Brzezinski, Zbigniew K. 1928–

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Brzezinski, Zbigniew K. 1928–

(Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski)

PERSONAL: Born March 28, 1928, in Warsaw, Poland; immigrated to Canada, 1938; immigrated to the United States, 1953; naturalized U.S. citizen, 1958; son of Tadeusz (a diplomat) and Leonia Brzezinski; married Emilie Ann Benes (a painter and sculptress); children: Ian, Mark, Mika. Education: McGill University, B.A. (first class honors), 1949, M.A., 1950; Harvard University, Ph.D., 1953.

ADDRESSES: Office—Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1800 K St. NW, Washington, DC, 20006.

CAREER: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, instructor and research fellow at Russian Research Center, 1953–56, assistant professor of government and research associate at Russian Research Center and Center for International Affairs, 1956–60; Columbia University, New York, NY, associate professor, 1960–62, professor of public law and government and director of Research Institute on International Change, 1962–77, 1981–89; special assistant to President Jimmy Carter for national security affairs, 1977–81; Robert E. Osgood Professor of American Foreign Policy, Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, DC, beginning 1989. Official, National Security Council, 1977–81. Director, Trilateral Commission, 1973–76. Counselor, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1981–. Member of Policy Planning Council, Department of State, 1966–68; member of board of trustees, Freedom House, Amnesty International, and Institute for Defense Analysis. Guest lecturer to numerous private and governmental institutions in the U.S. and abroad, 1953–; participant in international conferences and meetings, 1955–. Consultant to RAND Corp. Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

MEMBER: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Century Club (New York, NY), Federal City Club (Washington, DC), International Club (Washington, DC).

AWARDS, HONORS: Guggenheim fellowship, 1960; named one of the ten outstanding young men in America, U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce, 1963; Ford fellowship, 1970, to study Japan's role in international politics; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1981; U Thant Award, 1995.


(Editor and contributor) Political Controls in the Soviet Army, Praeger (New York, NY), 1954.

The Permanent Purge: Politics in Soviet Totalitarianism, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1956.

(With Carl Joachim Friedrich) Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1956.

(Principal contributor) Ideology and Foreign Affairs, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA), 1959.

The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1960, revised and enlarged edition, 1967.

Ideology and Power in Soviet Politics (collected essays), Praeger (New York, NY), 1962, revised edition, 1967.

(Editor) Africa and the Communist World, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 1963.

(With Samuel P. Huntington) Political Power: USA/USSR, Viking (New York, NY), 1964, 2nd edition, 1977.

Alternative to Partition: For a Broader Conception of America's Role in Europe, Viking (New York, NY), 1965.

(Editor and compiler) Dilemmas of Change in Soviet Politics, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1969.

The Fragile Blossom: Crisis and Change in Japan, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.

Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technotronic Era, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.

The Relevance of Liberalism, Westview (Boulder, CO), 1977.

Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor, 1977–1981, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1983.

(With David Owen, Saburo Okita, and members of the Trilateral Commission) Democracy Must Work: A Trilateral Agenda for the Decade; A Task Force Report to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

Game Plan: A Geostrategic Framework for the Conduct of the U.S.-Soviet Contest, Atlantic Monthly Press (Boston, MA), 1986.

(Editor, with Richard Sincere, Marin Strmecki, and Peter Wehner) Promise or Peril, the Strategic Defense Initiative: Thirty-five Essays by Statesmen, Scholars, and Strategic Analysts, Ethics and Public Policy Center (Washington, DC), 1986.

In Quest of National Security, edited and annotated by Marin Strmecki, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1988.

Mysl i dzialanie w polityce miedzynarodowej, Aneks (London, England), 1988.

The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century, Scribner (New York, NY), 1989.

(Designer) Waclaw Jedrzejewicz, Pilsudski: A Life for Poland, Hippocrene (New York, NY), 1990.

Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century, Scribner (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor, with Paige Sullivan) Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Documents, Data, and Analysis, M.E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1996.

The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1997.

The Geostrategic Triad: Living with China, Europe, and Russia, foreword by John J. Hamre, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, DC), 2000.

The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2004.

Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower, Perseus Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Also author of New Dimensions of Human Rights, 1995. Author of studies, reports, and papers on U.S. foreign policy and foreign relations. Contributor to books, including American Security in an Interdependent World: A Collection of Papers Presented at the Atlantic Council's 1987 Annual Conference, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 1988; Foreign Policy into the 21st Century: The U.S. Leadership Challenge: Foreign Policy into the Twenty-first Century, Center for Strategic & International Studies (Washington, DC), 1996; NATO at Fifty: Perspectives on the Future of the Transatlantic Alliance, Center for Political and Strategic Studies, 1999; and Fulfilling the Promise: Building an Enduring Security Partnership between Ukraine and NATO, Center for International Security and Cooperation (Stanford, CA)/Harvard University, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (Cambridge, MA), 1999. Contributor of numerous articles on comparative government, international politics, and current affairs to periodicals, including American Political Science Review, Der Monat, Journal of Politics, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Polish Review, and World Politics. Member of international advisory committee, Survey; member of editorial board, Foreign Policy.

SIDELIGHTS: The Polish-born political pundit Zbigniew K. Brzezinski has a "penchant for identifying future trends and anticipating attributes," according to Richard Storatz in the Political Science Quarterly. Now a recognized authority on world politics, Brzezinski has written a number of books that have accurately predicted future trends in world politics. As Storatz stated: "During the height of the Cold War, he envisioned the collapse of the Soviet Union under the sheer weight of impending ethnic and nationalities' burdens, inter alia. Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technotronic Era … anticipated what he termed the emerging 'technetronic' or information era. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives … revisited Halford John MacKinder and should have prepared us for the turmoil at the southern extremities of the Eurasian landmass." A career background in politics and academia lend additional weight to his learned arguments.

It is Brzezinski's past, though, that helps explain his early preoccupation with communism. His father, a man of aristocratic descent, served as the Polish consul-general in Montréal during World War II and helped Jewish refugees flee Nazi and Soviet persecution. When the communists seized control of the Polish government in 1945, Tadeusz Brzezinski retired and remained with his family in Canada. Zbigniew attended Roman Catholic schools in Montréal. He moved to the United States in order to attend Harvard and, after receiving his Ph.D., joined the university's faculty. His doctoral thesis, published by Harvard University Press in 1956 under the title The Permanent Purge: Politics in Soviet Totalitarianism, attracted attention as an important new synthesis of Soviet politics.

During the 1960s Brzezinski left Harvard for Columbia University, where he was named director of the new Institute on Communist Affairs. He served as an advisor to President Kennedy on foreign affairs and worked under President Johnson's administration as a member of the Department of State's Policy Planning Council. Although Brzezinski originally supported America's presence in Vietnam, believing that it would help deter further unrest in Southeast Asia, he came to see that the war was politically unjustifiable, and left the Council position in protest in 1968. He later worked as a foreign policy advisor to presidential hopeful Hubert Humphrey during the 1968 campaign. Among his writings during this period is The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict, in which, over thirty years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Brzezinski saw the beginnings of disunity in Soviet-bloc countries.

In 1976 Brzezinski served as foreign affairs advisor to Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter and was appointed head of the National Security Council after Carter's election. Articulate and energetic in expressing his views, in the opinion of the press, Brzezinski sometimes overwhelmed Carter's soft-spoken Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance. He gained influence and, in some corners, notoriety, as President Carter's idea man, tutor, and coach on foreign policy. By arguing that a powerful Chinese government could help deter Soviet intervention in Southeast Asia, he helped set the Carter administration's policy toward the People's Republic of China. In Of Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor, 1977–81, Brzezinski further details the story of the Carter Administration's foreign policy.

Brzezinski's first bestseller, The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century, is based on his many years of experience in observing Soviet politics and society. Written just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the book expresses his optimism at the time that the totalitarianism and repression of Soviet-style communism had failed at last. The Grand Failure is structured as a schematic exposé of the communist plight. Each of the book's six sections focus on a different aspect of "the grand failure." Brzezinski suggests that communism's overall failure as a doctrine was due mainly to the political, social, and economic failure of the Leninist prototype, the model on which most communist states are based. Reforms proposed by Premier Gorbachev, he felt, would be largely unsuccessful, and would result in frustration, turmoil, and the abandonment of the Soviet model by the Eastern European communist states—a process that took place in Poland soon after the book was published. On the other hand, Brzezinski believes that communist China is liable to succeed with its reforms because of its leaders' willingness to abandon Marxist and Leninist doctrines and experiment with capitalist economics. Because of the economic and social success of the Western democracies, communism has lost its attractiveness to many potential revolutionaries, and Brzezinski envisions a post-communist world in which democracy, not communism, is the guiding light.

In 1993's Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century, Brzezinski turns his attention to post-Cold War international politics. The political future, he feels, will be dominated by global "power clusters" rather than superpowered individual nation-states. In order to preserve its place at the forefront of the global hegemony, the United States must correct the impact its lax morality—including the proliferation of sex and violence in the mass media, inadequate health care and education for its citizens, excessive consumption by wealthy citizens who are opposed to tax reforms—has had on its global partners. Brzezinski suggests that the United Nations must play a greater role in politics worldwide, and that the United States be prepared to share responsibilities with its neighbors in Europe, the Americas, and East Asia.

Brzezinski focuses more closely on the role of the United States in world politics in his 1997 publication, The Grand Chessboard. Numerous reviewers remarked on the great breadth of this book. Brzezinski begins with a quick tour of every empire known to have existed, and he concludes that none of them was a truly global power. The United States, he believes, is the first political entity to achieve world domination. He then states that Eurasia is the game board on which world power struggles are played, and he gives short, comprehensive accounts of political histories in Europe and Asia. Next, he sets forth his reasons for believing that the United States must do its best to balance power in Eurasia, and his prescriptions for how to do so. Criticizing the William Jefferson Clinton administration for what he considers lax, careless foreign policy, Brzezinski "describes a very forbidding situation in the years ahead if the United States does not make more permanent the dominance it now has over a vast area of the world," according to Bernard Gwertzman in the New York Times. Failure to do so will result in global anarchy. "In brief," Gwertzman quoted Brzezinski as saying, "the U.S. policy goal must be unapologetically twofold: to perpetuate America's own dominant position for at least a generation and preferably longer still; and to create a geopolitical framework that can absorb the inevitable shocks and strains of social-political change while evolving into the geopolitical core of shared responsibility for peaceful global management."

Washington Monthly reviewer Benjamin Schwarz described The Grand Chessboard as "the fullest and frankest exposition of America's global strategy since the Pentagon's infamous draft Defense Planning Guidance was leaked in 1992." Foreign Policy writer Helmut Schmidt noted that Brzezinski is outspoken and unapologetic about his call for U.S. dominance. "His thinking is primarily determined by strategic military considerations," advised Schmidt. Cautioning that readers "may share neither his premise, approach, or objectives," the critic concluded that, nevertheless, "this is a book to be read and to be taken seriously."

The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership continues to add to Brzezinski's track record in foretelling the future of global politics. Arguing again and again against the policies of the George W. Bush administration, he contends that the U.S. president's policies of preemptive war and ad hoc alliances fails to recognize root causes of turmoil in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and that true solutions rely on better cooperation with international organizations such as NATO and more moderate foreign policies. Brzezinski also clarifies the term "globalization" and what it means to the world as, in essence, a synonym for Americanization. Storatz declared The Choice a "literate, penetrating tour d'horizon," while a Publishers Weekly critic called the book a "perceptive overview of the disorienting new strategic challenges America faces."



Bestsellers, Issue 3, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.

Brzezinski, Zbigniew, Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor, 1977–1981, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1983.

Brzezinski, Zbigniew, The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century, Scribner (New York, NY), 1989.

The Cold War: 1945–1991: Leaders and Other Important Figures in the United States and Western Europe, Volume 1, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.


Booklist, July, 1997, review of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States: Documents, Data, and Analysis, p. 1837; September 15, 1997, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, p. 183; February 15, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Choice: Domination or Leadership, p. 1007.

Economist, July 31, 1993, review of Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the Twenty-first Century, p. 81.

Foreign Policy, spring, 1998, Helmut Schmidt, review of The Grand Chessboard, p. 179.

Library Journal, June 1, 1997, Marcia L. Sprules, review of Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, p. 94; September 15, 1997, David Ettinger, review of The Grand Chessboard, p. 90.

Middle East Policy, summer, 2005, Anne Joyce, "Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski," p. 120.

New York Times, October 26, 1997, Bernard Gwertzman, review of The Grand Chessboard.

Political Science Quarterly, winter, 2004, Richard Storatz, review of The Choice, p. 686, and Edward A. Kolodziej, review of Out of Control, p. 904-906.

Publishers Weekly, March 8, 1993, review of Out of Control, p. 59; August 25, 1997, review of The Grand Chessboard, p. 52; January 5, 2004, "America: To Rule or Not to Rule?," review of The Choice, p. 52.

Washington Monthly, May, 1993, Jacob Heilbrunn, review of Out of Control, p. 56; January-February, 1998, Benjamin Schwarz, review of The Grand Chessboard, p. 55.


CNN Web site, (November 8, 2006), brief biography of Zbigniew K. Brzezinski.