Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to U.S. President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on May 26 at the age of 89.
Carter hailed him as "a superb public servant" as well as "brilliant, dedicated, and loyal."
Like his predecessor Henry Kissinger, Brzezinski was a foreign-born scholar with considerable influence in global affairs. He was born in Warsaw in 1928 and his family emigrated to Canada after the Soviet occupation of Poland following World War II.
Brzezinski was educated in Canada and the United States, earning his doctorate from Harvard University in 1953.
He was a founding member of the Trilateral Commission, an influential nonpartisan policy discussion group, in 1973 and served as its director from 1973 until 1976.
Brzezinski was viewed as a hawk in regard to the Soviet Union and consistently warned against Soviet expansion in Europe, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
He led the drive to include the so-called third basket focusing on human rights in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, committing the Soviet Union formally to observing human rights and international law. The third basket became a touchstone for dissident movements in the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc, including the Helsinki Movement and the Charter 77 movement in Czechoslovakia.
As national security adviser, Brzezinski reversed a key détente policy from the administration of Richard Nixon and ordered increased power for the transmission of broadcasts of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty into the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Union.
Late in the Carter presidency, Brzezinski offered support to the Solidarity movement in his native Poland and warned the Soviet Union against a military intervention in that country.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Brzezinski was a strong advocate of arming the Afghan resistance.
During the Iranian hostage crisis, which began in 1979, Brzezinski became convinced that negotiations to free American diplomats kidnapped by mobs in Tehran were going nowhere. Supported by the Pentagon, he began to push for military action.
Carter agreed to a long-shot plan to rescue the hostages. The mission, dubbed Desert One, was a complete military failure and was one of the developments that led to Carter losing his reelection bid against Ronald Reagan in November 1980.
After the Carter presidency, Brzezinski returned to academia and remained influential in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
In 1981, he was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In his 2012 book Strategic Vision: America And The Crisis Of Global Power, Brzezinski warned that a United States "unwilling or unable to protect states it once considered, for national interest and/or doctrinal reasons, worthy of its engagement...[could lead to a] protracted phase of rather inconclusive and somewhat chaotic realignments of both global and regional power, with no grand winners and many more losers."
In March 2014, Brzezinski authored an op-ed in which he compared Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea to Adolf Hitler's occupation of the Czechoslovak Sudetenland in 1938.