Donald Trump Ignores All of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Advice

Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at the Munich Security Conference, Germany, February 1, 2014
Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski speaks at the Munich Security Conference, Germany, February 1, 2014 (MSC/Tobias Kleinschmidt)

For almost a century, America’s strategic priority has been to prevent the emergence of a dominant power in Eurasia that could challenge it for world supremacy.

Halford Mackinder recognized as early as 1904 that a single power could lord over the continent if it controlled the entire Eurasian “Heartland”, stretching from Moscow to Tehran to Vladivostok.

Alfred Thayer Mahan and Nicholas Spykman argued it was rather control of the “Rimlands” on the edge of Eurasia that could tip the balance of power: Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.

Their ideas were not mutually exclusive. They both informed the United States’ successful policy of containment during the Cold War. To block Russian ambitions, America allied with democratic Europe, Turkey, the shah’s Iran and Japan. It exploited the Sino-Soviet split and armed the mujahideen in Afghanistan to hasten the Soviet Union’s demise.

Now Donald Trump is overturning this century-old wisdom. Read more “Donald Trump Ignores All of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Advice”

Improving Russian-Turkish Relations a Threat to the West

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey deliver a news conference in Ankara, December 1
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey deliver a news conference in Ankara, December 1 (Kremlin)

Russian and Turkish leaders Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Monday they would expand energy relations between their countries.

Russian-Turkish relations remain problematic, but the prospect of a partnership poses a strategic threat to the West. Read more “Improving Russian-Turkish Relations a Threat to the West”

Brzezinski Laments “Chaotic” American Policy in Syria

Former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski on Friday lamented the lack of a “strategic design” in Syria where the United States seem prepared to expand their support for opposition forces battling the regime of President Bashar Assad.

“It all seems to me rather sporadic, chaotic, unstructured, undirected,” Brzezinski said during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe television program a day after the administration had declared that chemical weapons were used in the Middle Eastern country’s civil war, crossing President Barack Obama’s “red line” and prompting America to start arming rebel fighters. Western diplomats said the United States were also considering to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, possibly from neighboring Jordan, an American ally. Read more “Brzezinski Laments “Chaotic” American Policy in Syria”

Brzezinski’s Strategic Vision Rather Short on Vision

Strategic Vision cover
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power (2012)

In Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power, Zbigniew Brzezinski promises to map out a broad vision for American foreign policy, but his recommendations aren’t particularly visionary, nor is his vision particularly compelling.

Since Brzezinski served as President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor in the late 1970s, he has been among the United States’ leading foreign-policy thinkers, even when his realist views weren’t always in vogue.

During the administrations of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, America’s foreign policy more often served its values than its interests. Left-wing internationalists in the 1990s and right-wing neoconservatives in the early 2000s refused to recognize a tension between the two. The saddest failure of this tendency in strategic thinking — or lack thereof — was the Iraq War, which not only ruptured sectarian relations across the Middle East but emboldened America’s nemesis, Iran.

Brzezinski, who opposed the most recent expedition in Iraq from the start, cautions against ever pursuing a similar adventure in his latest book. But he falls short of making the necessary philosophical case against interventionism altogether. Rather, he lists all the repercussions of the war — how it divided the West, tainted America’s image around the world, weakened its position in the Middle East — to say, “this didn’t work,” without explaining why. Read more “Brzezinski’s Strategic Vision Rather Short on Vision”

West “Recreating Sino-Soviet Bloc” in Syria: Brzezinski

Vladimir Putin Hu Jintao
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Hu Jintao of China meet in Beijing, June 5 (Kremlin)

Former American national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski warned on Friday that the United States and their allies are “unintentionally recreating the Sino-Soviet bloc against” them by vilifying these countries’ stance in the Syrian crisis.

China and Russia on Thursday again used their veto power in the United Nations Security Council to block a resolution that threatened sanctions against the Ba’athist regime of Bashar al-Assad if it did not suspend its brutal suppression of a sectarian uprising in Syria. It was the third time that China and Russia vetoed a resolution from Western members that aimed to put pressure on Assad.

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said that his government could not accept a resolution that open the path to “external military involvement in Syrian domestic affairs.” Read more “West “Recreating Sino-Soviet Bloc” in Syria: Brzezinski”

Brzezinski: Let’s Not Be “Emotional” About Syria

Although international pressure on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad is mounting after the massacre of Houla, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski cautions against acting on outrage. Foreign intervention, he warns, could have deadly repercussions.

Civil war has raged in Syria for more than a year between forces that are loyal to the Ba’athist regime and opposition insurgents who enjoy the sympathy of neighboring Arab states and the West. After the apparently indiscriminate slaughter of civilians by the regime in the villages of Houla last week, the call for military action by outside powers is heard increasingly louder.

David Ignatius, a columnist for The Washington Post, reported on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday that the Obama Administration is preparing plans for a post-Assad transition in Syria. An interim government would have to be formed, comprised of all ethnic groups in the country. Read more “Brzezinski: Let’s Not Be “Emotional” About Syria”

Turkey “Key” to Resolving Syrian Crisis: Brzezinski

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Barack Obama of the United States meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, December 7, 2009
Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Barack Obama of the United States meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, December 7, 2009 (White House/Samantha Appleton)

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, Zbigniew Brzezinski explained Saturday’s Sino-Russian veto against a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have urged Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down. “What motivates China and Russia is self-interest,” he said.

According to the former national security advisor, the two countries, who were alone among fifteen council members in their opposition to the resolution, feared that it could have set a precedent for international interference in their own struggles with anti-government forces. He called it an “exaggerated” fear because Western powers are unlikely to antagonize China and Russia by seeking to meddle in their internal conflicts but an “understandable” one all the same given past military interventions in Libya and former Yugoslavia which the Russians in particular regarded warily.

Turkey, said Brzezinski, may be “the key” to resolving the situation in Syria where the Ba’athist regime has violently suppressed demonstrations against it for eleven months. Human rights organizations estimate that thousands of people have died in confrontations with security forces so far. Read more “Turkey “Key” to Resolving Syrian Crisis: Brzezinski”

Libya “Not a Vital Interest” of the United States

The international military intervention in Libya is not in the vital interest of the United States, according to former national security advisor James L. Jones, “but we are part of an alliance,” he said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

“It is more in the vital interest of Europeans,” the retired Marine Corps general explained, “when you consider the effects of massive immigration, the effects of terror, the oil market.”

On the same program last week, defense secretary Robert Gates agreed that the unrest in Libya posed no actual or imminent threat to the United States.

The North African country has been engulfed in turmoil since its longtime ruler, Muammar al-Gaddafi deployed heavy force against anti-government demonstrations that were inspired by similar revolts in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia. The violent crackdown sparked a civil war that left the government in control of the western part of Libya while rebels, now protected from airstrikes by a UN mandated no-fly zone, control the east.

America’s involvement in the enforcement of the no-fly zone, which was necessarily to disable Gaddafi’s air defenses within a matter of days, has been controversial with members of both major political parties. Opposition Republicans in particular worry about the lack of a clear exit strategy which they say could involve the United States in another long and costly war in the Arab world.

The administration and military officials have insisted that America’s role in the intervention would be limited however. Last week, NATO assumed control of the operation. Western European and Qatari aircraft are supposed to patrol the Libyan skies while the United States take on a supportive role.

On CNN’s State of the Union, General Jones admitted that the goal of the intervention wasn’t clear. “We know that the end stage is to have regime change in Libya,” he said but that was not the purpose of the military mission.

Former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski nevertheless said that the West had to make sure that Gaddafi wouldn’t stick around. “The longer this thing lasts the more likely he is to end up entrenched in at least half of Libya,” he told Fareed Zakaria on GPS.

The no-fly zone alone may not be enough to give the rebels the edge they need to defeat Gaddafi’s army and mercenaries. Arming them has been suggested and it was reported last month that the Obama Administration had asked Saudi Arabia if it could supply the anti-government forces with weapons.

“Quietly, we can certainly do a lot,” said Brzezinski. But Jones was skeptical, noting that the West wasn’t sure just who the rebels were. Once it could identify them, foreign powers could “decide whether that’s meritorious or not in terms of training, organizing, equipping,” he said.

While the United Nations resolution authorizing military action in Libya explicitly ruled out an “occupation” and the president has promised that there will be no American “boots on the ground,” American intelligence operatives have been in Libya, presumably in contact with the opposition.

British prime minister David Cameron said last week that in his government’s view, the resolution might not prohibit “assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances.” Foreign Secretary William Hague added that that could include the arming of rebel forces.

Hu Cares? What a State Visit Can Yield

Chinese president Hu Jintao’s state visit to the United States would appear to have yielded few actual results. Although the White House boasted that business deals worth several billions of dollars were signed during the visit and although President Barack Obama said, at a joint press conference, that he wants to sell the Chinese even more stuff, significant differences of opinion remain on economic and monetary policy as well as security in East Asia. Even if no progress was made on any of these issues, the visit was useful, according to two American foreign policy veterans.

On CNN’s GPS this Sunday, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who, as national security advisor to President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, was one of the first American dignitaries to visit Red China, stressed the importance of image and atmospherics as opposed to public opinion which, in both China and the United States, is increasingly skeptical of — if not outright hostile to — the relationship. Read more “Hu Cares? What a State Visit Can Yield”