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The failure of the Brzezinski Doctrine

Aug 27, 2016

The Brzezinski Doctrine, which has dominated US geopolitical policy since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, is now being modified by its own originator. Brzezinski had previously pushed for US dominance in the world—essentially arguing the importance of maintaining a US Empire at the expense of Russia and China. But now he has now written a new article, essentially telling the world that US dominance is no longer feasible or possible.

For those unfamiliar with the Brzezinski Doctrine, set forth in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard," see my weblog from February 2015 here:


Brzezinski's new analysis tells us that the US government’s attempt to contain Russia and China has failed. They have risen in spite of America’s attempts to suppress them economically, isolate them politically, and surround them militarily. The kings of the east have risen, and now, says Brzezinski, the US needs to ally with one of them in order to maintain global stability. Perhaps he is signaling that the doctrine of confrontation is now being modified to one of cooperation and partnership, where the US government is willing to share the world stage as an equal partner, rather than as a dominant boss.

Brzezinski’s article, Toward a Global Realignment, was published on April 17, 2016.


“Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.

“The first of these verities is that the United States is still the world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no longer the globally imperial power. But neither is any other major power.”

He tells us that after World War II, the USA emerged as the richest and most powerful nation on earth, and that when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the USA became the only superpower on the earth.

“The fact is that there has never been a truly ‘dominant’ global power until the emergence of America on the world scene. Imperial Great Britain came close to becoming one, but World War I and later World War II not only bankrupted it but also prompted the emergence of rival regional powers. The decisive new global reality was the appearance on the world scene of America as simultaneously the richest and militarily the most powerful player. During the latter part of the 20thcentury no other power even came close.

That era is now ending.”

The purpose of his first thesis in the 1990’s was designed to show what the US had to do to maintain its global hegemony. But now, Brzezinski is admitting that the US failed to maintain its dominance. Russia and China have risen steadily, and the resistance they both felt from the US State Department has only served to push the two former enemies together. First they became economic partners, and now they are widening their friendship as military allies.

The US is stronger than either Russia or China separately, but a China-Russian alliance creates an entirely new superpower that demands US cooperation, not confrontation. Because “The United States… is no longer the globally imperial power,” Brzezinski sees “a new global realignment” coming.

This is truly a major shift in the world that reflects Bible prophecies regarding the fall of Babylon to a coalition of “the kings from the east” (Revelation 16:12). The main difference is that in ancient times these kings overthrowing Babylon were from Media and Persia, whereas today they are Russia and China, overthrowing Mystery Babylon.

Brzezinski continues, saying,

“First, America can only be effective in dealing with the current Middle Eastern violence if it forges a coalition that involves, in varying degrees, also Russia and China.

A “coalition” must be forged. Right now, a coalition already exists between Russia and China. Brzezinski is suggesting that if the US is to survive the new alignment, it will have to destroy that coalition by inserting itself into the equation. Either make peace with Russia or China and use this new coalition against the odd man out.

Lots of luck with that one, Mr. Brzezinski. The US government has already destroyed its credibility with both Russia and China, which is why they have forged their own defensive coalition. Now that the US has lost that round, it could seek a new coalition only from a position of weakness. Worse yet, it could only be, at best, a coalition of cooperating enemies, not of friends. Any such friendly vibes, even if accepted, would be met with cynicism and no love.

Brzezinski then summarizes the history of western colonialism and how it has resulted in hundreds of millions of deaths around the world. While the west forgets this quickly, the victims of colonialism remember and are now venting their long-suppress anger. This is threatening the global order, he says, and certainly, he is correct.

“Given all this [history of colonialism, especially in the Mideast], a long and painful road toward an initially limited regional accommodation is the only viable option for the United States, Russia, China, and the pertinent Middle Eastern entities. For the United States, that will require patient persistence in forging cooperative relationships with some new partners (particularly Russia and China) as well as joint efforts with more established and historically rooted Muslim states (Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia if it can detach its foreign policy from Wahhabi extremism) in shaping a wider framework of regional stability. Our European allies, previously dominant in the region, can still be helpful in that regard.

Brzezinski fails to tell his readers that US policy itself, as revealed by General Wesley Clark, has been to destabilize the Mideast by the “supporting democracy,” that is, funding and instigating the so-called “Arab Spring” movements that overthrow “dictators.” US policy has not supported stability at all, but has attempted to weaken the Mideast nations. It is the height of hypocrisy to make it look like the US has actually wanted stability and global security.

But now that the US has lost that battle, due mainly to Russian opposition in Syria, Brzezinski now sees the handwriting on the wall and is calling for “accommodation” with “new partners,” singling out Russia and China.

“A constructive U.S. policy must be patiently guided by a long-range vision. It must seek outcomes that promote the gradual realization in Russia (probably post-Putin) that its only place as an influential world power is ultimately within Europe. China’s increasing role in the Middle East should reflect the reciprocal American and Chinese realization that a growing U.S.-PRC partnership in coping with the Middle Eastern crisis is an historically significant test of their ability to shape and enhance together wider global stability.”

Russia tried to become a European nation, but the US blocked this, treating Russia as a potential enemy, rather than welcoming it as a friendly addition to Europe. The US brought Eastern European nations into NATO, breaking its promise not to move NATO “one inch closer” to Russia in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was finally the US sanctions which drove Russia to look eastward instead of westward. This is how Russia and China became best friends in the first place, causing this major failure in US policy to contain Russia economically and China militarily.

Now Brzezinski is lecturing Russia that “its only place as an influential world power is ultimately within Europe.” He fails to admit that this shift in the Brzezinski Doctrine is an admission of failed US foreign policy. Since the US government failed to isolate Russia, and in response, Russia made friends with China, now suddenly we are telling Russia that they ought to become a European nation???

Brzezinski ought to be lecturing the US government to allow Russia into Europe. But instead, the sanctions continue, which hurts Europe as much as Russia! Brzezinski ought to be lecturing the US government to end the Ukrainian coup, instead of using it as an excuse to sanction Russia.

Brzezinski ends his article by concluding,

“Since the next twenty years may well be the last phase of the more traditional and familiar political alignments with which we have grown comfortable, the response needs to be shaped now. During the rest of this century, humanity will also have to be increasingly preoccupied with survival as such on account of a confluence of environmental challenges. Those challenges can only be addressed responsibly and effectively in a setting of increased international accommodation. And that accommodation has to be based on a strategic vision that recognizes the urgent need for a new geopolitical framework.”

The “new geopolitical framework” that is urgently needed is different from the one he advocated in the 1990’s and which has shaped US foreign policy. The old policy of confrontation and containment has failed. A new policy of “accommodation” is now the only feasible alternative, given the new political realities.

It is good to know that Brzezinski has changed his tune. We can only hope that his influence is just as strong as it was in the 1990’s, and that the US government will take heed. While Brzezinski’s motives are less than stellar, his decision to abandon his previous thesis is commendable. If he had known 20 years ago that the US government would fail to achieve world hegemony and to contain Russia and China, perhaps he would have made friends with them while they were yet weak and thereby establish warm and friendly relations with them, which would pay dividends in the century to come.

Even so, you know when a doctrine has failed when its own author repudiates it.

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Category: Commentary
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones