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The Ukraine Problem
Confronting Russian Chauvinism

Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke on a panel at the Wilson Center on June 16 titled “Mutual Security on Hold? Russia, the West, and European Security Architecture”. Below is a transcript of his remarks.

Published on: June 27, 2014
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  • Pete

    “But at the same time, there should be clarity that Ukraine will not be a member of NATO. ”

    Well, the old dog got one thing right.

  • wigwag

    Ukraine has about as much chance of becoming a prosperous, pluralistic success story as Iraq has of remaining a unified nation. Tilting at windmills may sound like a wise strategy to the man who invented Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy, but it would be a colossal mistake to take anything that Zbignew Brzezinski says too seriously.

    Brzezinski says,

    “In the most immediate sense, the stakes involve, of course, the issue that the use of force in Crimea and the ongoing and sustained effort to destabilize parts of Ukraine pose a threat to the post-World War II notions of international arrangements, and particularly the exclusion of the use of force in resolving territorial issues.”
    Can a man of Brzezinski’s statute really be so clueless? Does he really think that excluding the use of force to resolve territorial disputes is a post World War II paradigm?
    Wasn’t the border between India and China determined only after a war between the two countries in 1962? Wasn’t Bangladesh cleaved from Pakistan in 1971 with the use of a lot of force? Hasn’t the territorial integrity of Kashmir been a source of almost continuous (mostly low grade) military action for decades?
    Has it escaped Brzezinski’s notice that Kosovo was cleaved from Serbia only after a period of intensive bombing inflicted on the Serbs by a U.S. led NATO after the United Nations had conspicuously refused to sanction either a military campaign or the creation of a new country?
    When the Arabs attacked Israel in 1948 and 1967 wasn’t their intent to resolve a territorial dispute by resort to violence? Despite the ubiquitous desire on the part of Arabs to exterminate Israel (many Arabs would prefer to simply exterminate all Jews) has Brzezinski ever demonstrates an ounce of sympathy for the predicament of the Israelis or an ounce of skepticism about Arab intent? Isn’t Hamas attempting to resolve their territorial concerns by resorting to violence? Hasn’t Hezbollah attempted to do the same thing over the issue of whether Sheba Farms is part of Lebanon or Israel?
    How much violence did it take before South Sudan was cleaved from Sudan? How many people are dying in Iraq as the territorial disputes of Iraqi Sunni, Shia and Kurds are slowly but surely being resolved. The Kurds for example have always believed that Kirkuk belonged to them. Didn’t Kurdish dreams that their territory should include Kirkuk only come true after ISIS routed the inept and cowardly Iraqi army?
    The man who did more to empower the Taliban (by arming the Afghan Mujahideen) than any living American treats the readers of his essay as if they are Rubes. The use of force to resolve territorial disputes in the post World War II era hasn’t been the exception, it’s been the norm. If Brzezinski thinks otherwise, he has a very fecund imagination.

    • Anthony

      Many have useful amnesia WigWag vis-a-vis significant arming and strategical use of Afgan Mujahideen to buttress our Cold War policy – a policy by the way that was not antithetical to resolving territorial disputes….

  • Gary Hemminger

    I really hate it when people like wigwag attack a person based on their past and claim it is a mistake to listen to them. I didn’t really like a lot of what Brzezinski did when he was in the Carter admin, but that doesn’t mean I can’t listen to what the man says, and consider it. I see this sort of thing quite a bit now in the US. Instead of discussing the content of a persons argument, too many times people discuss the content of their character. This is endemic in the US right now. It allows people to avoid discussing the argument.

    • ShadrachSmith

      From those wonderful people who put Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in charge of Iran…more helpful advice 🙂

    • PKCasimir

      So when one bets on a horse race he should ignore the fact that the jockey hasn’t ever won a horse race in his life, finishes last consistently, and was fired by very major trainer for incompetence.

    • wigwag

      Gary, while I did comment on Brzezinski’s track record, most of my comment was directed to the assertion that Brzezinski made in his speech (reprinted as an essay here) that Putin’s behavior in Crimea violated post World War II norms; it doesn’t. Specifically, Brzezinski suggests that resolving territorial disputes through violent means is anachronistic in the post World War II era. I offered numerous examples which suggest that Brzezinski’s assertion is incorrect; I could have mentioned many more.

      Putin’s annexation of Crimea is almost exactly the equivalent of the United States and Western Europe using military power to strip Kosovo from Serbia. Putin’s annexation of Crimea was never sanctioned by the United Nations; neither was the West’s bombing campaign which robbed the Serbs of their ancient capital. The majority of Crimeans were almost certainly delighted that Russia seized Crimea and didn’t particularly care that Russia used violent means to do so. The majority of Kosovars were almost certainly delighted that the United States and Western Europeans separated Kosovo from Serbia and they were surely cheering as American bombs fell on Belgrade (those bombs not only destroyed Serbian infrastructure, they also accidentally killed a number of innocent Chinese citizens). Just as most nations don’t recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea, a very large number of nations has refused to extend diplomatic recognition of Kosovo.

      Whatever one thinks of Putin’s behavior in Crimea or the rest of the Ukraine, the suggestion, which is made over and over again in the West, that the annexation of Crimea represents some kind of breach of international etiquette or rips asunder international norms is simply a lie. During the past 70 years violence has been used to resolve territorial conflicts on numerous occasions. In fact, as the situation in the Balkans in the 1980s and 1990s proves, the United States and its NATO allies have been delighted to use violence to resolve territorial disputes when ever it suits their inclination.

      • annamarina

        “the man practically defines the word hypocrite.” True.
        Was not it NATO that rejected Russian attempt at joining NATO? And how come that Mr. Brzezinski has completely overlooked the hand of State dept. (Nuland-Kagan choice of the future Prez, for instance – talk about Integrity!) and the US support of Ukrainian neonazis? The major “achievement” of US policies in Ukraine is freeing Putin’s hands against local (Russian) opposition to his regime and making it easier for the KGB colonel to squash any attempts at democratic movement in Russia. The history demonstrates again and again that democracy is the last thing that is interested the main proponents of petrodollars and weaponry production.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski speaking at the Wilson Center…
    There is a pair to draw to 🙂

  • Рустем

    The West is bad with the theory,namely with the fascist conduct of international Affairs and the protection of liberal democratic values,and the decline of the economy,as a consequence of the imbalance of geopolitical problems,coupled with the task to solve their problems in Economics and Finance at the expense of weakening competitors and rational management of household tasks directly inside the country

  • OM

    ZB writes on economic ties between Russia and Ukraine. True, these relations are very important for Ukraine. And signing the economic agreement with EU Ukraine cuts these ties – with dire consequences for the Ukrainian economy. Russia cannot subsidize Ukraine and have no interest to support her industry helping her to become a NATO member (which is the main interest for ZB and the West in spite of ZB’s denial) On the other hand, the West does not want to subsidize Ukraine neither. Hence, Ukrainian economy is doomed, with inevitable another “Maidan” and eventual disintegration of the country.

    • Andrew Allison

      “Russia cannot subsidize Ukraine and have no interest to support her industry . . .” Oh, really? With what, pray tell, is Russia going to power its rockets and airplanes, the engines for which are “Made in Ukraine”?

      • Felix Keverich

        Import substitution. Ukrainian industry utilises old soviet technologies, in other words nothing that can’t be produced in Russia.

  • Pat Chambers

    Using troublesome ethnic minorities is no new trick for those wanting to affect cultural change, yet afraid of openly committing to a greater game. Putin has only his capitalization on the return of the old guard to rule Russia, and this is very useful to him, win or lose. As with these problems and nearly all facing civilization, the growing class of disenfranchised and unemployable youth is ripe fodder for the ogre of violence. Perhaps instead of weapons, consumer goods, education, and social services becoming freely available would prove more useful and cheaper, which argues the case for the subsidy of these by the more prosperous societies; a kind of preemptive strike, delivered by merchants instead of arms companies? Don’t be too rough on Zbig! He’s from an age where the threat or the use of force was the only option. Give thanks to your God that the new age of open communication holds at least the promise of a better way to solve conflict. He’s absolutely right that elites in Russia don’t want conflict. We only undermine their attempts for moderation if we advocate violence as an endgame.

  • Bankotsu

    “Last but not least is the conviction that Russia is not part of Western civilization.”

    It is completely true to say that Russia is not part of western civilisation.

    Putin is correct. Russia is a civilisation separate from the west.

    It is not correct to classify Russia as part of the western world. Russia is a civilisation of its own.


    “In the nineteenth century most historians regarded Russia as part of Europe but it is now becoming increasingly clear that Russia is another civilization quite separate from Western Civilization.

    Both of these civilizations are descended from Classical Civilization, but the connection with this predecessor was made so differently that two quite different traditions came into existence.

    Russian traditions were derived from Byzantium directly; Western traditions were derived from the more moderate Classical Civilization indirectly, having passed through the Dark Ages when there was no state or government in the West…”


    • caap02

      “Russian traditions were derived from Byzantium directly; Western traditions were derived from the more moderate Classical Civilization indirectly, having passed through the Dark Ages when there was no state or government in the West…” What a crock! And where did Byzantine traditions derive from? Is Greece “part of the west”?

      • Bankotsu

        Ancient Greece or classical civilisation is not western civilisation.

        Classical civilisation must not be confused with western civilisation, they are completely different.


        Western Civilization began, as all civilizations do,
        in a period of cultural mixture. In this particular case it was a
        mixture resulting from the barbarian invasions which destroyed Classical
        Civilization in the period 350-700. By creating a new culture from the
        various elements offered from the barbarian tribes, the Roman world, the
        Saracen world, and above all the Jewish world (Christianity), Western
        Civilization became a new society.

        This society became a civilization when it became
        organized, in the period 700-970, so that there was accumulation of
        capital and the beginnings of the investment of this capital in new
        methods of production…


  • Bankotsu

    By the way can Russia be considered an “empire” now that Crimea has unified with Russia?

    Brzezinski mentioned before that if Russia and Ukraine were to unify, Russia would be so called “empire”.

    Not all of Ukraine is under Russian control now, but Crimea has returned to Russia, so does it make Russia an “empire”?

    • Andrew Allison

      No. Empire means ruling over multiple ethic majorities, so even if Putin were to succeed in re-incorporating Russian majority enclaves, he would still not be an Emperor.

      • jimofolym

        Look at the picture of Zbig at the top of this page. That should tell you that he is old beyond his years, an ‘antique’ if you will. May his ilk pass soon!

  • Damiri

    an old vampire is talking..his era of nazi analitics are gone , who really listens to this old farth!!zbignew or whatever

  • Michael Brytan

    Zbigniew Brrzezinski’s has been a powerful political confidant of both Democratic and Republican presidents because of his deep understanding of Ukraine and Ukrainians. When other commentators are muddling through the events trying to make sense of them ZB does not shy away from offering his opinion which clearly offer hope and support for a nation which has suffered more than any other during the past century.

    • Andrew Allison

      In this presentation, Zbigniew Brzezinski has demonstrated his complete and utter lack of understanding of current Eastern European politics.

      • Max

        He just goes on showing his hatred for Russia.

    • Max

      A part of Ukraine was. A part was a part of Russia.

  • Andrew Allison

    “Great Russian civilization”? Talk about national identity transformation! Orwell would be proud.
    “. . . “but it would have been much smarter for Russia to have had what has happened recently occur about ten years from now instead. By then Russia would be stronger, economically more solid.” Huh? The Russian economy is entirely dependent on overpriced exports of oil and gas. Good fracking luck with that! The chances of Russia being economically more solid ten years from now are less than those of a snowflake in Hell.

    • Tatiana

      “Great Russian civilization”? You know that the history of Russian state more than 1,000 years? And the U.S. many years? Yes, we think so, and when we say so, we do not mean that our country is the only great country. This expression is not about the economy, but of civilization, look in the dictionary. And Obama said at West Point that the American nation, “the world’s only indispensable nation”! That is, if I understood correctly Obama, the existence of other nations necessarily? Why after these words no one has compared Obama to Hitler, I wonder. Each nation is unique and irreplaceable, as Russian is thinking about it.

      • Andrew Allison

        Tanya my dear, the state doth not civilization make and despite being, at least for the present, the only superpower, the US makes no claim to being a “great civilization” or aspire to empire. Aside from it’s incomparable pre-revolutionary literature, Russia’s only contribution to civilization has been an Everest of corpses.

        • Tatiana

          U.S. is the only one country in the world that used a nuclear bomb against non-nuclear countries Japan. And what about the mountains of corpses you say?

  • Bankotsu

    If the western world put more pressure on Russia, Russia may be forced to ally even more closely with China. Brzezinski mentioned before that a Russian-chinese alliance is one of the worst outcomes for the U.S. I am wondering why is it that he is not worried that U.S. policies will push Russia and China closer into an alliance. It seems that if the west was to follow Brzezinski’s policies on Russia as stated above, that worst case outcome of Russia-chinese alliance will come true for the U.S.

  • Julia

    The independent states like Ukraina and other former Soviet respublics are not the result of World War II, but the result of the transformation of USSR. Mainly, it is the result of the intrinsic evolution of the society of former USSR, not the “success” of Bzejinsky, as possibly he thinks. As to Crimea, Bzejinsky speak about Crimea as if it was his own property, taken from him by “evil Putin”. Crimea people, majority of which were happy to escape from the nightmare prepared for them by not legal regim taking power in Kiev (due to support of Western hawks like Bzeginsky) mean nothing for him, as if they are some “slaves”. He himself suffers from the very serious shovinistic complexes, but instead blames Russia in this.

    • Bankotsu

      Brzezinski is anti Russia, everyone knows that.

      Everything he does in europe is aimed at destroying russian power.

      • Julia

        It seems that “russophobia” for Brzezinski is some kind of “drug” from which he became dependent. What such people would do without Russia, Putin and so on, as the target for permanent hatred (they seem to enjoy) ? But in reality, this psychological complex is his problem, not of Russia.

  • Russki

    So this guy supposedly knows it all? lol, just another pathetic rusophob….why cant russians think of themselves as great nation? whats so wrong or bad about it? every other nation does it, stop hating already – it only shows your weakness…and if someone has any doubt about greatness of russia, well they must be uneducated or simply haters. Read through past thousand years or so of russian history….and then give an example of another european, or really any country, that could show the same qualities. or what about oh-so-great american…at least russian is actually a nationality, not a regional term for all the immigrants. regardless, why cant russia have its interest in regions surrounding it? moreover, why some other, over-the-ocean countries, seem to have more interest in those regions than they should? doesnt history teach you anything? lol dont make same mistakes as in the past, the result will be inevitable.

    • Loader2000

      There is nothing wrong with Russia (or any other country) thinking of themselves as a great nation. The problem is when a country feels like it needs to prove to the rest of the world that it is great and is willing to use violence to do it. It will only ever end in blood and tears and everyone hating the nation that precipitated the violence in the first place. If there are Russians in Ukraine that want Russian protection, they should move to Russia. That is what nations are for, to protect people’s within their borders from other peoples. After the Turk/Greek war, all the Greeks in Turkey moved to Russia and all the Turks in Greece moved to Turkey and there haven’t been significant problems between the two countries since that time. If a majority of Ukrainians were ethnic Russians, then Russia would have some claim to the territory. However, since a majority are NOT ethnic Russians, Russia has NO CLAIM and should stop interfering in stop sticking their noses where they don’t belong. That is how every other country in the world but Russia views the situation.

      • IP PI

        I’m sorry, but the matter of what a fleet is based in Sevastopol is the very-very Russian affair. It’s not a kind of Kemskaya volost (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwshLuNvnmQ)! By the way, few Russians (and, I think, Ukrainians too) can explain, why EU has suddenly had so great need in Ukraine. They need one more Greece? Or Germans need ukrainian guest workers? The common answer is that Ukraine is an outpost for attack Russia, all the more many years ago ZB launched the idea, that Ukraine must be sparated from the Soviet Union in US-SU opposition.

      • Max

        Why should we move to Russia as our grandgrandparents were born here? The most part of Ukraine (south and east) was jointly colonized by Russians in Ukrainians (both citizens of the Russian Empire then) during the last three centuries. Give me just one reason for me to get out from here and not sink in blood the offsprings of those who were under Polish rule at that time?

      • Russki

        If you did a little more research and open your mind a little more you would clearly see that the county that uses violence, political pressure and power to prove its greatness is actually USA. Fortunately they are failing at Ukraine (well maybe some success is there – they managed to turn ukranias and russians against each other – go USA, good job) and all the western mass media is trying to cover up things and misinterpret them to show russia as offender. am sure you heard of youtube, dont be lazy, go and look around what kind of videos people that live there post, how clearly russians in eastern ukrain are target simply because they are russians and support joining various economical and political unions with russia, even some current politicians call to kill russians just because… And then people like you make these blind statements like “oh if you russian then you need to move to russia” if you want to claim yourself as russian and not be afraid that you can get killed for that??? seriously? people that live there took guns to defend themselves and fight for their family and freedom. keep in mind a very important point here – those regions were populated by russians centuries and centuries by now, read some history, its the land of their great-…-great-grand parents, why do they have to move again? i can say the same, if ukraininas want to be europeans, well then frikin move to europe! Ukrain is whatever it is now, mixture of different nationalities and religions, and if government, with support of some radicals, cannot agree to live in peace with all people well then they are far from being civilized culture to be called europeans. Finally, if russia wanted and planned on using force, as you blindly stated, believe me the “war” would be over by now, ukrainian army would be wiped out along with anyone trying to help them in their dirty business. if anyone, russia is one of few countries that is trying to resolve this in a peaceful manner, still! but of course, they dont show that on TV that you been watching.
        btw, do you even know the root of the word Ukraine?? U-Kraina — U-kraya — on the edge….can you guess on the edge of what? so if anyone, russia has most CLAIM in that region, not US neither EU! and every other country, on political level, in the world views the situation like little puppets that are pressured by the same US and afraid to view it differently, realistically! and the rest, simple people, are brainwashed by media so bad that its pointless by now to try and tell the truth.

        • Loader2000

          I never said the US wasn’t guilty of the same tactics. Everybody hated the US during the Iraq War. The question is, why does Russia want to follow in the same footsteps. Why does Russia want everyone to hate her? Nobody outside Russia believes that this started with Ukraine. They all believe the first acts of violence were initiated by Putin instigating Rebels and hotheaded ethnic Russians in East Ukraine. Furthermore, Russia has a horrible track record of free press in the last 10 years (journalists being killed or imprisoned) so nobody outside of Russia believes the Russian press. Thus, even if ethnic Russians were being oppressed by Ukrainians (and I don’t believe this is true, but I could be wrong) nobody else in the world believes it. The bottom line is this; interfering with another nation when the majority of that nation does not want you to interfere will only lead trouble and misery.

          • Russki

            lol as i said, western mass media and press is nowhere ideal either, maybe even more censored than russian, i do follow major news channels like CNN, BBC etc, and i repeat, what is shown there is most of the time very misleading, western world uses media in a worse manner than russian gov’t, thats why rest of the world is against russia because they have been brain washed continuously for years now, every time something goes on involving russia its a chance to flip the script. but truth is out there if you search for it, many politicians and reporters from western countries do manage to speak the truth and a lot of double thinking going on right now actually, people starting to realize that maybe they been told lies this whole time. as far as russian press’ past track, well again, you get this info from where?? exactly, same source that intentionally tries to discredit any russian media. have you ever been to russia? have you ever watched/read what they have to say? you are making statements you havent personally run into…bottom line, dont trust everything you read/see, get an opposing opinion, study, watch (many convincing video reports out there) and then make judgments. i do watch both sides of the story, sorry but russian side makes way more logical/chronological sense. mark my words, sooner or later the truth will come out to the rest of the world, as long as it wants to know the truth. btw, first acts of violence started in kiev during maidan, or you forgot when these hotheads were throwing molotvs cocktails at police? for days!! burning people and buildings! running around streets with various swastika on their arm bands!!! haha dang democrats right there! how do you think US police would react to this? exactly, they would use force to put down riots in no time…unfortunately maidan “revolution” turned into some armed take over of the government by radicals and as you call hot heads…oh, remember Nulland giving away biscuits to those maidan people?? head of CIA visiting new maidan security officers, etc etc.. you see where am heading with this…who started the mess? who interfering with another nation? south-east Ukr didnt come to kiev with weapons, exactly opposite happened.

  • Исаак Ясин

    I read what this crappy asshole wrote and I can only see misery, dogma, rhetorics, problems….

  • Исаак Ясин

    When I read what this crappy fake wrote, I can only identify, hate , resentment, misery, problems….

  • ljvjctlrf

    В какое жалкое подобие приличия превращается европейская цивилизация! Вот, наверное, Восток резвится, глядя на то, как Европа уничтожает саму себя! Спасибо, Бзежинский. Наверное, и детей у тебя нет, или тебе наплевать, как потом им расхлебывать твою политику. Ты был востребован долгие годы. Эйфория от распада СССР держала тебя в американской политической элите. Но… Коммунизма не стало сугубо по нашему выбору, желанию, а не из-за того, что ты очень сильно хотел распада советской империи. И ты никогда не скажешь россиянам спасибо. А ведь именно МЫ победили коммунизм. Это в душе и умах россиян было желание Свободы. Ты тут каким боком? Советолог!

  • Bankotsu

    Brzezinski reeks of western chauvinism and a dismissive attitude of Russia to me.

    Brzezinski is the biggest chauvinist.

  • IP PI

    The “real place for Russia” is to keep christianity. Russia historically formed as nation on christian orthodox base, which is the soul of Russia. Take the soul away from the flesh and it will decay as Ukraine does.

  • Alan Dalles

    The history knows a great number of great much more mogshchestvenny than the USSR and America of empires. About many now knows only a narrow circle of scientists. Though the former scouts don’t happen, he once told it, but his opinion needs to be filtered for 50% as in Ukraine rubbed hands of CIA and is directed against Russia. Also it is visible destiny at the western capital to gather time in 100 years to receive strong in a muzzle from Russia.

  • Alexander Dolgikh

    Will anyone buy him a plane ticket to Smolensk? He’s accumulated too many unexcused absences already.

  • Doktor Zoo

    Sick old idiot

  • The western political scientists, arguing on Russia, would have to know history of Russia. Zbignev Bzhezinsky and to it similar applying for ability to a prophecy, could understand such small truth. Trying to destroy Russia, to impose to the Russian people the will, the Western countries and first of all the USA, can, eventually receive the last answer. And this answer will be for them precisely the last. Russia which drive into a corner can simply destroy those who is engaged in it.
    And not only Russia, can bridle thus imperialism of the West, but also other countries of the world which the USA, the aggressive policy compels to think of drawing to this country of “punishment blow”. The history of the USA, can be very short if politicians of this country threaten people of the world, to destroy people worldwide, whether it be Japanese Hiroshima or Yugoslavia, Serbia, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan. All these countries can define the USA, as the country undesirable to existence. Bzhezinsky and other adviser of the American administration have to think of it.

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