Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski (, pronounced ; born March 28, 1928, Warsaw, Poland) is an American political scientist, geostrategist, and statesman who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981. Known for his hawkish foreign policy at a time when the Democratic Party was increasingly dovish, he is a foreign policy "realist" and considered by some to be the Democrats' response to Republican Henry Kissinger.
Major foreign policy events during his term of office included the normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China (and the severing of ties with the Republic of China), the signing of the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II), the brokering of the Camp David Accords, the transition of Iran from an important US client state to an anti-Western Islamic Republic, encouraging dissidents in Eastern Europe and emphasizing certain human rights in order to undermine the influence of the Soviet Union, the arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet-allied Afghan government to increase the probability of Soviet invasion and later entanglement in a Vietnam-style war, and later to counter the Soviet invasion, and the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties relinquishing overt US control of the Panama Canal after 1999.
He is currently professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a member of various boards and councils. He appears frequently as an expert on the PBS program The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1928. His family, members of the lesser nobility (or "szlachta" in Polish), bore the Traby coat of arms and hailed from Brzeżany in Galicia. This town is thought to be the source of the family name. Brzezinski's father was Tadeusz Brzeziński, a Polish diplomat who was posted to Germany from 1931 to 1935; 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. In 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was agreed to by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; subsequently the two powers invaded Poland. The 1945 Yalta Conference between the Allies allotted Poland to the Soviet sphere of influence, meaning Brzezinski's family could not safely return to their country.
After attending prep school in Montreal, Brzezinski entered McGill University in 1945 to obtain both his BA and MA degrees (received in 1949 and 1950 respectively). His Master's thesis focused on the various nationalities within the Soviet Union. Brzezinski's plan for doing further studies in Great Britain in preparation for a diplomatic career in Canada fell through, principally because he was ruled ineligible for a scholarship he had won that was only open to persons with British subject status. Brzezinski then went on to attend Harvard University to work on a PhD, focusing 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; the same year, he traveled to Munich and met Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, head of the Polish desk of Radio Free Europe. He later collaborated with Carl J. 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 Dwight Eisenhower and John Foster 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 Eastern Europeans could gradually counter Soviet domination. In 1957, he 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, although he probably also continues to be considered a Polish citizen under Polish law. Despite his years of residence in Canada and the presence of family members there, he never became a Canadian citizen.
In 1959 Brzezinski was not granted tenure at Harvard, and he moved to New York City to teach at Columbia University. Here he wrote Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict, which focused on Eastern Europe since the beginning of the Cold War. He also became a member of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and attended meetings of the Bilderberg Group.
During the 1960 US presidential elections, Brzezinski was an advisor to the John F. Kennedy campaign, urging a non-antagonistic policy toward Eastern European governments. 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 détente for the next few years, publishing "Peaceful Engagement in Eastern Europe" in Foreign Affairs, and supporting non-antagonistic policies after the Cuban Missile Crisis, on the grounds that 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 the Yalta Conference.
In 1964, Brzezinski supported Lyndon Johnson'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 European governments, while warning against De Gaulle's vision of a "Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals." He also supported the Vietnam War. From 1966 to 1968, Brzezinski served as a member of the Policy Planning Council of the US 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 European governments. His service to the Johnson administration, and his fact-finding trip to Vietnam made him an enemy of the New Left, despite his advocacy of de-escalation of the US' involvement in the war.
For the 1968 US presidential campaign, Brzezinski was chairman of the Hubert 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 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 among 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 was to strengthen relations among the three most industrially advanced regions of the capitalist world. Brzezinski selected Georgia governor Jimmy Carter as a member.
Jimmy Carter announced his candidacy for the 1976 presidential campaign to a skeptical media and proclaimed himself an "eager student" of Brzezinski. Brzezinski became Carter's principal foreign policy advisor by late 1975. He became an outspoken critic of the Nixon-Kissinger over-reliance on détente, a situation preferred by the USSR, favoring the Helsinki process instead, which focused on human rights, international law and peaceful engagement in Eastern Europe. Carter engaged Ford in foreign policy debates by contrasting the Trilateral vision with Ford's détente.
After his victory in 1976, Carter made Brzezinski National Security Advisor. Earlier that year, major labor riots broke out in Poland, laying the foundations for Solidarity. Brzezinski began by emphasizing the "Basket III" human rights in the Helsinki Final Act, which inspired Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia shortly thereafter.
Brzezinski had a hand in writing parts of Carter's inaugural address, and this served his purpose of sending a positive message to Soviet dissidents. The Soviet Union and Western European leaders both complained that this kind of rhetoric ran against the "code of détente" that Nixon and Kissinger had established. Brzezinski ran up against members of his own Democratic Party who disagreed with this interpretation of détente, including Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. Vance argued for less emphasis on human rights in order to gain Soviet agreement to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), whereas Brzezinski favored doing both at the same time. Brzezinski then ordered 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 objected to Brzezinski's agenda, even calling for the removal of Radio Free Europe from German soil.
The State Department was alarmed by Brzezinski's support for East German dissidents and objected to his suggestion that Carter's first overseas visit be to Poland. He visited Warsaw, met with Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski (against the 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 détente engineered by Nixon-Kissinger, with a focus on arms control. Brzezinski believed that détente 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 criticized Brzezinski publicly as seeking to revive the Cold War.
Brzezinski advised Carter in 1978 to engage the People's Republic of China and traveled to Beijing to lay the groundwork for the normalization of relations between the two countries. This also resulted in the severing of ties with the United States' longtime anti-Communist ally the Republic of China. Also in 1978, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected Pope John Paul II—an event which the Soviets believed Brzezinski orchestrated.
1979 saw two major strategically important events: the overthrow of US ally the Shah of Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Iranian Revolution precipitated the Iran hostage crisis, which would last for the rest of Carter's presidency. Brzezinski anticipated (some have claimed he even engineered) the Soviet invasion, and, with the support of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the PRC, he created a strategy to undermine the Soviet presence. See below under "Major Policies - Afghanistan."
Using this atmosphere of insecurity, Brzezinski led the US toward a new arms buildup and the development of the Rapid Deployment Forces—policies that are both more generally associated with Ronald Reagan now. In 1980, Brzezinski planned Operation Eagle Claw, 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 led to Secretary Vance's resignation.
Brzezinski was criticized widely in the press and became the least popular member of Carter's administration. Edward Kennedy challenged President Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination, and at the convention Kennedy's delegates loudly booed Brzezinski. Hurt by internal divisions within his party and a stagnant domestic economy, Carter lost the 1980 presidential election in a landslide.
Brzezinski, acting under a lame duck Carter presidency, but encouraged that Solidarity in Poland had vindicated his style of engagement with Eastern Europe, took a hard-line stance against what seemed like an imminent Soviet invasion of Poland. He even made 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 US stance was a significant change from previous reactions to Soviet repression in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.
In 1981 President Carter presented Brzezinski with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Brzezinski left office concerned about the internal division within the Democratic party, arguing that the dovish McGovernite wing would send the Democrats into permanent minority.
He had mixed relations with the Reagan administration. On the one hand, he supported it as an alternative to the Democrats' pacifism, but he also criticized it as seeing foreign policy in overly black-and-white terms.
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 its imposition in the name of stability. Brzezinski briefed US vice-president George H.W. Bush before his 1987 trip to Poland that 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 endorsed Bush for president, breaking with the Democratic party. Brzezinski published The Grand Failure the same year, predicting the failure of Gorbachev's reforms and the collapse of the Soviet Union in a few more decades. He said there were five possibilities for the Soviet Union: successful pluralization, protracted crisis, renewed stagnation, coup (by the KGB or Soviet military), or the explicit collapse of the Communist regime. He called collapse "at this stage a much more remote possibility" than protracted crisis. He also predicted that the chance of some form of communism existing in the Soviet Union in 2017 was a little more than 50% and that when the end did come it would be "most likely turbulent". In the event, the Soviet system collapsed totally in 1991 following Moscow's crackdown on Lithuania's attempt to declare independence, the Nagorno-Karabakh War of the late 1980s, and scattered bloodshed in other republics. This was a less violent outcome than Brzezinski and other observers anticipated.
In 1989 the Communists failed to mobilize support in Poland, 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. Ten days later, the Berlin Wall fell, and Soviet-supported governments in Eastern Europe began to totter.
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 US 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 Russia's First Chechen War, forming the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. Wary of a move toward the reinvigoration of Russian power, Brzezinski negatively viewed the succession of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin after Boris Yeltsin. In this vein, he became one of the foremost advocates of NATO expansion.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks Brzezinski was criticized for his role in the formation of the Afghan mujaheddin network, some of which later formed the Taliban and al Qaeda. He asserted that blame ought to be laid at the feet of the Soviet Union's invasion which radicalized the relatively stable Muslim society. However, Brzezinski is also accused of having "knowingly increased the probability that they (the Soviet Union) would invade" by supporting Afghan rebels before the invasion and drawing the Soviets into an "Afghan trap".
Brzezinski was a leading critic of the George W. Bush administration's "war on terror." Some painted him as a neoconservative because of his friendship with Paul Wolfowitz and his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard. However in 2004, Brzezinski wrote The Choice, which expanded upon The Grand Chessboard but sharply criticized the George W. Bush's foreign policy. He defended the book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy and was an outspoken critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
In August 2007, Brzezinski endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He stated "recognizes that the challenge is a new face, a new sense of direction, a new definition of America's role in the world." Also saying, "What makes Obama attractive to me is that he understands that we live in a very different world where we have to relate to a variety of cultures and people." In September 2007 during a speech on the Iraq war, Obama introduced Brzezinski as "one of our most outstanding thinkers," but some questioned his criticism of the Israel lobby in the United States. In a September 2009 interview with The Daily Beast In a September 2009, Brzezinski replied to a question about how aggressive President Obama should be in insisting Israeli not conduct an air strike on Iran saying: "We are not exactly impotent little babies. They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?" This was interpreted as supporting the U.S. downing Israeli jets to prevent an attack on Iran.
Brzezinski is married to Czech-American sculptor Emilie Benes (grand-niece of the second Czech president, Edvard Beneš), with whom he has three children. His son, Mark Brzezinski (b. 1965), a lawyer who served on President Clinton's National Security Council as an expert on Russia and Southeastern Europe, is a partner in McGuire Woods LLP. His daughter, Mika Brzezinski (b. 1967), is a television news journalist and a regular anchor on MSNBC. His son Ian served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO and is now a Principal at Booz Allen Hamilton.
President Carter chose Zbigniew Brzezinski for the position of National Security Adviser (NSA) 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 National Security Council (NSC) structure, fashioned to ensure that the NSA would be only one of many players in the foreign policy process.
Brzezinski's task was complicated by his (hawkish) focus on East-West relations in an administration where many cared a great deal about North-South relations and human rights.
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 NSA chairman of only one of the two committees, he would prevent the NSC from being the overwhelming influence on foreign policy decisions it was 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 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, Brzezinski 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 lay the groundwork for normalizing U.S.-PRC 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 State Department if the President preferred to revise or take issue with outgoing State 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.
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 the 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 Islamic Republic of Iran. 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 to rescue the US hostages in March 1980, undertaken over his objections, was the final result of the deep disagreement between Brzezinski and Vance.
During the 1960s 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 US strategy, placing détente ahead of German reunification and thus reversing prior US priorities.
During the 1970s and 1980s, at the height of his political involvement, Brzezinski participated in the formation of the Trilateral Commission in order to more closely cement US-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 world.
While serving in the White House, Brzezinski emphasized the centrality of human rights as a means of placing the Soviet Union on the ideological defensive. With Jimmy Carter in Camp David, 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 normalizing US-PRC relations and in the development of joint strategic cooperation, cultivating a relationship with Deng Xiaoping, for which he is thought very highly of in mainland China to this day.
In the 1990s 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 states. He also served as William Clinton's 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 US–sponsored Polish-American Freedom Foundation from the proposed $112 million to an eventual total of well over $200 million.
He has consistently urged a US leadership role in the world, based on established alliances, and warned against unilateralist policies that would destroy US global credibility and precipitate US global isolation.
Brzezinski, known for his hardline policies on the Soviet Union, initiated in 1979 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 Parcham faction of the PDPA and a subsequent Soviet military intervention.
Years later, in a 1997 CNN/National Security Archive interview, Brzezinski detailed the strategy taken by the Carter administration against the Soviets in 1979:
Milt Bearden wrote in The Main Enemy that Brzezinski, in 1980, secured an agreement from King Khalid of Saudi Arabia to match US contributions to the Afghan effort dollar for dollar and that Bill Casey would keep that agreement going through the Reagan administration.
In 1998, Brzezinski was interviewed by the French newspaper Nouvel Observateur on the topic of Afghanistan. He revealed that CIA support for the mujaheddin had started before the 1979 Soviet invasion. Brzezinski saw the invasion as an opportunity to embroil the Soviet Union in a bloody conflict comparable to the US experience in Vietnam. He referred to this as the "Afghan Trap" and viewed the end of the Soviet empire as worth the cost of strengthening militant Islamic groups.
He went on to say in that interview, "What is most important to the history of the world? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?" When the interviewer questioned him about Islamic fundamentalism representing a world menace, Brzezinski said, "Nonsense!" 
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 farther south (see the Carter Doctrine).
In a footnote in his 2000 book The Geostrategic Triad, Brzezinski notes:
A memo from Zbigniew Brzezinski to President Carter on December 26, 1979, discusses the implications of a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on US foreign policy, especially regarding Iran.
Shortly after taking office in 1977, President Carter again reaffirmed the United States' position of upholding the Shanghai Communique. The United States and People's Republic of China announced on December 15, 1978, that the two governments would establish diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979. This required that the US sever relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan. Consolidating US gains in befriending communist China was a major priority stressed by Brzezinski during his time as National Security Advisor.
The most important strategic aspect of the new US-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 due to the Sino-Soviet Split, helping the United States against the Soviet Union. A notable example, discussed above, was Chinese assistance in Brzezinski's efforts to draw the USSR into a Vietnam-style conflict in Afghanistan.
In the Joint Communique on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations dated January 1, 1979, the United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The US reiterated the Shanghai Communique's acknowledgment of the PRC position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of China; Beijing acknowledged that the US would continue to carry on commercial, cultural, and other unofficial contacts with Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act made the necessary changes in US domestic law to permit unofficial relations with Taiwan to continue.
In addition the severing relations with the ROC, the Carter administration also agreed to unilaterally pull out of the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, withdraw US military personnel from Taiwan, and gradually reduce arms sales to the Republic of China. There was widespread opposition in the US Congress, notably from Republicans, due to the Republic of China's status as an anti-Communist ally in the Cold War. In Goldwater v. Carter, Barry Goldwater made a failed attempt to stop Carter from terminating the mutual defense treaty.
PRC Vice-premier Deng Xiaoping's January 1979 visit to Washington, DC, initiated a series of high-level exchanges, which continued until the Tiananmen Square massacre, when they were briefly interrupted. 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 the PRC 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. During 1979, outstanding private claims were resolved, and a bilateral trade agreement was concluded. US 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.
Brzezinski encouraged China to give succour to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, as a counter to growing Vietnamese influence in Indochina.
As a consequence of high-level and working-level contacts initiated in 1980, US 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.
In 1981 Brzezinski revealed that he encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. This was part of a wider policy of forcing the Vietnamese out of Cambodia by funding anti-Vietnamese guerrilla groups that the U.S. helped create. Between 1979 and 1981, the World Food Program, which was under US influence, provided nearly $12 million in food aid to Thailand. Much of this aid made its way to the Khmer Rouge. In January 1980 the US started funding Pol Pot while he was in exile. The extent of this support was $85 million from 1980 to 1986. Brzezinski's support of the Khmer Rouge was a continuation of the friendly relations the US had with the Khmer Rouge during the presidency of Gerald Ford. Kissinger had already asked Thailand's foreign minister in 1975 to tell the Khmer Rouge that the US would be friends with them. Brzezinski himself however denied that his administration helped China fund Pol Pot in a letter he sent to the New York Times in 1998.
On October 10, 2007 Brzezinski along with other influential signatories sent a letter to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice titled 'Failure Risks Devastating Consequences'. The letter was partly an advice and a warning of the failure of an upcoming  US-sponsored Middle East conference scheduled for November 2007 between representatives of Israelis and Palestinians. The letter also suggested to engage in "a genuine dialogue with Hamas" rather than to isolate it further.
Presidential Directive 18 on US National Security, signed early in Carter's term, signaled a fundamental reassessment of the value of détente, and set the US on a course to quietly end Kissinger's strategy.
Presidential Directive 59, "Nuclear Employment Policy", dramatically changed US targeting of nuclear weapons aimed at the Soviet Union. Implemented with the aid of Defense Secretary Harold Brown, this directive officially set the US on a countervailing strategy .
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.
As a scholar he has developed his thoughts over the years, fashioning fundamental theories on international relations and geostrategy. During the 1950s he worked on the theory of totalitarianism. His thought in the 1960s 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 1970s he propounded the proposition that the Soviet system was incapable of evolving beyond the industrial phase into the "technetronic" age.
By the 1980s, Brzezinski argued that the general crisis of the Soviet Union foreshadowed communism's end. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he spent the 1990s warning that global discord may get out of control and formulating 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:
In this book Brzezinski claims the United States is the first, only, and last truly global "superpower": "America is now Eurasia's arbiter, with no major Eurasian issue soluble without America's participation or contrary to America's interests."
In his subsequent book, The Choice, Brzezinski updates his geostrategy in light of globalization, the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the intervening six years between the two books.
Brzezinski is a past member of the board of directors of Amnesty International, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council, and the National Endowment for Democracy.
He was formerly a director of the Trilateral Commission, now serving only on the executive committee, and was formerly a 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 the Caucasus, on the advisory board of America Abroad Media, and on the advisory board of Partnership for a Secure America.
Brzezinski appears as himself in the 2009 documentaries Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace. and Fall of the Republic by Alex Jones (radio host) .
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