Interview: U.S. Fate Is in U.S. Hands

Interview: U.S. Fate Is in U.S. Hands

Mini Teaser: Zbigniew Brzezinski, a leading foreign-policy expert, discussed with TNI his recent book and his views on America’s world posture. He speculates on U.S. decline, the 2012 presidential campaign and more.

by Author(s): Zbigniew BrzezinskiRobert W. Merry

But much worse, we will drive the Europeans into the hands of the Russians, who will be rubbing their hands. The Russians are very worried that the price of energy, which oscillates between $90 and $120 right now, is not sufficiently high to meet their budgetary expectations. But if the price of a barrel goes up $200, they’ll be sitting pretty. The Europeans will be totally dependent. The Chinese will be hurt; so will the Japanese. That will not help the global economy either. Secondly, they can certainly attack some of our military facilities nearby, and they can destabilize Iraq in no time flat by stimulating a Shia‑Sunni collision. Next, they can certainly make life uncomfortable for us in western Afghanistan, which had been very stable. That means that our disengagement from Afghanistan will be very costly or difficult and so forth. But then there are all sorts of other possibilities involving terrorism or whatever, which will simply mean that the region and the United States are going to be intertwined in warlike instability that may last for a long time.

So the broader inflammation of the whole Middle East region could result?

That’s right. And you certainly have to face the fact that you’re not being confronted with a situation in which you have no choice. We have a choice. We have a choice of avoiding that and of convincing the Israelis not to do it. It’s not like Pearl Harbor, where we were attacked and had to respond. Last but not least, I don’t exclude the possibility of negotiations succeeding, provided they are real negotiations.

Which they haven’t been so far?

Which they haven’t been so far. They have to be based on the principle that Iran is entitled as a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory to have a nuclear-energy program, and they have a right to enrich but at a very low level. I think something along those lines is workable, but if the idea is that the agreement has to involve some sort of a humiliating arrangement for Iran that puts it in a cage quite apart from the arrangements for every other NPT signatory, then they probably won’t accept.

Last but not least, I think we certainly have the means and even a moral obligation to do for the people in the Middle East, and particularly for the Israelis, what we have been prepared over the years to do for the Europeans, and then for the Japanese and the Koreans. Namely, we should give them a really binding, reliable commitment that they are fully covered by the American nuclear deterrent, by stating publicly that “any threat to Israel, or worse, direct action against anybody in the Middle East would be viewed as an action directed at the United States, with all of the consequences that might entail.” We succeeded in protecting the Europeans and deterring the Soviets. We have protected successfully the Japanese and the Koreans. We certainly can do it for the Middle East.

Last question. Could you give our president, Barack Obama, an overall grade in terms of his foreign policy?

Well, I’ve been asked that, so I’m not sure you even want to do this because I’ve been asked and cited in the press about it. I said A‑minus, B-plus.

And could you give me three things that contribute to that?

Well, I think he has tried to put the U.S.-Chinese relationship on a stable basis in which the necessity of partnership is tempered by the need to be vigilant but balanced, and that’s okay. I think he has been patient, maybe a little too patient but wisely patient, in dealing with the Russians. I think with the Europeans, they know that we are still seriously interested in Europe. I think the Middle East represents the biggest liability, but that is not entirely his fault.

Thank you very much.

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