The cold warrior who guided Carter’s foreign policy
Zbigniew Brzezinski 1928–2017
As President Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski played a pivotal role in U.S. foreign policy. He helped facilitate the 1978 Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, and was instrumental in normalizing relations with China. But Brzezinski’s four-year tenure was ultimately defined by his hawkish views on the Soviet Union. He encouraged Carter to arm the Islamist militants fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan. He permanently delayed implementation of the 1979 SALT II treaty to limit the superpowers’ nuclear arsenals. Even his support for the failed 1980 Special Operations mission to rescue U.S. hostages held by Iranian radicals was based on his belief that negotiations would “deliver Iran to the Soviets.”
Brzezinski developed his “deep distrust of the Soviet Union” at a young age, said WSJ.com. Born in Warsaw to a diplomat and his wife, he was stranded with his family in Canada by the 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi and Soviet forces. Brzezinski moved to the U.S. to study at Harvard, and soon became an authoritative voice on foreign policy, working for the State Department and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Appointed Carter’s national security adviser in 1977, Brzezinski immediately “jockeyed for power,” said The New York Times. He insisted on personally giving Carter his daily intelligence briefing, and “froze out” Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who quit in 1980.
After leaving the White House, Brzezinski “continued to be an influential voice,” said NPR.org. He was a vocal opponent of the second Iraq War and faulted President Obama’s lack of “strategic determination.” “I have never believed in flattery or lying as a way of making it,” Brzezinski said. “I have made it on my own terms.”