“I once asked my colleague, Zbigniew Brzezinski, that if everyone was allied with us, who were we organized against? My question surprised him, because I think that Brzezinski remains caught up in Cold War strategy even after the demise of the Soviet Union. In Cold War thinking it was important to have the upper hand or else be at risk of being eliminated as a player. The importance of prevailing became all consuming, and this consuming drive survived the Soviet collapse. Prevailing over others is the only foreign policy that Washington knows.”
–Paul Craig Roberts
Brzezinski was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1928 but his paternal family reportedly originated from Galicia, which was once considered eastern Poland but is now part of Ukraine. His father was a Polish diplomat who served in Germany from 1931 to 1935 and then served in the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938 in the midst of Stalin’s Great Purge. He was stationed in Canada when both Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939. Poland was later placed in the Soviet sphere of influence at the conclusion of WWII; hence, the Brzezinski family remained in Canada.
Brzezinski earned a Master’s Degree from McGill University in Montreal with a focus on the Soviet Union, followed by a PhD at Harvard with a focus on the Russian Revolution, and the leadership of Lenin and Stalin. He became an academic at Harvard and then Columbia University where he taught and mentored Madeleine Albright. He served as an advisor to the Kennedy presidential campaign and later supported Johnson. He was a member of the State Department’s Council of Policy Planning from 1966 – 1968, then worked on Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign in 1968. In 1973, he helped establish the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller.
Based on ideas Brzezinski spelled out in an article he published in Foreign Affairs in 1970, the Trilateral Commission was to be the organizational foundation of a club of developed nations that included Europe, Japan and the U.S. to balance world power away from the Soviet Union and China. The club held annual meetings that included the elites of Europe, Japan, and the U.S., along with bigwigs in world trade, international banking and the establishment media.
Throughout the Cold War, Brzezinski supported a policy of engagement with Eastern Europe, including dissidents, believing that divisions within Eastern Europe would destabilize the Soviet Union and hasten its breakup along national lines. He gave little to no support for any rapprochement with the Soviet Union and opposed Charles De Gaulle’s vision of a Eurasian project of “Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.”
Brzezinski’s highest position of power was as National Security Advisor in the Carter administration. Touted as the Democratic Party’s counterpoint to Henry Kissinger (and implicitly Kissinger’s détente approach toward the USSR), his aggressive anti-Russian views often clashed with those of Carter’s Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, who was in the realist camp and opposed Brzezinski’s desire to strengthen ties to China while keeping the Soviet Union at a distance. He and others in the administration argued that such “triangulation” could lead to dangerous and unnecessary perceptions of aggression toward the Soviet Union.
During his tenure, Brzezinski was the architect of the plan to goad the Soviet Union into its own “Vietnam” quagmire by arming and supporting Islamic mujahedeen against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan. The plan, with the assistance of the Pakistan intelligence service, was put into place toward the end of Carter’s presidency and in 1979, the Soviet Union, in fact, responded as Brzezinski had hoped, embarking on a decade-long war in the nation that is not called the “graveyard of empires” for nothing.
When the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur interviewed Brzezinski in 1998, he admitted while he was national security advisor, he played a major role in setting the Afghanistan trap for the Soviet Union to get bogged down in a war. He also reiterated that he had no regrets about the policy, underscoring the fact that he does indeed see the nations and peoples of the world as pieces on a strategic game board with no regard for the resulting death of thousands, demolition of a country or blowback toward his own adopted country. A pertinent excerpt of the exchange follows:
Le Nouvel Observateur: Former CIA director, Robert Gates, says in his memoirs: the American secret services assisted Afghan mujahedeen six months before the Soviet invasion. By that time, you were President Carter’s advisor and you played a key role on this. Do you confirm it?
Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of the story, the CIA began to assist mujahedeen in the year 1980, that is, after the invasion of the Soviet army against Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the truth that remained secret until today is quite different: it was on July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed his first order on the secret assistance to Kabul’s pro-Soviet regime opponents. That day I wrote a memorandum to the President in which I told him that that assistance would cause the Soviet intervention (…) we did not force the Russian intervention, we just, conscientiously, increased the intervention possibilities.
NO: When the Soviets justified their intervention by affirming they were fighting against a secret American interference nobody believed them, though they were telling the truth. Don’t you regret it?
B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. Its objective was to lead the Russian to the Afghan trap, and you want me to regret it? The very same day the Soviets crossed the Afghan border I wrote the following to President Carter: “This is our chance to give Russia its Viet Nam.”
NO: Aren’t you sorry either for favoring Islamic fundamentalism and providing weapons and consultancies to future terrorists?
B: What is the most important thing when you look at world history, the Taliban or the fall of the Soviet empire? Some excited Islamists or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?
It is clear from the opening pages of The Grand Chessboard that Brzezinski is obsessed with imperialism and cannot conceive of a world that is not organized under empire – whether it is the competing regional empires of old or the rise of one global empire as reflected by the U.S. after the Soviet Union’s exit from the world stage. He even repeats the common historical fallacy that “hegemony is as old as mankind.” If he had even a cursory familiarity with anthropology or pre-recorded history, he would know that throughout the vast majority of humanity’s experience, mankind lived in small, relatively egalitarian units of hunter-gatherers. Empire and its attendant effects, such as hegemony, hierarchical social structure, and war only emerged around 10 – 13,000 years ago, roughly coinciding with the widespread adoption of agricultural settlement.
Brzezinski’s Eurasian thesis appears to have been inspired by Nicholas Spykman’s Eurasian Rimland concept which was, in turn, built upon Halford Makinder’s Heartland Theory, first formulated in 1904. Spykman’s Rimland emphasized the geostrategic importance of the densely populated coastal perimeter surrounding the Heartland of Eurasia. Spykman justified focus on the Rimland instead of the Heartland by arguing that the Rimland contained the majority of the world’s people, a large swathe of its resources and an industrial base. Additionally, it served as an entryway to the seas, situated as a buffer zone between the Heartland (source of land power) and sea power. These two theories, like Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard are widely acknowledged to represent an imperialistic offensive posture dressed up as a defense strategy.
In The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski reiterates the factors cited by Spykman and Makinder:
About 75 percent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for about 60 percent of the world’s GNP and about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources. (Grand Chessboard, p. 31)
He speaks throughout the book with a sense of entitlement on behalf of the U.S. that the American empire should never cede control of these resources to those living near them who may strangely assume a claim to benefit from them.
He emphasizes the following two steps to achieve his imperialist objective of preserving world domination by the U.S.:
1) Identify states in Eurasia that have the power to shift the international distribution of power or to be catalysts for doing so; and,
2) Formulate specific U.S. policies to offset, co-opt and/or control the above as to preserve and promote vital U.S. interests.
Brzezinski goes on to explain the role of Ukraine as a “pivot” state – in other words, a state that, if it remains under Russia’s sphere of influence, allows Russia to project power into the rest of Eurasia due its sea port, major resources and its role as a geographic defensive buffer – an important psychological factor for a nation that has been invaded from the west numerous times in its history.
It is clear that Brzezinski’s psyche is frozen in another era when his fellow Poles were under subjugation from the Soviet Union and his views are driven by an irrational antipathy toward Russia – irrational in the sense that it persists, despite what Russia actually is or does.
Flash forward to November of 2013 when the crisis in Ukraine started in earnest. With a negotiated end to the Cold War, a dissolved USSR, a Russian Federation that was firmly on the road toward an evolving version of capitalism, expanded economic ties with the EU and cordial relations with Latin America and a lot of the developing world, Russia and most everyone else had moved on from the idea of Russia as big bad bogeyman. But not an assortment of Russophobes in Washington, like Brzezinski, and those they influence.
Brzezinski influenced both Kerry and Obama, having served as a foreign policy advisor, along with his son, Mark Brzezinski, to the 2004 Kerry presidential campaign and then for the Obama 2008 campaign. Although, it is difficult to determine if Brzezinski still plays an active role as advisor to Obama, it is interesting to observe how hawks among both major political parties took their cue from Brzezinski when he compared Putin to Hitler in a March 3, 2014 op-ed for the Washington Post. (Brzezinski, WaPo, 3/3/14). Within the next two days, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Marco Rubio all repeated this absurd claim (Ernesto, Global Research – Brzezinski Mapped Out). It can, therefore, be deduced that Brzezinski still wields considerable influence among the Washington elite.
He has also gone on numerous media outlets and given speeches this year advancing a false narrative that the crisis in Ukraine was due to Putin’s aggression. In actuality, it started with a western-backed coup that toppled a democratically elected leader who rejected a European Association agreement that, as it turns out, would have forced austerity measures on a country that was already one of the poorest in Europe as well as threatened the holdings of native oligarchs by opening up Ukraine’s wealth and assets to Western corporations. The agreement also contained language that would have laid the groundwork for NATO membership. In reality, Putin’s maneuvering has been in reaction to this crisis on his border.
Brzezinski’s talking points echo what he said on media outlets about the war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 – most of which turned out to be bologna. He didn’t even identify the aggressors in the conflict correctly. Either he is woefully misinformed (not very plausible) or he was lying on behalf of his anti-Russia agenda both then and now.
This kind of anachronistic and narrow thinking, based on the unresolved emotional wounds of one small segment of the American population who are émigrés or descended from émigrés of former Soviet bloc countries, along with a preoccupation with imperialism, is dangerous if it overtakes U.S. foreign policy, which it appears to have done considering Brzezinski’s influence in Washington and the current Ukraine crisis, which was fomented to goad Putin into a war and weaken Russia – a plan that, based on Brzezinski’s past antics, seems to have his strategic fingerprints all over it.
- “Why War is Inevitable” by Paul Craig Roberts http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/25/war-inevitable-paul-craig-roberts/
- “The Outrageous Strategy to Destroy Russia” by Arthur Lepic http://www.voltairenet.org/article30038.html
- Fry, Douglas, The Human Potential for Peace: An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions About War and Violence. Oxford University Press, 2000.
- Zaemroaya, Mahdi Darius. The Globalization of NATO. Clarity Press, Inc., 2012. pp. 270-271
- America’s War for the Greater Middle East by Andrew Bacevich