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Prominent Poles

Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, Polish-American political scientist, US National Security Advisor during Carter’s presidency.

Photo of Zbigniew Brzezinski, politician

Born: March 28, 1928, Warsaw, Poland

Motto: The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership, Basic Books (March 2004) includes an excerpt from Brzezinski’s monograph 'The Grand Failure':
The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century” (New York: Scribner's, 1989). On p.116 the author writes: "The Polish Socialist Party (PPS) had been in the forefront of the struggle for Poland's national rebirth and had played a major role in the World War II underground. After the war, the Communists crushed the party, and its remnants were amalgamated into the new ruling party, totally dominated by Moscow's Communists. By the 1970s, two centrally important developments dramatically altered the situation: First, the new industrial proletariat developed a political consciousness of its own, much more akin to the earlier Polish socialist tradition but also imbued (because of its recent peasant origins) with a strong religious spirit. Second, it had forged new links with the politically active anti-communist intelligentsia of a social- democratic orientation. This was a powerful coalition, capable of articulating an alternative program. Moreover, a protective and encouraging arm was extended by the mighty Catholic church, led until the 1980s by a universally respected primate, Cardinal Wyszynski, to whom even the Communist leaders reluctantly deferred. These social currents gained a symbolically important spearhead."

Summary. Brzezinski predicted the breakup of the Soviet Union along the lines of nationality. It was his idea that the fundamentally non-communist Eastern Europeans could gradually counter Soviet domination. 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 from the proposed $112 million to an eventual total of well over $200 million.
Quotations: "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?"

Early days. He was the son of a Polish diplomat, Tadeusz Brzeziński, who had fought in the Polish Army against the Red Army in the 1920 Polish-Soviet War. Mother: Leonia nee Roman. Tadeusz Brzeziński was posted to Germany from 1931 to 1935, and Zbigniew Brzezinski thus spent some of his earliest years witnessing the rise of the Nazis. From 1936 to 1938, Tadeusz Brzeziński was posted to the Soviet Union during Stalin's Great Purge. In 1938, Tadeusz Brzeziński was posted to Canada. Zbigniew Brzezinski entered McGill University in Montreal in 1945 where he obtained in 1950 MA In 1953 he received PhD from Harvard University.

Political activities. Generally he was taking a hard line on policy toward the Soviet Union, but he was also an influential force behind the Johnson administration's "bridge-building" ideas regarding Eastern Europe. During the final years of the Johnson administration, he was a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Hubert Humphrey. He published Peaceful Engagement in Eastern Europe in Foreign Affairs, and supported non-antagonistic policies after the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1964, Brzezinski supported LBJ's presidential campaign and the Great Society and Civil rights policies and warned against De Gaulle's vision of a "Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals." He also supported intervention in Vietnam. 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. Meanwhile he became a leading critic of both the Nixon-Kissinger détente 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. Brzezinski co-founded, and served as Director from 1973 to 1976, the Trilateral Commission, a group of prominent political and business leaders and academics primarily from the United States, Western Europe and Japan.

Government. Brzezinski became Carter's principal foreign policy advisor by late 1975. He became an outspoken critic of the Nixon-Kissinger over-reliance on détente. 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 then ordered Radio Free Europe transmitters to increase the power and area of their broadcasts. 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, recognizing the Roman Catholic Church as the legitimate opposition to Communist rule in Poland. In 1978, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected Pope John Paul II—an event which the Soviets believed Brzezinski orchestrated. Brzezinski anticipated the Soviet invasion of Afganistan; and, with the support of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and China, created a strategy to counter the Soviet advance. 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. Brzezinski lead 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. 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, Brzezinski 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. In 1980, Brzezinski planned 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, and Brzezinski was criticized widely in the press. 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, took a hard-line stance against what seemed like an imminent Soviet invasion of Poland. On the whole, Brzezinski was a team player.

After power. Brzezinski left office concerned about the internal division within the Democratic Party. He remained involved in Polish affairs, critical of the imposition of Martial Law in Poland in 1981, and more so of Western European acquiescence to the imposition in the name of stability. 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 endorsed 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 published 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 toured Russia and visited 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 is married to an internationally recognized sculptress (the daughter of Czechoslovakia’s former president Edvard Beneš), and has three children: one, Ian, is Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO; another. Mark, is a partner, in McGuire Woods LLP, Washington, DC, and was foreign policy advisor to the Kerry campaign; his daughter Mika is a reporter for CBS-TV “Evening News.”

Academia. Brzezinski was on the faculty of Harvard University from 1953 to 1960, and of Columbia University from 1960 to 1989, where he headed 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. Brzezinski laid out his most significant contribution to post-Cold War geostrategy in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard (subsequently published in nineteen languages).
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

Public life. Brzezinski is a past member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, Council on Foreign Relations, Atlantic Council, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Trilateral Commission and formerly board member 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, on the advisory board of America Abroad Media, and on the advisory board of Partnership for a Secure America.

This article uses, among others, material from the Wikipedia article "Zbigniew Brzezinski" licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. :
See there also a list of his major works.

Other sources:
Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm
Margaret Warner

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