Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski

Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski (born March 28, 1928) is a Polish-American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman.

He served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. He was known for his hawkish foreign policy at a time when the Democratic Party was increasingly dovish. He is a foreign policy realist, and considered to be the left's response to Henry Kissinger.

Major foreign policy events during his office include: normalization of relations with China, the signing of the SALT II arms control treaty, the brokering of the Camp David Accords, the "loss" of Iran, encouraging reform in Eastern Europe, emphasizing human rights in U.S. foreign policy, and arming Afghan mujaheddin to counter Soviet invasion.

He is currently a professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins SAIS, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a member of various boards and councils.

In Polish his name is written Brzeziński and pronounced ['zbigɲɛv bʒɛ'ʑiɲski] (ZBEEG-nyev bzheh-ZHEEN-ski).



Early years

Zbigniew Brzezinski was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1928. This was a brief period of independence for Poland, after having been erased from the map by neighboring powers: Austria, Prussia, and Russia. He was the son of a Polish diplomat, Thadeusz Brzezinski, who had fought in the Polish Army against the Red Army in the 1920 Polish-Soviet War. Thadeusz Brzezinski was posted to Germany from 1931 to 1935, and Zbigniew Brzezinski would thus spend some of his earliest years witnessing the rise of the Nazis. From 1936 to 1938, Thadeusz Brzezinski was posted to the Soviet Union during Stalin's Great Purge.

In 1938, Thadeusz Brzezinski was posted to Canada. In 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was agreed to by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and subsequently the two powers invaded Poland, once again erasing Brzezinski's homeland from the map. The Yalta Conference further seals the fate of Poland, and Brzezinski's family could not safely return to their country.

Rising influence

Brzezinski entered McGill University in 1945 to obtain both his BA and MA degrees (received 1949 and 1950 respectively). His Master's thesis focused on the various nationalities within the Soviet Union. Brzezinski went on to attend Harvard University to work on a PhD. He focused on the Soviet Union, and the relationship between the October Revolution, Lenin's state, and the actions of Stalin. He received his doctorate in 1953, and the same year would travel to Munich and meet Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, the head of the Polish desk of Radio Free Europe. He would collaborate with Carl Friedrich to develop the concept of "totalitarianism" and apply it to the Soviets, in 1956.

For historical background on major events during this period, see:

As a Harvard professor he argued against Eisenhower and Dulles's policy of rollback, saying that antagonism would push Eastern Europe further toward the Soviets. The Polish strike and Hungarian Revolution in 1956 lent some support to Brzezinski's idea that the fundamentally non-communist Eastern Europeans could gradually counter Soviet domination. In 1957, visited Poland for the first time since he left as a child, and it reaffirmed his judgment that splits within the Eastern bloc were profound.

In 1958, he became a United States citizen.

In 1959 Brzezinski was not granted tenure at Harvard, and instead moved to New York City to teach at Columbia University. Here he wrote Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict focusing on Eastern Europe since the beginning of the Cold War. He also became closely associated with the Council on Foreign Relations.

For the 1960 presidential elections, Brzezinski was an advisor to the John F. Kennedy campaign, urging a non-antagonistic policy toward Eastern Europe (following from his earlier experiences in the mid-1950s). Seeing the Soviet Union as having entered a period of stagnation, both economic and political, Brzezinski predicted the breakup of the Soviet Union along lines of nationality (expanding on his master's thesis).

Brzezinski continued to argue for and support dtente for the next few years, publishing Peaceful Engagement in Eastern Europe in Foreign Affairs, and supporting non-antagonistic policies after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Such policies might disabuse Eastern European nations of their fear of an aggressive Germany, and pacify Western Europeans fearful of a superpower condominium along the lines of Yalta.

In 1964, Brzezinski supported LBJ's presidential campaign and the Great Society and Civil rights policies, while on the other hand he saw Soviet leadership as having been purged of any creativity following the ousting of Khrushchev. Through Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, Brzezinski met with Adam Michnik, the future Polish Solidarity activist.

Brzezinski continued to support engagement with Eastern Europe, while warning against De Gaulle's vision of a "Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals." He also supported intervention in Vietnam to counter China's impression of the United States as a paper tiger. From 1966 to 1968, Brzezinski served as a member of the Policy Planning Council of the Department of State (President Johnson's 7 October 1966 "Bridge Building" speech was a product of Brzezinski's influence).

For historical background on events during this period, see:

Events in Czechoslovakia further reinforced Brzezinski's criticisms of the right's aggressive stance toward Eastern Europe. His service to the Johnson administration, and his fact-finding trip to Vietnam make him an enemy of the New Left, despite his advocacy of de-escalation.

For the 1968 presidential campaign, Brzezinski was chairman of the Hubert H. Humphrey Foreign Policy Task Force. He advised Humphrey to break with several of President Johnson's policies, especially concerning Vietnam, the Middle East, and condominium with the USSR.

Brzezinski called for a pan-European conference, an idea that would eventually find fruition in 1973 as the Conference for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Meanwhile he became a leading critic of both the Nixon-Kissinger dtente condominium, as well as McGovern's pacifism.

In his 1970 piece Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic Era, Brzezinski argued that a coordinated policy amongst developed nations was necessary in order to counter global instability erupting from increasing economic inequality. Out of this thesis, Brzezinski co-founded the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller, serving as Director from 1973 to 1976. The Trilateral Commission is a group of prominent political and business leaders and academics primarily from the United States, Western Europe and Japan. Its purpose is to strengthen relations among the three most industrially advanced regions of the free world. Brzezinski would select Georgia governor Jimmy Carter as a member.


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Jimmy Carter standing with Zbigniew Brzezinski

Jimmy Carter announced his candidacy for the 1976 presidential campaign to a skeptical media, and proclaimed himself an "eager student" of Brzezinski's. Brzezinski became Carter's principal foreign policy advisor by late 1975. He became an outspoken critic of the Nixon-Kissinger over-reliance on dtente, a situation preferred by the USSR, favoring the Helsinki process instead, which focused on human rights and peaceful engagement in Eastern Europe. Carter beats Ford in foreign policy debates by contrasting the a trilateral vision with Ford's dtente to the detriment of Eastern Europe.

After his victory in 1976, Carter made Brzezinski National Security Adviser. Earlier that year, major labor riots broke out in Poland, laying the foundations for Solidarity. Brzezinski begins by emphasizing the "Basket III" human rights in the Helsinki Final Act, which inspires Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia shortly thereafter.

Brzezinski had a hand in writing parts of Carter's inaugual address, and this would serve his purpose of sending a positive message to Soviet dissidents. The Soviet Union would complain that this kind of rhetoric ran against the "code of dtente" that Nixon and Kissinger had established. Brzezinski ran up against members of his own Democratic Party who agreed with this interpretation of dtente, including Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Vance argued for less emphasis on human rights in order to gain Soviet agreement to SALT, whereas Brzezinski favored doing both at the same time. Brzezinski would then order Radio Free Europe transmitters to increase the power and area of their broadcasts, a provocative reversal of Nixon-Kissinger policies. West German chancellor Helmut Schmidt bitterly objected to Brzezinski's agenda, even calling for the removal of RFE from German soil.

The State Department was alarmed by Brzezinski's support for East German dissidents, and strongly objected to his suggestion that Carter's first overseas visit be to Poland. He visited Warsaw, met with Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski (against the strong objection of the U.S. Ambassador to Poland), recognizing the Roman Catholic Church as the legitimate opposition to Communist rule in Poland.

By 1978, Brzezinski and Vance were more and more at odds over the direction of Carter's foreign policy. Vance sought to continue the style of dtente engineered by Nixon-Kissinger, with a focus on arms control. Brzezinski believed that detente emboldened the Soviets in Angola and the Middle East, and so he argued for increased military strength and an emphasis on human rights. Vance, the State Department, and the media criticize Brzezinski publicly as seeking to revive the Cold War.

Brzezinski advised Carter in 1978 to engage China, and travels to Beijing to lay the groundwork for the normalization of relations between the U.S. and China. Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła is elected Pope John Paul II—an event which the Soviets believed Brzezinski orchestrated.

For historical background on this period of history, see:

1979 sees two major strategically important events: the overthrow of the U.S.-ally, the Shah, in Iran, and the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR. The Iranian Revolution precipitates the Iran hostage crisis, which would last for the rest of Carter's presidency. Brzezinski anticipated the Soviet invasion, and created a strategy along with the support of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and China, to counter the Soviet advance.

Using this atmosphere of insecurity, Brzezinski leads the U.S. toward a new arms buildup, and the development of the Rapid Deployment Forces—policies that are both more generally associated with Reagan now. In 1980, Brzezinski plans Operation Rice Bowl, which was meant to free the hostages in Iran using the newly created Delta Force and other Special Forces units. The mission was a failure, leading to Secretary Vance's resignation.

Brzezinski is criticized widely in the press and becomes the least popular member of Carter's administration. Edward Kennedy challenges President Carter for the Democratic nomination, and at the 1980 Democratic convention his convention delegates loudly boo at Brzezinski. Hurt by internal division within his party, Carter loses the 1980 presidential election in a landslide.

Brzezinski, acting under a lame duck Carter presidency but encouraged that Solidarity in Poland has vindicated his preference for engagement and evolution in Eastern Europe, takes a hard-line stance against what seemed like an imminent Soviet invasion of Poland. He would even make a midnight phone call to Pope John Paul II—whose visit to Poland in 1979 had foreshadowed the emergence of Solidarity—warning him in advance. The U.S. stance was a dramatic change from previous reactions to Soviet repression in 1956 (Hungary) and 1968 (Czechoslovakia).

After power

Brzezinski leaves office concerned about the internal division within the Democratic party, arguing that the dovish McGovernite wing would send the Democrats into permanent minority.

He has mixed relations with the Reagan administration. On the one hand, he supports it as seemingly the only alternative to the Democrat's pacifism, but he also strongly criticizes it as seeing foreign policy in overly "Black & White" terms.

He remains involved in Polish affairs, critical of the imposition of Martial Law in Poland in 1981, and more so of Western European acquiesence to the imposition in the name of stability. Brzezinski briefed Vice President George Bush before his 1987 trip to Poland, which aided in the revival of the Solidarity movement.

In 1985, under the Reagan administration, Brzezinski served as a member of the President’s Chemical Warfare Commission. From 1987 to 1988, he worked on the NSC-Defense Department Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy. From 1987 to 1989 he also served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

In 1988, Brzezinski was co-chairman of the Bush National Security Advisory Task Force, and endorses Bush for president, breaking with the Democratic party (coincidentally hurting the career of his former student Madeline Albright, who was Dukakis's foreign policy advisor). Brzezinski publishes The Grand Failure the same year, predicting the failure of Gorbachev's reforms and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1989 the Communists failed to mobilize support, and Solidarity swept the general elections. Later the same year, Brzezinski tours Russia and visits a memorial to the Katyn Massacre. This served as an opportunity for him to ask the Soviet government to acknowledge the truth about the event, for which he received a standing ovation in the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Ten days later, the Berlin Wall fell and Soviet-supported governments Eastern Europe were losing power.

Strobe Talbott, one of Brzezinski's long-time critics, conducted an interview with him for TIME magazine entitled "Vindication of a Hardliner."

In 1990 Brzezinski warned against post-Cold War euphoria. He publicly opposed the Gulf War, arguing that the U.S. would squander the international goodwill it had accumulated by defeating the Soviet Union, and that it could trigger wide resentment throughout the Arab world. He expanded upon these views in his 1992 work Out of Control.

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The Chess revolution by Nick Gabrichidze is believed to be inspired by Zbigniew Brzezinskis 1997 book The Grand Chessboard

However, in 1993 Brzezinski was prominently critical of the Clinton administration's hesitation to intervene against Serbia in the Yugoslavian civil war. He also began to speak out against Russian oppression in Chechnya. Wary of a move toward the reinvigoration of Russian power, Brzezinski negatively viewed the succession of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin to Boris Yeltsin. In this vein, he became one of the foremost advocates of NATO expansion.

After 9/11 Brzezinski was criticized for his role in the formation of the mujaheddin network, which would later become Al Qaeda. He asserted that rightful blame ought to lay at the feet of the Soviet Union, whose invasion he claimed radicalized the relatively stable Muslim society.

Brzezinski also became a leading critic of the Bush administration's "war on terror." Some painted him as connected with the neoconservative movement, because of his links to Paul Wolfowitz, and his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, which frankly discussed U.S. empire. He wrote The Choice in 2004 which expanded upon The Grand Chessboard and sharply criticized the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Brzezinski currently lives in the Washington D.C. area. He is married to an internationally recognized sculptress, and has three children: one is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO; another is a partner, McGuire Woods LLP, Washington, DC, and was foreign policy advisor to the Kerry campaign; and the third is a reporter and occasional anchor for CBS-TV “Evening News.&#8221

As National Security Advisor

Main article: History of the United States National Security Council 1977-1981
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Zbigniew Brzezinski while serving as National Security Advisor

President Carter chose Zbigniew Brzezinski for the position of National Security Adviser because he wanted an assertive intellectual at his side to provide him with day-to-day advice and guidance on foreign policy decisions. Brzezinski would preside over a reorganized NSC structure, fashioned to ensure that the NSC Adviser would be only one of many players in the foreign policy process.

Aiming to replace Kissinger's "acrobatics" in foreign policy-making with a foreign policy "architecture," Brzezinski was as eager for power as his rival. However, his task was complicated by his focus on East-West relations, and in a hawkish way – in an administration where many cared a great deal about North-South relations and human rights. On the whole, Brzezinski was a team player.

Initially, Carter reduced the NSC staff by one-half and decreased the number of standing NSC committees from eight to two. All issues referred to the NSC were reviewed by one of the two new committees, either the Policy Review Committee (PRC) or the Special Coordinating Committee (SCC). The PRC focused on specific issues and its chairmanship rotated. The SCC was always chaired by Brzezinski, a circumstance he had to negotiate with Carter to achieve. Carter believed that by making the NSC Adviser chairman of only one of the two committees, he would prevent the NSC from being the overwhelming influence on foreign policy decisions (a situation he felt occurred under Kissinger's chairmanship during the Nixon administration). The SCC was charged with considering issues that cut across several departments, including oversight of intelligence activities, arms control evaluation, and crisis management. Much of the SCC's time during the Carter years was spent on SALT issues.

The Council held few formal meetings, convening only 10 times, compared with 125 meetings during the 8 years of the Nixon and Ford administrations. Instead, Carter used frequent, informal meetings as a decision-making device, typically his Friday breakfasts, usually attended by the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, Brzezinski, and the chief domestic adviser. No agendas were prepared and no formal records were kept of these meetings, sometimes resulting in differing interpretations of the decisions actually agreed upon. Brzezinski was careful, in managing his own weekly luncheons with Secretaries Vance and Brown in preparation for NSC discussions, to maintain a complete set of careful notes. Brzezinski also sent weekly reports to the President on major foreign policy undertakings and problems, with recommendations for courses of action. President Carter enjoyed these reports and frequently annotated them with his own views. Brzezinski and the NSC used these Presidential notes (159 of them) as the basis for NSC actions.

From the beginning, Brzezinski made sure that the new NSC institutional relationships would assure him a major voice in the shaping of foreign policy. While he knew that Carter would not want him to be another Kissinger, Brzezenski also felt confident that the President did not want Secretary of State Vance to become another Dulles and would want his own input on key foreign policy decisions.

Brzezinski's power gradually expanded into the operational area during the Carter Presidency. He increasingly assumed the role of a Presidential emissary. In 1978, for example, Brzezinski traveled to Beijing to normalize U.S.-China relations. Like Kissinger before him, Brzezinski maintained his own personal relationship with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin. Brzezinski had NSC staffers monitor State Department cable traffic through the Situation Room and call back to the Department if the President preferred to revise or take issue with outgoing Department instructions. He also appointed his own press spokesman, and his frequent press briefings and appearances on television interview shows made him a prominent public figure although perhaps not nearly as much as Kissinger had been under Nixon.

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Secretary of State Vance with Zbigniew Brzezinski at Camp David

The Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 significantly damaged the already tenuous relationship between Vance and Brzezinski. Vance felt that Brzezinski's linkage of SALT to other Soviet activities and the MX, together with the growing domestic criticisms in the United States of the SALT II Accord, convinced Brezhnev to decide on military intervention in Afghanistan. Brzezinski, however, later recounted that he advanced proposals to maintain Afghanistan's "independence" but was frustrated by the Department of State's opposition. An NSC working group on Afghanistan wrote several reports on the deteriorating situation in 1979, but President Carter ignored them until the Soviet intervention destroyed his illusions. Only then did he decide to abandon SALT II ratification and pursue the anti-Soviet policies that Brzezinski proposed.

The Iranian revolution was the last straw for disintegrating relationship between Vance and Brzezinski. As the upheaval developed, the two advanced fundamentally different positions. Brzezinski wanted to control the revolution and increasingly suggested military action to prevent Khomeini from coming to power, while Vance wanted to come to terms with the new Khomeini regime. As a consequence Carter failed to develop a coherent approach to the Iranian situation. In the growing crisis atmosphere of 1979 and 1980 due to the Iranian hostage situation, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and a deepening economic crisis, Brzezinski's anti-Soviet views gained influence but could not end the Carter administration's malaise. Vance's resignation following the unsuccessful mission undertaken over his objections to rescue the American hostages in March 1980 was the final result of the deep disagreement between Brzezinki and Vance.

Major policies

During the 1960's Brzezinski articulated the strategy of peaceful engagement for undermining the Soviet bloc and persuaded President Johnson, while serving on the State Department Policy Planning Council, to adopt in October 1966 peaceful engagement as U.S. strategy, placing dtente ahead of German reunification and thus reversing prior U.S. priorities.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, at the height of his political involvement, Brzezinski participated in the formation of the Trilateral Commission in order to more closely cement U.S.-Japanese-European relations. As the three most economically advanced sectors of the world, the people of the three regions could be brought together in cooperation that would give them a more cohesive stance against the communist threat.

While serving in The White House, he emphasized the centrality of human rights as a means of placing the Soviet Union on the ideological defensive. With Jimmy Carter in Camp David I, he assisted in the attainment of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. He actively supported Polish Solidarity and the Afghan resistance to Soviet invasion, and provided covert support for national independence movements in the Soviet Union. He played a leading role in normalization of U.S.-Chinese relations and in the development of joint strategic cooperation, cultivating a relationship with Deng Xiaoping, for which he is thought very highly of in China to this day.

In the 1990’s he formulated the strategic case for buttressing the independent statehood of Ukraine, partially as a means to ending a resurgence of the Russian Empire, and to drive Russia toward integration with the West, promoting instead “geopolitical pluralism” in the space of the former Soviet Union. He developed “a plan for Europe” urging the expansion of NATO, making the case for the expansion of NATO to the Baltic Republics. He also served as U.S. Presidential emissary to Azerbaijan in order to promote the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline. Further, he led, together with Lane Kirkland, the effort to increase the endowment for the U.S.-sponsored Polish-American Freedom Foundation (info) (http://www.pafw.pl/strony/english/main.htm) from the proposed $112 million to an eventual total of well over $200 million.

He has consistently urged a U.S. leadership role in the world, based on established alliances, and warned against unilateralist policies that could destroy U.S. global credibility and precipitate U.S. global isolation.


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Zbigniew Brzezinski speaking with Pakistani officer holding an RPK-74

Brzezinski, known for his hardline policies on the Soviet Union, initiated a campaign supporting mujaheddin in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which were run by Pakistani security services with financial support from the CIA and Britain's MI6. This policy had the explicit aim of promoting radical Islamist and anti-Communist forces to overthrow the secular communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan government in Afghanistan, which had been destabilized by coup attempts against Hafizullah Amin, the power struggle within the Soviet-supported Khalq faction of the PDPA and a subsequent Soviet military intervention.

June 13, 1997, in a CNN/National Security Archive interview, Brzezinski detailed the strategy taken by the Carter administration against the Soviets:

We immediately launched a twofold process when we heard that the Soviets had entered Afghanistan. The first involved direct reactions and sanctions focused on the Soviet Union, and both the State Department and the National Security Council prepared long lists of sanctions to be adopted, of steps to be taken to increase the international costs to the Soviet Union of their actions. And the second course of action led to my going to Pakistan a month or so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for the purpose of coordinating with the Pakistanis a joint response, the purpose of which would be to make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible; and we engaged in that effort in a collaborative sense with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the British, the Chinese, and we started providing weapons to the Mujaheddin, from various sources again - for example, some Soviet arms from the Egyptians and the Chinese. We even got Soviet arms from the Czechoslovak communist government, since it was obviously susceptible to material incentives; and at some point we started buying arms for the Mujaheddin from the Soviet army in Afghanistan, because that army was increasingly corrupt. Full Text of Interview (http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/episode-17/brzezinski1.html)

January 18, 1998, Brzezinski was interviewed by the French newspaper, Nouvel Observateur on the topic of Afghanistan. He revealed that CIA support for the mujaheddin started before the Soviet invasion, and was indeed designed to prompt a Soviet invasion, leading them into a bloody conflict on par with America's experience in Vietnam. This was referred to as the "Afghan Trap." Brzezinski viewed the end of the Soviet empire as worth the cost of strengthening militant islamic groups. Full Text of Interview (http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/BRZ110A.html)

In his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski says that assistance to the Afghan resistance was a tactic designed to bog down the Soviet army, while the United States built up a deterrent military force in the Persian Gulf to prevent Soviet political or military penetration further south (see: the Carter Doctrine).

In a footnote in his 2000 book, The Geostrategic Triad, Brzezinski notes:

The full story of the productive U.S.-China cooperation directed against the Soviet Union (especially in regard to Afghanistan), initiated by the Carter Administration and continued under Reagan, still remains to be told.

Memo from Zbigniew Brzezinski to President Carter (http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/20/documents/brez.carter/), on December 26, 1979. Discusses implications of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on U.S. foreign policy, especially regarding Iran.


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The Iranian Shah meeting with Arthur Atherton, William Sullivan, Cyrus Vance, President Carter, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1977

Facing a revolution, the Shah of Iran sought help from the United States. Iran occupied a strategic place in U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East, acting as an island of stability, and a buffer against Soviet penetration into the region. He was pro-American, but domestically oppressive. The U.S. ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan, recalls that Brzezinski “repeatedly assured Pahlavi that the U.S. backed him fully," however these reassurances would not amount to substantive action on the part of the United States. On November 4th, 1978, Brzezinski called the Shah to tell him that the United States would "back him to the hilt." At the same time, certain high-level officials in the State Department decided that the Shah had to go, regardless of who replaced him. Brzezinski, and Energy Secretary James Schlesinger (former Secretary of Defense under Ford), continued to advocate that the U.S. support the Shah militarily. Even in the final days of the revolution, when the Shah was considered doomed no matter what the outcome of the revolution came to be, Brzezinski still advocated a U.S. invasion to stabilize the Iran. President Carter could not decide how to appropriately use force, opposed a U.S. coup, ordered the Constellation aircraft carrier to the Indian Ocean, but soon countermanded his order. A deal was worked out with the Iranian generals to shift support to a moderate government, but this plan fell apart when Khomeini and his followers swept the country, taking power 12 February 1979.

In July 1980, Brzezinksi would meet Jordan's King Hussein in Amman to discuss detailed plans for Saddam Hussein to sponsor a coup in Iran against Khomeini. King Hussein was Saddam's closest confidant in the Arab world, and served as an intermediary during the planning. The Iraqi invasion of Iran would be launched under the pretext of a call for aid from Iranian loyalist officers plotting their own uprising. The Iranian officers were organized by Shapour Bakhtiar, who had fled to France when Khomeini seized power, but was operating from Baghdad and Sulimaniyah at the time of Brzezinski's meeting with Hussein. However, Khomeini learned of the coup plan from Soviet agents in France and Latin America. Shortly after Brzezinski's meeting with Hussein, the President of Iran, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr quietly rounded up six hundred of the loyalist plotters within Iran, putting an effective end to the coup. Saddam would decide to invade without the Iranian officer's assistance, beginning the Iran-Iraq war on 22 September 1980.


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Deng Xiaoping and Zbigniew Brzezinski meeting in 1979
See also: Sino-American relations and Sino-Soviet Split

Shortly after taking office in 1977, President Carter again reaffirmed the United States' position of upholding the Shanghai_Communiqu;. The United States and People's Republic of China announced on 15 December 1978, that the two governments would establish diplomatic relations on 1 January 1979. Consolidating U.S. gains in opening China was a major priority stressed by Brzezinski during his time as National Security Advisor.

The most important strategic aspect of the invigorated U.S.-Chinese relationship was in its effect on the Cold War. China was no longer considered part of a larger Sino-Soviet bloc, but instead a third pole of power, helping the United States to balance against Russia. A notable example, discussed above, is Chinese assistance in Brzezinski's efforts to draw Russia into a Vietnam-style conflict in Afghanistan. This strategy, initiated under Nixon and Kissinger, and consolidated under Carter and Brzezinski, is really the first instance of statesmen altering the world's polarity by design.

In the Joint Communiqu on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations dated January 1, 1979, the United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The U.S. reiterated the Shanghai Communiqué's acknowledgment of the Chinese position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of China; Beijing acknowledged that the American people would continue to carry on commercial, cultural, and other unofficial contacts with the people of Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act made the necessary changes in U.S. domestic law to permit such unofficial relations with Taiwan to flourish.

Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping's January 1979 visit to Washington, DC initiated a series of important, high-level exchanges, which continued until the spring of 1989. This resulted in many bilateral agreements - especially in the fields of scientific, technological, and cultural interchange and trade relations. Since early 1979, the United States and China have initiated hundreds of joint research projects and cooperative programs under the Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology, the largest bilateral program.

On March 1, 1979, the United States and People's Republic of China formally established embassies in Beijing and Washington, DC. During 1979, outstanding private claims were resolved, and a bilateral trade agreement was concluded. Vice President Walter Mondale reciprocated Vice Premier Deng's visit with an August 1979 trip to China. This visit led to agreements in September 1980 on maritime affairs, civil aviation links, and textile matters, as well as a bilateral consular convention.

As a consequence of high-level and working-level contacts initiated in 1980, U.S. dialogue with the PRC broadened to cover a wide range of issues, including global and regional strategic problems, political-military questions, including arms control, UN and other multilateral organization affairs, and international narcotics matters.

Arms control

See also: Arms Control
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President Jimmy Carter and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev sign the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) treaty, 16 June 1979, in Washington, D.C. Zbigniew Brzezinski is directly behind President Carter, and is the only person smiling in the picture.

To be written...

Arab-Israeli peace

See also: Camp David Accords (1978)
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President Carter with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Cyrus Vance at Camp David in 1977
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Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin engages Zbigniew Brzezinski in a game of chess at Camp David

NPR interview with Brzezinski on Camp David (http://www.npr.org/programs/totn/transcripts/2003/sep/030916.conan.html)

To be written...

Poland, the Pope, and Solidarity

To be written...


Brzezinski was on the faculty of Harvard University from 1953 to 1960, and of Columbia University from 1960 to 1989, where he headed up the Institute on Communist Affairs. He is currently a professor of foreign policy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C..

As a scholar he has developed his thoughts over the years, fashioning fundamental theories on international relations and geostrategy. During the 1950’s he worked on the theory of totalitarianism. His thought in the 1960’s focused on wider Western understanding of disunity in the Soviet Bloc, as well as developing the thesis of intensified degeneration of the Soviet Union. During the 1970’s he propounded the proposition that the Soviet system was incapable of evolving beyond the industrial phase into the “technetronic” age.

By the 1980’s, Brzezinksi argued that the general crisis of the Soviet Union foreshadowed communism’s end. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he spent the 1990’s warning that global discord may get out of control, and formulated a geostrategy for U.S. global preponderance.


Brzezinski laid out his most significant contribution to post-Cold War geostrategy in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard. He defined four regions of Eurasia, and in which ways the United States ought to design its policy toward each region in order to maintain its global primacy. The four regions are:

  • Europe, the Democratic Bridgehead
  • Russia, the Black Hole
  • The Middle East, the Eurasian Balkans
  • Asia, the Far Eastern Anchor

In his subsequent book, The Choice, Brzezinski updates his geostrategy in light of globalization, 9/11 and the intervening six years between the two books.

Public life

Brzezinski is a past member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, Council on Foreign Relations, Atlantic Council, and the National Endowment for Democracy. He was formerly a director of the Trilateral Commission (info) (http://www.trilateral.org/about.htm) (now serving only on the executive committee) and formerly boardmember of Freedom House. He is currently a trustee and counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a board member for the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya (info) (http://www.peaceinchechnya.org/index.htm), and on the advisory board of America Abroad Media (info) (http://www.americaabroadmedia.org/about.php).



  • "We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war."—On precipitating the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
  • "What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?"
  • "It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America's power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization." —from The Grand Chessboard
  • "In brief, for the United States, Eurasian geostrategy involves the purposeful management of geostrategically dynamic states and the careful handling of geopolitically catalytic states, in keeping with the twin interests of America in the short-term: preservation of its unique global power and in the long-run transformation of it into increasingly institutionalized global cooperation. To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together." —from The Grand Chessboard
  • "The president himself has to make, in a speech addressed to the nation, a careful, reasoned case, without sloganeering, on the specifics of the threat. Detailed evidence needs to be presented that the threat is both grave and imminent. An explanation is also needed as to why one member of the axis of evil is seen as more menacing than the others."
  • "I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. I encouraged the Thai to help the Khmer Rouge. The question was how to help the Cambodian people. Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him. But China could." —1979
  • "This will require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, more arms aid, and, alas, a decision that our security policy toward Pakistan cannot be dictated by our non-proliferation policy." —1979, memo to President Carter following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan


Works by Brzezinski

Major works:

  • The Permanent Purge: Politics in Soviet Totalitarianism, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1956)
  • Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict, New York: Praeger (1961), ISBN 0674825454
  • Between Two Ages : America's Role in the Technetronic Era, New York: Viking Press (1970), ISBN 0313234981
  • Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977-1981, New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux (March 1983), ISBN 0374236631
  • Game Plan: A Geostrategic Framework for the Conduct of the U.S.-Soviet Contest, Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press (June 1986), ISBN 087113084X
  • Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons (1989), ISBN 0020307306
  • Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century, New York: Collier (1993), ISBN 0684826364
  • The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, New York: Basic Books (October 1997), ISBN 0465027261, subsequently translated and published in nineteen languages
  • The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership, Basic Books (March 2004), ISBN 0465008003

Other books and monographs:

  • Russo-Soviet Nationalism, M.A. Thesis, McGill University (1950)
  • Political Control in the Soviet Army: A Study on Reports by Former Soviet Officers, New York, Research Program on the U.S.S.R (1954)
  • with Carl J. Friedrich, Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1956)
  • Ideology and Power in Soviet Politics, New York: Praeger (1962)
  • with Samuel Huntington, Political Power: USA/USSR, New York: Viking Press (April 1963), ISBN 0670563188
  • Alternative to Partition: For a Broader Conception of America's Role in Europe, Atlantic Policy Studies, New York: McGraw-Hill (1965)
  • The Implications of Change for United States Foreign Policy, Department of State (1967)
  • International Politics in the Technetronic Era, Sofia University Press (1971)
  • The Fragile Blossom: Crisis and Change in Japan, New York: Harper and Row (1972), ISBN 0060104686
  • with P. Edward Haley, American Security in an Interdependent World, Rowman & Littlefield (September 1988), ISBN 0819170844
  • with Marin Strmecki, In Quest of National Security, Boulder: Westview Press (September 1988), ISBN 0813305756
  • The Soviet Political System: Transformation or Degeneration, Irvington Publishers (August 1993), ISBN 0829035729
  • with Paige Sullivan, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Documents, Data, and Analysis, Armonk: M. E. Sharpe (1996), ISBN 1563246376
  • The Geostrategic Triad : Living with China, Europe, and Russia, Center for Strategic & International Studies (December 2000), ISBN 089206384X

Selected essays and reports:

  • with William E. Griffith, Peaceful Engagement in Eastern Europe, Foreign Affairs, XXXIX, 4 (July 1961)
  • with David Owen, Michael Stewart, Carol Hansen, and Saburo Okita, Democracy Must Work: A Trilateral Agenda for the Decade, Trilateral Commission (June 1984), ISBN 0814761615
  • with Brent Scowcroft and Richard W. Murphy, Differentiated Containment: U.S. Policy Toward Iran and Iraq, Council on Foreign Relations Press (July 1997), ISBN 0876092024
  • U.S. Policy Toward Northeastern Europe: Report of an Independent Task Force, Council on Foreign Relations Press (July 1999), ISBN 0876092598
  • with Anthony Lake, F. Gregory, and III Gause, The United States and the Persian Gulf, Council on Foreign Relations Press (December 2001), ISBN 0876092911
  • with Robert M. Gates, Iran: Time for a New Approach, Council on Foreign Relations Press (February 2003), ISBN 0876093454

Works by other authors

  • Gerry Argyris Andrianopoulos, Kissinger and Brzezinski: The NSC and the Struggle for Control of U.S. National Security Policy, Palgrave Macmillan (June 1991), ISBN 0312057431

External links

Preceded by:
Brent Scowcroft
United States National Security Advisor
Succeeded by:
Richard V. Allen

Template:End boxbg:Збигнев Бжежински de:Zbigniew Brzeziński fr:Zbigniew Brzezinski ja:ズビグネフ・ブレジンスキー lv:Zbigņevs Bezinskis no:Zbigniew Brzeziński pl:Zbigniew Brzeziński uk:Бжезинський Збігнев


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