
As Kundera writes, “To die for one’s country and for Europe” that is a phrase that could not be thought in Moscow or Leningrad. It is precisely the phrase that could be thought in Budapest or Warsaw. The center of Europe has moved, it seems, to central Europe, a fact that helps put the current Ukrainian controversy in such – in context.
Now, that was in “American Interest,” to get a little from the left. In the “Guardian,” to make things bipartisan, Timothy Garton Ash wrote actually five years ago and I quote. “Twenty years on, the question before us Europeans is this: can we recapture some of the strategic boldness and historical imagination of 1989? Or shall we now leave it to others to shape the world, while we snuggle down, Hobbit-like, in our national holes, and pretend there are no giants yomping overhead?” Unquote.
Now, Mark Twain said, “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” And so I gave a speech this morning on where we are and how things look. So let me close with a passage from Winston Churchill, not from any of his greater – great writings later, but rather from a little known book, “The Aftermath,” from 1929. I quote. “A vast fatigue dominated collective action. Though every subversive element endeavored to assert itself, revolutionary rage, like every other form of psychic energy, burnt low. Through all its five acts, the drama has run its course. The light of history is switched off. The world stage dims. The actors shrivel. The chorus sinks. The war of the giants has ended. The quarrels of the pygmies has begun.”
I really hope that we first support the giants in Ukraine and that we don’t succumb to being either hobbits or pygmies. Thank you. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome back to the stage Mr. Frederick Kempe.
MR. KEMPE: Before we start the dinner break, which we’re going to start now, I just wanted to say a couple of things. A couple of our guests may have to leave during the dinner break to make the inauguration tomorrow in Ukraine. And so I want to have a chance to thank them. First of all, before I thank Ambassador Mull, I just want you to know that I was talking to Minister Sikorski and remarking on how that was a really, really sexy voice. And it was very Kissinger-like, except for the accent. (Applause.)
I want to thank, first of all, the Polish Institute for International Affairs, Prime Minister Bielecki, Marcin Zaborowski, Ana Zelenskaya Rakovic (sp). It’s wonderful to work with you. We enjoy it very much. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
I’m very proud that this is an important year for the Atlantic Council in Poland. We’re putting down deeper roots here. We’ve opened up our Warsaw office and we are about to establish, as soon as we can get through the bureaucracy, the Atlantic Council in Europe Foundation. This will be a foundation for all our Europe work, but it will be based on Poland.
I want to salute Maciej Witucki, our board member in Poland, who will be the chair of the supervisory of the Atlantic Council in Europe Foundation. I want to salute Michal Kobosko, the director of our Warsaw office, who will be building it into an ever more ambitious project. And I want to thank Fran Burwell, vice president of the Atlantic Council, who’s overseen this also. Thank you very much to all of you. (Applause.)
I want to thank the U.S. delegation here. It’s a long way from home and it’s great. It makes such a difference that you’re here. Three U.S. senators, you’ve already heard us salute Senator McCain, one of the great freedom heroes of our country and also Senator Murphy, the European Subcommittee chair and his colleague, minority colleague, Senator Johnson. Thank you for you and Congressman Murphy and Congressman Shimkus, thank you to you as well. Congressman Shimkus believes in transatlantic trade. He showed up here without his bags. I won’t say what airline was responsible for that. But he’s really helped, Mr. Mayor, the Wroclaw economy. And you can look that his clothing is really just first rate. So thank you to this delegation. (Applause.)
I want to thank Kulczyk Investments. Jan Kulczyk and Jarek Sroka, without your support, we wouldn’t have been able to open our Warsaw office. So thank you so much to you. (Applause.)
Let me salute our two co-chairs, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Steve Mull – co-chairs for this evening, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Steve Mull and Poland’s Ambassador to U.S. Ryszard Schnepf. Thank you for your opening comments and for your continued guidance on this initiative, but working with us throughout the year.
And it would be wrong if I hadn’t mentioned former ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein, who was one of the four founders of this initiative, really put together the ideas in the beginning. So thanks to all of you. (Applause.)
And then, last, again, though I’ve saluted him once before, Mayor Dutkiewicz, the City of Wroclaw. Thank you to you. Enjoy your meals. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed your dinner. I’ve already said so much nice about Mayor Dutkiewicz that if I said anything more, he might not invite me back. Let me just say, a friend of freedom, a friend of the Atlantic Council, a great transatlanticist, and an incredible entrepreneur as mayor of this vibrant and successful region, Mayor Rafal Dutkiewicz. (Applause.)
RAFAL DUTKIEWICZ: Thank you very much. That was – that was the choice for our American friends, to cut visas or to make Fred talking shorter. And the choice was to do – to make him talk shorter, unfortunately. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, for the last five years, we have been discussing important matters in Wroclaw during the Wroclaw Global Forum. It is also the fifth time that we present the Freedom Awards distinctions that enjoy considerable worldwide recognition awarded to people and institutions who had particular contribution in promoting freedom, human rights, and civil liberties.
Central and Eastern Europe is especially in debt to people who will receive awards tonight. We thank the president of Estonia, Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, for driving the Baltic republics to regaining their independence. We thank the former prime minister of Hungary, Mr. Miklos Nemeth, for his contribution to the fall of the Berlin Wall. We thank the people of Maidan, represented by Ruslana, Pavlo Sheremeta and Kateryna Kruk, for their fights for democratic values and their achievements of over 23 years of independence of Ukraine. We thank the former longstanding ambassador of Poland in Washington, Mr. Jerzy Kozminski, for his contribution to Poland’s joining NATO. And we also thank the Polish-American Freedom Foundation run by Mr. Kozminski for its social, political and cultural activity in support of various civic processes and development of democracy, especially in Eastern Europe.
I thank all the award winners for their determination and courage, for constantly reminding democracy should not be taken for granted. Those values must be protected even when this might sometimes require paying a high price.
Attempts at depriving free people of democracy should be met and most often are met with resistance. Let’s listen to the account of one of the participants of the protests at Maidan in Kiev.
Everyone hoped that after the Orange Revolution in 2004 there would not be any riots and beating people on the streets in Ukraine again. The Ukrainians are very patient, but we will never allow and never forget the hurting of our dignity and shedding our children’s blood on the streets. We believe that in the European family, where there is freedom, justice and order, where everyone has equal rights, we will not need to come out to the streets to fight for these values fundamental to every human being.
We believe in it too. This is why we are here tonight. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Maciej Witucki chairman of the supervisory group Orange Polska. (In Polish.) (Applause.)
MACIEJ WITUCKI [Orange Polska]: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a bit unusual to have somebody introducing the person who’s introducing. But as the person who’s introducing is so important, we couldn’t afford to not have this short speech on behalf of the Atlantic Council.
We speak about the person – there’s few of them who have been influencing and who are still influencing the fate of the world as much as Zbig Brzezinski. Professor Brzezinski, through his personal engagement, books, and through his influence on the U.S. foreign policy have been changing and still is keeping changing the world into a place with more democracy and more freedom.
There were probably no other strategists who influenced this many of the presidents. It was Brzezinski as a security adviser in Jimmy Carter’s administration who created the foundation of the politics towards the Eastern Europe or the new politics towards Eastern Europe. It was thanks to Zbig Brzezinski that American foreign politics focused on supporting democracies and civil liberties.
We owe a lot to Professor Brzezinski, we Poles especially. For all his life, he kept putting his heart into the Polish well-being. He had become American but he kept fighting for a place of Central and Eastern Europe in the conscience of America and of the world. And it’s as well to be mentioned that it was Professor Brzezinski’s initiative to found the Polish-American Freedom Foundation, aiming to support civil society, democracy and free market in Poland but not only in Poland, as well in the countries of our region.
The fact that we host Professor Brzezinski exactly now, while all the world, and we have seen it during today’s discussions, turns the eyes towards Ukraine is very symbolic. In the past, Professor Brzezinski used to say that Russia is a younger brother of Ukraine. Even in December 2013, he kept repeating a quote: it’s rather sooner than later when Ukraine becomes a true part of democratic Europe. It’s rather later than sooner when Russia follows in its footsteps unless it becomes isolated and becomes an imperialistic relic plunged deeply in stagnation.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the member of the International Advisory Board of the Atlantic Council, a great Pole, great American and great Atlanticist, Professor Zbig Brzezinski. Thank you. (Applause.)
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Ladies and gentlemen, we live at a time in which we’re all being tested. And I think it is accurate to say, even though it may sound shocking to say, that Vladimir Putin is doing us a favor. He has reminded us that freedom is a treasure that requires courage in order to sustain it. And he’s teaching us that democracy is a treasure that requires sustained hard commitment to make it thrive.
Yes, I know. There are disagreements in the West today but they are disagreements on how best to oppose him. And I have very little doubt that we will oppose him. I certainly know for a fact the United States is determined to oppose him, and I’m absolutely confident that we and our allies will convince him, one way or another, that the adventure on which he has embarked is not going to be profitable. (Applause.)
And he also reminds us that democracy is not a free gift of history to any chosen people. It requires a sustained commitment to make it work. So today, in a way, in honoring the American-Polish Freedom Foundation, we’re honoring both courage and commitment to freedom and a sustained effort to make it work.
I will not speak at length about the foundation because it has already been mentioned. But let me merely say briefly that it has involved a sustained effort to make democracy work by deepening the institutions of freedom and making them work on the basis of political compromise. It is an institution that has contributed directly to the modernization of the Polish social scene, of Polish education, and especially of Polish countryside by modernizing access to computers, by teaching foreign languages, by encouraging the institutionalization of democratic procedures on the lower levels of society, local government; by teaching young people foreign languages, and by creating computerized libraries through our entire country accessible to the people so that it can enrich their understanding of themselves and of the world in which they live. And last, but not least, from the very inception, that institution organized an ambitious effort to share the Polish experience in doing these things with its neighbors to the east and especially Ukraine.
Today, Ukraine faces the challenge of freedom and it faces the challenge to institutionalize democracy. The endowment that operates in Poland as a foundation has contributed to making that prospect more likely than ever before, despite the dangers and the challenges that we face today.
Poland was also very lucky, and so were we from America, in having at the helm of the foundation someone who’s extraordinarily talented, as you will shortly see, who’s energetic, who looks forward and who’s dedicated, he played a major role in furthering Poland’s entrance into NATO. And he has led the foundation from day one and made it a truly innovative institution – so much so that the very generous gifts of the American people to that foundation are now being matched by American foundations that exist otherwise and who find it worthwhile to contribute to this endowment because it is so effective in its activities. And that is thanks very much to the person that you will hear very shortly.
So simply bear this in mind: We have become a little bit indifferent over the years. We have been taking democracy for granted. We have ceased to be concerned about other people’s security. Someone, somewhere, unintentionally, has given us a wake-up call. I am convinced we’re answering to it, that we’ll answer effectively, and that freedom and democracy will thrive. Thank you. (Applause.)
JERZY KOZMINSKI [The Polish-American Freedom Foundation]: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Minister, senators, it’s my distinct privilege to be here tonight to receive this important award of the Atlantic Council for the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.
The honor is critically augmented by the fact that the introductory remarks – and I am embraced humbly by them – have been delivered by an outstanding international figure and a man who has a very special place in the hearts and minds of Polish people everywhere. And today, when we celebrate the 25th anniversary of a free and democratic Poland, as well as the events that paved the way for other countries of Central and Eastern Europe towards freedom, democracy and a market economy, we owe a great debt of gratitude to Zbigniew Brzezinski for his extraordinary role in the dismantling of the Yalta order. I am delighted that all his contributions to that historic process as well as subsequent great achievements will be duly acknowledged and honored tomorrow here in Wroclaw.
I am embracing this prestigious award of the Atlantic Council for the Polish-American Freedom Foundation as a token of recognition to hundreds of Polish NGOs born after ’89 that have closely cooperated with us during those 14 years of our foundation’s activity. It is thanks to our excellent Polish partners that we are able here in Poland to fund 25,000 scholarships, 20,000 civic leaders, increased competences and skill of 40,000 teachers, carry out 10,000 local projects fostering social advancement.
And last but not least, it is thanks to our excellent Polish partners that we are able to share Poland’s experience and transformation and in European integration with almost 7,000 young people who came to our country mostly from Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Georgia and Moldova, but also from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. And, as a result, we’re able to fulfill our original double mission which was to help consolidate the changes triggered by the Polish breakthrough in ’89, as well as to share what Poland had learned after ’89 with other countries of the region.
I’m embracing this award of the Atlantic Council for the Polish-American Freedom Foundation with a sense of gratitude to our founding father, the Polish-American Enterprise Fund, which was established in 1990 with the crucial involvement of Zbigniew Brzezinski. Had it not been for the great success story of the fund, our foundation could not have been created.
And this brings me to a broader point by celebrating the 25th anniversary of Poland’s freedom, that had its beginning in the great Solidarity movement, we must recall the profound American support given to the Polish people at the critical leg of our journey into the 21st century. It was support that the U.S. gave us in ’89 to arrange the Stabilization Fund that enabled Poland to introduce convertibility of its currency. It was support that the U.S. gave us to reduce the Polish foreign debt that was stifling our fragile economy. It was support from experts who helped Poland build market economy institutions. It was support behind a number of other programs aimed at bringing about necessary changes, including those in the military.
And, finally, it was U.S. leadership that made it possible for Poland 15 years ago to anchor itself in NATO and thus to join the Euro-Atlantic community of free and democratic nations sharing the same values.
I know that many of you present here tonight were among those strongly championing Poland’s goals, Poland’s membership in NATO, strongly championing the NATO enlargement process. Our special words of thanks should go to Senator McCain, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Don Fried (sp), Paula Dobriansky, Sandy Berger, Steve Mull, Fred Kempe since 1980, and other active supporters of freedom.
And tonight, while recalling the role that American played in the ’90s to helpful field the aspirations of Central Europeans, we should underline the growing need for U.S. involvement again. We are doing so in a time when dramatic developments in and around Ukraine in recent months raise the specter of aggressive policies that should have belonged only to a bygone era.
It is in this context that I wish to recognize the Atlantic Council for all its efforts aimed at placing the Ukraine cause high on the international agenda as well for all its work to strengthen transatlantic bonds that are a crucial pillar for security and prosperity for our both continents and beyond.
Concluding my thank you note, I’d like to cordially congratulate all the distinguished recipients of this year’s Freedom Award, those who have already been honored and those who will follow soon. And I’d like to express my warmest feelings of solidarity with our Ukraine friends present here tonight as well as to wish them every success in all day endeavors to cope with great challenges they face. Thank you. (Applause.)
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Radoslaw Sikorski, foreign minister of Poland. (In Polish.) (Applause.)
RADOSLAW SIKORSKI [Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland]: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I was just reminded why I always agree with Zbig Brzezinski. In this case, I agree with him on Vladimir Putin. I agree that we have words of gratitude with Vladimir Putin. He’s helped my party win the recent European elections. He has reinvigorated NATO. And he has even helped us to convince the finance minister to increase Poland’s defense spending to 2 percent of GDP. What’s not to like? (Applause.)
But joking apart, in the lives of nations – large nations, such as Ukraine, this I think is as dramatic as it gets. We are witnessing a moment at which we can imagine a path for Ukraine that makes Ukraine like Poland in terms of prosperity and in terms of European future, but we can also imagine a path that makes Ukraine like Syria.
And I’m wondering how we got here. And I look back to what happened last year. And I have to confess to you that I was really annoyed with President Yanukovych when he failed to sign that association agreement that Poland worked so hard to get for Ukraine inside the European Union. It was during the Polish presidency that we closed the text. And it was until the last days before the Vilnius Summit of the – of the Eastern Partnership that we worked to convince our partners to be ready to sign the association agreement. And then along comes President Yanukovych and says, no, I won’t sign it, even though just several days before he was promising me in Kiev that he would sign it come what may – come what may, the Russian boycott and whatever happens to some of the decisions on political prisoners in Ukraine.
And many thought that this was it, that Ukraine had made its choice, that Ukraine was going with the Customs Union, and, eventually, the Eurasian Union and that the people of Ukraine would be bribed with, admittedly, a very generous financial package presented by the Russian Federation.
And both President Yanukovych and President Putin underestimated the people of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine started to demonstrate in the Maidan in December. I don’t know why. We do our revolutions in August. The Ukrainians seem to do them in the middle of winter. But, thereby, showing how determined they are.
I went to Ukraine at the beginning of Maidan. And I went there again in February, during the toughest confrontation between the authorities and the people of Maidan.
You know, we politicians like to talk tough, usually in the security of a television studio. But imagine what it’s like to be tough, to actually stand in the cold for weeks and then to know that there are snipers out there aiming their weapons at you and actually killing people standing next to you. And this is what the people on the Maidan withstood, resisted, and that’s why they succeeded.
The people of Maidan were very diverse from all sorts – all walks of life and from various ethnic backgrounds – I think some of the first people who were killed were an Armenian and a Pole – and also from different walks of life. And I’m very glad that today we’ll be awarding the Freedom Award to Kateryna Kruk, who was the spokesman for Maidan at the time, and who many of us followed for reliable news of the Maidan, and who’s now the spokesperson for the Ukrainian government, and Ruslana, the beautiful Ruslana, who sang on the Maidan and she lost her – until she lost her voice and kept up the spirit of the people.
And I remember the last time I met Ruslana. It was on the 21st of February, the day we signed the agreement. We negotiated all night, literally all night, and we agreed to meet again to sign I think at 9:00 a.m. o’clock, but 9:00 a.m. o’clock came and we went signing, because not all the signatories were there. And, eventually, we heard that one of the opposition leaders, Vitali Klitschko, who’s now mayor of Kiev – couldn’t be with us but good luck to him – had difficulty in persuading the Maidan Rada to sign the agreement. And, eventually, he persuaded Frank-Walter Steinmeier and myself to come and meet the Maidan Rada to try to get them to agree.
And I have to tell you, it wasn’t an easy sell because we were basically telling them to sign an agreement to maintain, in part, until December, a president who just the day before ordered the murder of 100 of their comrades. And Ruslana was one of the people who asked searching questions about whether this is really necessary. But Frank-Walter and I knew that if they don’t sign, there were already troops being assigned to the Interior Ministry to drown the Maidan in blood. And if the Maidan didn’t sign, Yanukovych and his people would get an alibi both for the West, and, more importantly, for their own repression operators that, look, I tried to get a deal. I was ready to dilute my powers; I was ready to shorten my term of office and these people have rejected it; therefore, we have to crack down.
Well, I’m very glad that after a stormy meeting, the Maidan Rada voted 35 to two to accept the agreement because I knew that once a leader like Yanukovych shows weakness, his own camp, his own chain of command tends to weaken. And I thought he would lose power within weeks. Well, we know what happened. He lost power and skipped town within hours.
But this doesn’t detract from the courage and from the wisdom of the people of Maidan at that particular moment. And thanks to that, they are now winning again because they have a democratically elected president, they are at last carrying out reforms and carrying out the agreed package with the IMF and receiving a very substantial amounts of foreign assistance. And, above all, they are being galvanized as a nation to defend their country from foreign, first annexation and now terrorist penetration.
And so I think with luck and with people like this, Ukraine can get to where Poland is today. And we are all here I think friends of liberty and, therefore, friends of Ukraine. And, therefore, it’s my great honor and pleasure to award the Freedom Award to Ruslana and to Kateryna Kruk. (Applause.)
KATERYNA KRUK: I am twenty-three years old, just like my beloved Ukraine. And it seems to be that this year both of us have learned the most important lesson of our lives. This lesson is really very simple: life of a single person and the very existence of a single country makes sense only when you fight for freedom, dignity and justice. (Applause.)
This award goes to the people of Maidan, for those who have dreamed, for those who didn’t give up, for those who knew how to forgive, for those who are never afraid, for those who stood for freedom and justice, for those who have sacrificed their lives and for those who gave us the privilege to be able to say, I’m Ukrainian and I am proud of it. (Applause.)
RUSLANA LYZHYCHKO: (In Ukrainian.) (Applause.) Maidan started but not finished. Unfortunately, we felt the breath of evil, of war, and that very close. Maidan defeated not only Yanukovych but Yanukovych’s gangsters, corruption, system. Today we want peace. Today we have to defeat not only Putin but his system.
Putin’s system is war, terrorism, separatism, violence, drugs, weapons, murder – (inaudible) – corruption, and lie. Putin’s system made a place where new technologies of war are created in the east of Ukraine. Today, Kadyrov prepared 74,000 soldiers against – (inaudible). Yanukovych stole all money from Ukrainians. He ran away but before opened prisons so that we were killed by criminals.
Two days ago in Slavyansk, the family, my friends, he was shot. Another family buried their son. He died of drug overdose. The drugs were brought to Slavyansk by terrorists. In the same place, terrorists are raping girls.
This is Putin’s image and his system. Are you ready to buy Putin’s – (inaudible) – and the while, in warmth, watching Ukrainians being murdered and the war marching towards to you? The West world and Poroshenko are obliged to unite and together stop war and Putin’s system. While you look for compromises, people are being murdered in Ukraine every day.
Politicians of the world, call things by proper names, by their proper names. Peace will come if you stop the evil of violence and source of war. Be decisive. Your choice is between white and black, no compromises. Compromises are impossible.
Mr. Putin, you destroyed Slavic history and the fraternal peoples who fought together against fascism. Kievan-Russ is mother of Slavs and the source of peace. Our purpose – independence, energy independence, informational independence. Switch on your flashlights if you want to stop the war. This is Lights of Freedom. (Applause.)
(Sings in Ukrainian.)
MR. KEMPE: Please – please, Ruslana, please stay. At the end of every one of these incredibly inspirational evenings, we ask the introducers and we ask the awardees please to come to the stage for a family photograph.
While they are coming, I just want to say a couple of things in closing. First of all, for you who have been here before, you know you want to go to the fountain show. For you that haven’t been here, you can’t go home without saying that you’ve seen the fountain show. It’s really an incredible way to end the evening, continue your conversations and raise a toast privately to these speakers.
I also want to thank the Atlantic Council team as they’re coming up, that are here on site: Fran Burwell, Damon Wilson, Michal Kobosko, Julie Varghese, Diane Zeleny, Iveta Kruma, Drew Dickson, Taleen Ananian and Maksymilian Czuperski, Sarah Bedenbaugh, Eric Gehman, Ian Hansen, Daria Azarjew. This is what we stand for. Thank you all for being here. Thank you for your incredible work. (Applause.)
And as our champions of freedom gather here, I want to thank them once again for their courage, everything you’ve done to advance freedom. This is the reason why these freedom awards are not just a celebration, but they’re a call to action. That’s what the Wroclaw Global Forum was this year. It’s a real call to action.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining tonight’s ceremony. Stay with us throughout the year and we hope to see you again next year. Thank you so much. And thank these awardees. (Applause.)