Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, dies
President Carter talks with Zbigniew Brzezinski, his national security advisor, in the Oval Office on January 22, 1977.(Associated Press)
Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter, right, talks with Zbigniew Brzezinski, left, and Stuart Eizenstat in Plains, Ga., on July 29, 1976. Brzezinski was a noted expert on Soviet communism.(Associated Press)
National security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, seated second from right, sits in as Huang Chen, chief of China’s liaison office, left, meets with President Carter, right, in the Oval Office on Feb. 8, 1977.(Harvey Georges / Associated Press)
President Carter, center, flanked by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, right, and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski walk toward a waiting helicopter to fly to the nearby Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, on Feb. 14, 1979.(Bob Daugherty / Associated Press)
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, left, and President Carter stroll outside the Oval Office on April 4, 1977. Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. national security advisor to Carter, walks behind the leaders.(Associated Press)
U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale, right, chats with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, left, and national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski at the White House on July 19, 1977.(Associated Press)
Zbigniew Brzezinski, left, meets with President Carter and members of his Cabinet at Camp David, Maryland, on May 17, 1982. From left: Brzezinski, national security advisor; Carter; Harold Brown, secretary of Defense; Warren Christopher, acting secretary of State; and secretary of State-designate Edmund Muskie.(Getty Images)
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, center, talks with national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, right, during a reception at the home of Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz, left, in Washington on December 18, 1977.(Charles Harrity / Assocaited Press)
National security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, left, and CIA director Stansfield Turner await a ceremony in which President Carter signed an executive order giving Turner an “enhanced role” on Jan. 24, 1978, in Washington.(Harvey Georges / Associated Press)
Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, right, is sworn in on Capitol Hill before testifying in front of the special Senate judiciary subcommittee investigating the president’s brother Billy Carter’s ties with Libya on Sept. 17, 1980.(Barry Thumma / Associated Press)
President Carter shakes hands with his national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, as he presents Brzezinski with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony on Jan. 17, 1981.(Associated Press)
Zbigniew Brzezinski poses for a photo on March 8, 1982 in New York.(Santi Visalli / Getty Images)
Zbigniew Brzezinski embraces former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright before a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 13, 2006, criticizing the Bush administration’s handling of the war on terror and calling for a new direction on security policies.(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
Zbigniew Brzezinski, who helped topple economic barriers among the Soviet Union, China and the West as President Carter’s national security advisor, died Friday. He was 89.
His death was announced on social media Friday night by his daughter, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski. She called him “the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have.”
Earnest and ambitious, Brzezinski helped Carter bridge wide gaps between the rigid Egyptian and Israeli leaders, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, leading to the Camp David accords in September 1978. Three months later, U.S.-China relations were normalized, a top priority for Brzezinski.
Born in Warsaw and educated in Canada and the United States, Brzezinski was an acknowledged expert in communism when he attracted the attention of U.S. policymakers. In the 1960s, he was an advisor to President Kennedy and served in the Johnson administration.
In December 1976, Carter offered Brzezinski the position of national security advisor. He had not wanted to be secretary of State because he thought he could be more effective working at Carter’s side in the White House.
Brzezinski often found himself in clashes with colleagues including Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. For the White House, the differences between Vance and Brzezinski became a major headache, confusing the American public about the administration’s policy course and fueling a decline in confidence that Carter could keep his foreign policy team working in tandem.
The Iranian hostage crisis, which began in 1979, came to symbolize for many America’s waning global power and influence as well as the failures and frustrations of the Carter administration. Brzezinski, during the early months of 1980, became convinced that negotiations to free the kidnapped Americans were going nowhere. Supported by the Pentagon, he began to push for military action.
Carter was desperate to end the standoff and, over Vance’s objections, agreed to a long-shot plan to rescue the hostages. The mission, dubbed Desert One, was a complete military and political humiliation and precipitated Vance’s resignation. Carter lost his reelection bid against Ronald Reagan that November.
Brzezinski went on to ruffle the feathers of Washington’s power elite with his 1983 book, “Power and Principle,” which was hailed and reviled as a kiss-and-tell memoir.
“I have never believed in flattery or lying as a way of making it,” he told the Washington Post that year. “I have made it on my own terms.”
The oldest son of Polish diplomat Tadeusz Brzezinski, Zbigniew was born on March 28, 1928, and attended Catholic schools during the time his father was posted in France and Germany.
The family went to Montreal in 1938 when the elder Brzezinski was appointed Polish consul general. When communists took power in Poland six years later, he retired and moved his family to a farm in the Canadian countryside.
At his new home, the young Brzezinski began learning Russian from a nearby farmer and was soon bitten by the foreign policy bug.
Brzezinski’s climb to the top of the foreign policy community began at Canada’s McGill University, where he earned degrees in economics and political science. Later at Harvard University, he received a doctorate in government, a fellowship and a publishing contract — for his thesis on Soviet purges as a permanent feature of totalitarianism.
Frequent trips to Eastern Europe and several books and articles in the 1950s established Brzezinski as an expert on communism, and by the 1960s he’d begun to attract the interest of policymakers. Throughout his career, he would be affiliated with moderate-to-liberal groups, including the Rand Corp., the Council on Foreign Relations, Amnesty International and the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People.
8:50 p.m.: This article was updated with more information about Brzezinski’s life and career.
This article was originally published at 8:05 p.m.
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