7 thoughts on “Zbigniew Brzezinski: On the crisis in the Ukraine

  1. bobs

    Nothing quite like having the guy who enabled 9/11, out of anti-Russian hatred, telling us how to deal with the Russkies. A shallow thinker if there’s one.

  2. Paul Woodward

    For readers who know as little about Brzezinski as “bobs” does, here’s some background, beginning with a column from the Toronto Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui (May 14, 2006):

    Zbigniew Brzezinski — former Canadian and a McGill alumnus who rose to be Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser — knows a thing or two about the broader Middle East, including Iran, having lived through the American hostage crisis on his watch.

    I first met him in the 1980s in Pakistan while returning from Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, where he had helped initiate American support for the Afghan resistance.

    Now he is professor of American foreign policy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    I phoned him in Washington to ask about the American policy on Hamas, as well as the Iranian nuclear program, two issues on which the Harper government has stepped into line behind the Bush administration.

    Brzezinski is no fan of George W. Bush. But he is a highly regarded strategic thinker.

    On cutting off aid to the Palestinians for having elected Hamas, he said: “I think the American foreign policy is mindless.

    “When Likud came to power in 1977, it had a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not fundamentally different from the position of Hamas; that is to say, all of the former Palestine should be part of Israel. Some Likud officials even felt the Palestinians should be expelled physically across the Jordan River. But we did not isolate or embargo the Likud government. We kept talking to it and over a period of time, the position of Likud evolved to the point that Likud itself accepted a two-state solution.

    “I think over time, if we are intelligent and patient, one cannot exclude the possibility of a similar evolution taking place with Hamas.”

    Perhaps unique in the Washington foreign policy establishment, Brzezinski has supported the creation of a Palestinian state since as far back as 1975.

    In February 2007 Brzezinski told the U.S. Senate:

    The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability.

    The following month he wrote in the Washington Post:

    The “war on terror” has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration’s elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America’s psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

    The damage these three words have done — a classic self-inflicted wound — is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare — political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

    But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a “war on terror” did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that “a nation at war” does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being “at war.”

    In 2010, Brzezinski pushed back against those in Washington and Israel who portrayed a nuclear Iran as being more dangerous than war with Iran:

    We managed to live with a nuclear Soviet Union in the days of Stalinism; we managed to live in a stable relationship with China, even though the leader of China, when China obtained the nuclear capability, publicly said, “Well, what’s nuclear war–300 million dead? is that a big deal?” The point is, we know historically that deterrence works and we know that we have the capability to deter Iran if it threatens not only us, but our neighbors. And I think we have enough reasonable calculus to conclude that the war, an additional war in the region, particularly that sensitive center of that region, will be very very risky for global stability.

    In brief, Brzezinski is a rarity in Washington: A man who has the courage to say what he thinks even when that means breaking the taboos constructed by the political establishment.

    Having, during his childhood, witnessed the rise of Nazism in Germany and then lived in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s Great Purge, Brzezinski has a visceral distaste for totalitarianism. But why not? The redeeming features of Stalin and Hitler are hard to discern.

    Calling Putin a “dictator” might to some observers seem premature but there’s no question that he has positioned himself to become Russia’s ruler for the rest of his life and the transition from populist to dictator is generally gradual.

  3. Ian Clark

    Mr Brzezinki’s comments do not mince words…an understanding of the feints using spetznaz, the comic rendition of Mussolini by the thug in the Kremlin, the need to privately assure the Russians that any incursion will be met by supply of lethal hardware to the Ukranians. The parallels of the Sudetenland and appeasement are obvious.

  4. Julian Zinovieff

    Defending Brzezinski on Russia by citing his positions on Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran is at least odd. Omitting his notorious Cold War stance might strike some as more than forgetful or summary. In all his recent outpourings, Brzezinski does not appear to have developed his stance since “A Geostrategy for Eurasia”, his contribution to Foreign Affairs back in 1997: “America’s emergence as the sole global superpower now makes an integrated and comprehensive strategy for Eurasia imperative… What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and historical legacy.”

    In the first place, to be ignorant of US meddling in Ukraine on the one hand and of Russian ties with Ukraine on the other is unfortunate but understandable. But then thereafter to remain so stubbornly ignorant seems willful. NATO’s encroachment on Russian borders, against US assurances, is manifest, while other US activities – $5bn US investment over the last few years, Nuland, etc – are as baldly factual and quite visible in the media. Russian-Ukrainian relations and culture are harder to pick out (Gogol and Limonov, anyone?), but some basic history is attempted by Solzhenitsyn, interviewed in Forbes magazine in 1994, when the US was ‘at it’ as it is now: “In 1919, when he imposed his regime on Ukraine, Lenin gave her several Russian provinces to assuage her feelings. These provinces have never historically belonged to Ukraine. I am talking about the eastern and southern territories of today’s Ukraine. Then, in 1954, Khrushchev, with the arbitrary capriciousness of a satrap, made a “gift” of the Crimea to Ukraine. But even he did not manage to make Ukraine a “gift” of Sevastopol, which remained a separate city under the jurisdiction of the U.S.S.R. central government. This was accomplished by the American State Department, first verbally through Ambassador Popadiuk in Kiev and later in a more official manner. Why does the State Department decide who should get Sevastopol? One must conclude that all this stems from a common aim: to use all means possible, no matter what the consequences, to weaken Russia.”

  5. Paul Woodward

    “Defending Brzezinski on Russia by citing his positions on Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran is at least odd.”

    Actually, I cited Brzezinski at length in response to a comment in which he was being glibly dismissed as “the guy who enabled 9/11” and a “shallow thinker.”

  6. josieamilburn

    Mr. Brzenzinski is not a shallow thinker, on the contrary, he has much to offer. However, his wisdom is blunted by what I think is an obsession with Russia. He does not seem able to see beyond “Russia.” We all have our “Russias”of one kind or another. But countries are made upof human beings, and human beings are a psychological lot. Like rats, keep them up against a wall and they will fight. I don’t think Mr. Brzenzinski has learned that, even at age 86. Perhaps when he reaches my age, 90, he will have a different perspective.

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