Russian forces are shifting eastward in Ukraine and the U.S. and its allies are rushing a new $800 million package of military assistance to the front lines, but what Russian leader Vladimir Putin is planning to do next in his “special military operation,” which has already decimated large swaths of Ukraine, is not yet known.
“Ukraine is not the last item on Putin’s menu,” Polish Ambassador to the U.S. Marek Magierowski warned CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett in this week’s episode of “The Takeout” podcast, adding that “for years” Poland has been “trying to alert the world about Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions and about Putin’s malign intentions.”
Magierowski emphasized that all Russians should be held accountable for the devastation and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, not just Putin, because of the propaganda efforts within Russia to diminish the effects of war in their neighboring country.
“This is not Putin’s war. This is Russia’s war,” Magierowski said. “There is a tendency among some politicians in Western Europe to blame Putin for what is happening now in Ukraine….If you have between 70 and 80% of the population supporting the war, they are, you know, zombified.”
Since the start of the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, Poland has accepted around 2.7 million Ukrainian refugees, Magierowski said, with a majority of the refugees hosted by Polish citizens in homes, gyms and boarding houses across the country.
Magierowski added that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is the “leader of the free world right now,” because of his refusal to stand down in the face of overpowering Russian aggression.
“I think Zelenskyy is now a superhero for many of us. It’s incredible because he is a lawyer by profession, then he became a comedian and actor, then he became pretty surprisingly — it was also a surprise for Poland — that he became president,” Magierowski said. “His image worldwide has changed dramatically.”
Highlights from this week’s episode with Marek Magierowski, Polish Ambassador to the U.S.:
On Ukrainian refugees in Poland: “It’s almost 2.7 million refugees who have already crossed the Polish border since the beginning of the hostilities… This is probably the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe’s history in which the host country does not need to build refugee camps… Turns out there are none, because an overwhelming majority of those refugees are being hosted right now in Polish homes by Polish families, of course, also in boarding houses and gyms and schools, and stadiums. But most of them have been embraced by the Polish brethren, by Polish families. Many of them have decided to stay in Poland. Some of them returned to Ukraine, some re-emigrated to other European countries like Germany, France or Sweden, Britain, also some to the United States… Additionally, they concentrate mostly in big cities, which is also quite an issue for us. So we would like, to put it bluntly, to spread them out a little bit. Still, they are most welcome in Poland. We are ready and willing to absorb even more waves of refugees from Ukraine, because I don’t believe this this war will end soon.”
State of Russian invasion, next steps for Putin: “It is a grave embarrassment for the Russian army. So far, they have lost, according to latest estimates, about 500 tanks, a loss of casualties… It’s very hard to predict what will happen next week or in a month time, two months… The Russians are apparently regrouping now. They are moving their units to the eastern part of Ukraine. The question is to what extent Putin has actually changed the military goals of this special military operation, whether he will be satisfied with somehow reconquering both two breakaway provinces in the east or creating that land corridor, which would connect Lugansk and Donetsk with the Crimean peninsula.”
War and Putin: “I don’t have that much hubris to analyze and navigate Putin’s mind. The one thing I’m sure of is that we are dealing with pure evil. Absolutely. All those scenes and images that we have seen over the last couple of weeks are absolutely outrageous. Abhorrent… And no wonder so many Western politicians are now using the term genocide… they don’t shy from using some very harsh adjectives describing and defining what the Russian army is doing now in Ukraine. But I want to be clear on one particular issue. This is not Putin’s war. This is Russia’s war. And there is a tendency among some politicians in Western Europe to blame Putin for what is happening now in Ukraine. But when you look at the polls, I know the polls, which are which are published in Russia are not very credible. But anyway, if you have between 70 and 80% of the population supporting the war, they are, you know, zombified.”
War and Putin: “I believe Ukraine is not the last item on Putin’s menu… We have been trying to alert the world about Russia’s neo-imperial ambitions and about Putin’s malign intentions. We’ve known Russia for so many years. We have excellent experts who have written in a thousand pages of analysis about Russian politics and Russia’s policy, and the brutality of the Russian regime. And now it turns out it is so hard to convince some of our European partners, for example, to block oil and gas imports from Russia, in spite of the fact that everybody is acutely aware that buying oil and gas and coal and other raw materials from Russia, we are financing his war machine.”
Zelenskyy: “I think Zelenskyy is now a superhero for many of us. It’s incredible because he- he is a lawyer by profession, then he became a comedian and actor, then he became pretty surprisingly, it was also a surprise for Poland, that he became president…So his image worldwide has changed dramatically. He is the leader of the free world right now.”
Executive producer: Arden Farhi
Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson