November 17, 2008






Obama Adviser Brzezinski's Off The Record Speech to British Elites
The Whitehead Lecture - Major Foreign Policy Challenges for The New US Presidency

by Deborah Gerczak
April 13, 2009

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Zbigniew Brzinski's Chatham House Speech

November 2008

(Zbigniew Brzinski - Audience applauses)


Ladies and Gentlemen, Robin. Thank you very much for your as always elegant and eloquent introduction.


I've heard him many times when he was running the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and if anything his eloquent and elegant has increased ever since he's been rehabilitated in the society here. (Audience laughs; ah ah ah...)


I am also delighted to speak under the sponsorship of the Whitehead lecture series. John Whitehead whom I've been privileged to know for many years. I'll not talk about at length but it is advised to say, that he was in my judgment, the best deputy secretary of state the United States has ever had, he should have been secretary of state.


And than finally the third comment which may however precipitate some rapid departures from this room. But I want to emphasize that I speak for myself only, I speak for no one else the views I express are only my views. I want to emphasize that.

Well we meet at a time of course when the new President is assuming office in the United States. And he's doing so, in the midst of a crises of confidence in Americas capacity to exercise effective leadership in world affairs. That's a stark thought but it is a fact. Though American leadership over the last number of decades has been essential to global stability and to global development.


After the United States replaced Great Britain as the key power in the world. It is still non the less a fact, said fact, that the cumulative effects of National financial self-indulgence. Of an unnecessary war of our own choice. And of ethical transgressions have cumulatively discredited that leadership.


And making matter worse today, we have the financial crises. And all of that is occurring in the context of the simultaneous interaction between two very basic transforming developments in the world scene. So, the picture is complex indeed. The first change concerns the surfacing of global issues, pertaining to human well being as critical international issues. Well that's new in human history! Issues such as climate, environment, starvation, health, social inequality.


All of these are compounding the complexity of the global context. And these issues furthermore are made more acute by the coincidental phenomenon, of what I've called in my writings; "the global political awakening."


This is a truly trans formative event on the global scene; Namely for the first time in human history, for the first time in all of human history, almost all of mankind is politically awake, activated, political conscious, and interactive. There are a view pockets of humanity here or there in the remotest corners of the world, which are not politically alert and interactive with the political turmoil and starrings and aspirations around the world.


And all of that is creating a world wide search in the quest for personal dignity

and cultural respect in a diversified world, sadly accustomed, for many centuries, to domination by one portion of the world of another. That is an enormous change! And beyond that is interacting with still a further change namely in the distribution of global power. It pertains to something very obvious of which we are aware but which is important to register.


Namely that we are living in a time of a basic shift away from the 500 years long global domination by the Atlantic powers. It is the countries that have been located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.


And that has recalled them, Portugal, Spain, France, The Netherlands, Great Britain, more recently the United States, that have dominated the world affairs and that shift now is taking us towards Asia. It is not the End of the preeminence of the Atlantic world but it is now the surfacing of the Pacific region. And most notably Japan the number two economic power. And China a putative global power.


That are now occupying a preeminent place in the global hierarchy. And of course beyond them there is the question of India's future development building although it is currently still in the wings.


And it is also complicated by the reappearance of Russia which is something to be welcomed but a Russia which is still restless. Rather unclear about this undefinition very undefined about it's recent past. And the very insecure about it's place in the world. And these new and old mayor powers face still yet another novel reality in some respects unprecedented. And it is that while the lethality the lethality of their power is greater than ever.


Their capacity to oppose control over the politically awakened masses of the world is at A historical low. I once put it rather bundchendly and I was flattered that the British foreign secretary repeated this, as follows; Namely in earlier times it was easier to control a million people literally it was easier to control a million people than physically, to kill a million people.


Today it is infinitely easier to kill a million people, than to control a million people. It is easier to kill than to control (Brzezinski breaths-sniffs true is nose inside; sniffffff)


And of course that bears directly on the use of force particular by societies that are culturally alien over other societies. And something that perhaps some recent American policy makers did not fully assimilate. It should follow therefore from that not as a matter of surprise that the crises of leadership of American leadership in the world, the ongoing crises could become the crises of global stability.


Because yet there is a other consideration to bear in mind that the despite Schadenfreude about the domestic problems in the United States. Or about the loss of respectability for American global leadership. It is a fact that no state, no single state, nor any combination of states, can in the foreseeable future replace the linchpin role that the United States continuous to play in the world.


And if anybody had any doubt about it and there where some countries which in recent years, in recent weeks expressed Schadenfreude without internal difficulties. Than look at the collective global pilgrimage to Washington in the course of the last week.

Because everybody knows that that is where the only possible decisions for recovery can be made. And everybody knows that if there is no recovery over there! There will be no recovery anywhere else. So, in that sense the cre.., central role of the United States in world affairs is still there. Despite all of the difficulties, despite some of the loss of respect or effectiveness.


And it also means that the monumental task facing the new American President. In the realm of foreign policy beyond dealing with the immediate financial crises is, to regain global legitimacy, for the United States, by spearheading, a collective effort, for more inclusive global system of management.


A more inclusive system of global management. That has to be the task of the United States of this historical era. And in my own view, for, for little but strategically pregnant words define the essence of the needed responds of the new American President about to assume office. It is to unify, to enlarge, to engage and to pacify.


Let me speak briefly, to each, of this, words; And than we can perhaps have a discussion but that's I know an important part of this undertaking.

To unify in my judgment pertains particularly to the needed sustained effort and energetic effort, serious effort, to generate truly shared decision making between the United States and the European Union and also in NATO. And how to achieve that is of course a long standing objective but one which has to be pursuit with intensified urgency, given the present circumstances. To meet means both formal and informal regularized top level consultations.


Between Europe and America, something that's needed, particularly in the light of what has transpired over the last eight years. But of course it's much easier to state this than to accomplish it. And one of the very major reasons for that is something of which, we over there and you over here are very well aware, namely; There is not such a thing yet as a political unified Europe. And the absence of such a politically unified Europe creates real complications in the process of revitalizing - reestablishing and making central, a renewed transatlantic dialog.


What then in that context is a viable alternative when considered of course in the institutional arrangements the treaty of Lisbon and so forth.... But that doesn't deal with political realities. The political reality is, of intra European divisions, and some east strategic issues, and great disparities of power among the various components - sovereign components of the European Union.


Enhanced in this context, what is practical in the near future, is essentially a more deliberate dialog between three European countries that had a global orientation, and in varying degrees a global interest, and obviously that is; The U.K., French and Germany. But that dialog intern can only be effective and be meaningful if the three have, a basic, fundamental, strategic consensus, among themselves.


And one of the problems of the last eight years, irrespective of our own shortcomings in foreign policy is; That there was no European partner for the United States for us to take seriously, and to give us honest advise and to try to share common courses in action. We had a very loyal alley, a close personal alley, in the country with which we

have the greatest kinship, namely, this country. But if there is responsibility for the war of unfortunate choice that we undertook to wage, it has to be shared precisely with that partner. Who publicly defended it vigorously, privately advocated it, even if at the same time whispering some reservations or making alternative suggestions, which could be safely ignored because the public praise was what's important and was parqueted and politically very useful.


And the other two partners engaged essentially in differentiated competition in public denunciations of our policies, merited indeed but always painful. And wasn't conducive than doing serious dialog, there was no dialog to be perfectly blunt about it between Bush and Chancellor Schroeder. Nor was there much of a dialog between President Bush and President Chirac.


Who in the process incidentally offended a good part of Europe by telling, IT, to shut up! When it was declined to support the United States. So, the basic need for the transatlantic dialog is that there be in some fashion; A political dialog that carries weight substance and entails respect from America, and a willingness to share both in the decision making and burdens on the part of the Europeans.


And there is no alternative it seems to me for the moment, except for an informal arrangement between the three- if they can come to share a common strategic purpose! And that is something the Europeans need to do, whether we need to be more willing to engage in serious dialog. Together in spite of the relative decline of Atlantes supremacy of the world the fact remains, that the U.S. and the EU together account for more than one half of the global GDP.


And that is an enormous source of weight! But for us to be effective, we have to be willing to discuss strategic choices, and I'll come to some in a minute, and than be willing to undertake jointly the resulting burdens. Alas! For to many years now the general pattern has been, that we make the decisions, and than expect the Europeans to share in the burdens.


And for to many years the European complaint has been, that, the Europeans are excluded from decision making but it shouldn't be the U.S. that carries the heavy load. And there is no better example of that than the current problems that we face and I'll come to them in Afghanistan.


It does occur to me that perhaps in the new U.S. administration the deliberate effort to revitalize at the highest level, the American European dialog, could be the task assigned to the vice President?


Who has special expertise in foreign affairs, knows this continent well, is known by the elite. It cannot be a full time job .... The second verb that I used was to enlarge. And to enlarge to me means deliberate effort to nurse a widen world wide coalition of principle partners. Not the key partners themselves not the key strategic partners but of principle partners. Who committed to the principle of interdependence and are in fact major players in the context of their emerged global interdependence.


And that too means an effort to engage in a systematic bases in consultations. It also means some institutionalization of that process. I think it is evident by now that the G7 later 8 has outlived it's function. G7 started as an informal counsel of the advanced industrial democratic societies.

Russia was then added to it and certainly it is an industrialized society. It's democratic credentials at the time of addition, where perhaps debatable but they where, to some extend, there. Today they are much less in evidence. And in any case a narrow group like this no longer accounts for the realities of the modern world.


It doesn't follow from it however that G20 needs to be institutionalized as the functional equivalent of the G8. I would probably personally, if I have the opportunity to define the membership, opt for something more like G14 or G16 that has to say countries that have a economic weight but also political or Geo-political strategic weight, on a regional bases. And than it would still mean a much more representative process of consultation and the beginnings of a rundamantary, rudimentary system of global management.


In many respects the meeting of the G20 initiates that process and it will be repeated over time and hopefully also will give birth to the emergence of something of this sort which is clearly needed beyond the formal mechanisms of the U.N., which, while formal, are also almost, eternal, because it requires consensus to change them. And those who benefited the most from the arrangements made in 1954 are clearly not prepared to reform the U.N. to reflect the modern realities of global power.


So, in that sense something outside the U.N. is, an essential, imperative. To engage, in my judgment, involves at the same time, as the other two, the creation of, an very informal - not institutionalized, process of regular informal dialog among the key strategic powers of the world. That is needed and is particularly needed in order to engage China in the process of global responsibility, global sharing, global interdependence. China is, The most important rising power in the world.


And without China many of the key problems that we face cannot effectively addressed with China, they have a higher prospect, of being, responsible, met. And China so far at least is generally constructive in it's international conduct. It is economically nationalist and that is a problem. But it is fundamentally a cautious and patient revisionist power. Cautious, patient, revisionist power. It wants the international system to change, but it is cautious in the way it's pursuing that objective. And it is patient.


And one of the hole markers of the Chinese leadership is fore site and patients. I've dealt with the Chinese leaders now, for, - thirty years. I go often, whenever I go to China and meet the top leaders. And I've gotten to know them. And I have to say I have high respect for this sense of direction but also balance and proportion.


I can not do better than repeat what Deng Xiaoping said at one point, about the Chinese approach to international affairs and I quote:

"Observe calmly, secure our position, cope with affairs calmly, hide our capacities, and bide.., our time, be good at maintaining a low profile and never claim leadership." (Audience laughs soft smugglerly)

I think the contrast between that and that precisely is what marked Deng Xiaoping as, really one of the outstanding statesman of our time. And the current prime minister of Russia speaks for itself. (Audience laughs) And that brings me to another point, namely; That we have to involve Russia in this Process too!


Irrespective of the suggested contrast that I've just drawn, cause Russia should be part of such a dialog. But actually if we move in the direction of such frequent dialog -and I have

literally in mind meetings between heads of government of state, between America and China, Europe, America and China... Russia will not want to be left out. Russia will not want to be left out and it might be a very solitaire entrustment to obtain Russia's good behavior in international affairs.


With some, Without some of the sable rattling and impatiens and frustration and posturing that has been seen lately. And that respect incidentally I think there is also the makings of a natural division of labor in dealing with Russia between the United States and specifically Europe. For America Russia is a world power in the area of nuclear weaponry, that is the one area in which it is a global power. And therefore it is a special responsibility of the United States to continue constructive dialog with the Russians about strategic issues.


And to seek new arrangements, new agreements, replace, start etc... Disarmament, weapons control, eventually perhaps moving towards a world in which the presence of nuclear weapons is dramatically decreased.


But Russia simultaneously, a regional power, a regional power not a global power! And that affects Europe the most. And I think Europe has a special responsibility in trying to engage Russia in a fashion, that Russia into Europe, but without an Imperial baggage.


That unfortunately still to many of the present, generation of Russian leaders wish to bring with them. Unlike Great Britain, and in a much more painful way, unlike Germany or Japan, Russia has still not come to terms with this new global status and new global condition it is a major national state, it is no longer an Empire.


It lost that Empire peacefully relatively speaking but it lost it, and has now accommodated to that reality. Indeed it hasn't yet been willing to face up, to the true meaning historically and morally, of it's Communist experience and specifically of it's Stalinist experience.


The foreign Minister of Russia Mister Lavrov recently said that to equate Nazis in with Stalinism is a blasphemy. But there are millions of people who feel that it too are profoundly similar and equally painful. This process will take time until a new generation of Russians emerges. But in the mean time one should continue, efforts to draw Russia in, to engage. But also to try to create a political context in which it becomes not more easy but less easy to try recreate an Empire.


And here of course too particular issues are sensitive and difficult, namely; Ukraine and Georgia. We may have to adjust the way we deal with both in regards of such a sensitive issue as NATO. For different reasons in each case: In the case of the Ukraine because there is no consensus in the Ukraine regarding joining NATO.


And because of the leadership is profoundly divided and unable to shape a consistent national policy. In the case of Georgia because of the ongoing territorial conflicts. But it doesn't mean therefore that we should be indifferent to their security! And we'll have to wait (huh?), we'll have to find alternative ways of dealing with them so their security is enhanced.


In the case of the Ukraine probably at the NATO summit in April once the new President is in charge in the United States. And we can find probably alternative arrangements either to the membership action plan? Or to some other aspects of the bilateral relationship so that the Ukrainians feel reassured.

In the case of Georgia we certainly have to make some clear decisions regarding the nature of our steak in Georgia. And we can not lose side of the fact that the Georgian government where to be overthrown and right now it is totally vulnerable to the external use of force. The Baku-Ceyhan line would be cut!


And thus our strategic access to Azerbaijan and the Caspian and Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan beyond would be similarly cut. Paradoxically the financial crises actually makes conditions for an improvement in relations with Russia surprisingly propitious. It's one thing if Russia collects 140 dollars for a barrel of oil and can threaten as it has on many occasions.


To use it as a political tool and has used it on many occasions. Or when the barrel of oil produces less than 60 dollars. Especially given the fact that so much of Russia's internal timing for the future has been based on the assumption of a fairly high price and continuing growing demand. There are indications that what happened in Russia in the last few weeks has been a shock. Probably to the entire Russian elite including those at the very top.


To them more because they didn't anticipated the difficulties, probably resent them and they know that many of their expectations and aspirations have to be, reconsidered. And to the part of the elite in a much more direct fashion, because they have been busy over the last decade or so storing away money. Not in Russian Vladivostok or in Siberia or in Kamtsjatka, or in the various east Russian cities that cry for development. Or in Russian health service in which 50% of it's hospitals do not have hot water.


But, in Cayman Islands, in Cyprus, in London Real Estate, on the Riviera. And all of a sudden it dawned on them that the American - European - Russian relationship where to deteriorate seriously. And something could happen to these assets that would not be reassuring. (Audience: Ah ah ah ah ahhh...)


All of that I think is nothing short of a very actually sanatory lesson in the reality of interdependence. And that's the good. And that should facilitate meeting that particular task. The last by no means the least is to pacify, it is to pacify. And that is to avoid and that's particularly our responsibility. The growing risk that America will become military and politically bucked down in a vast area of the world ranging from East of Suez, does that phrase sound familiar to some of you?


From East of Suez to West of India, from east of Suez to west of India. And nothing that I have said so far will accomplish anything if the U.S. does get bucked down. Because if we get bucked down we will be; in a protracted, post imperial war, in the post colonial age. Which is not going to be easy to win with aroused populations that are not easy to control unless your prepared to exterminate them and we're not.


And will be stuck perhaps with escalating conflicts. Resulting either for a re-awakening of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, to a continuation of the Iraqi war as an extension of a war with Iran, to a deepening war in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, let me say a brief word about each of these; And here just as Europe with our help can more effectively deal with Russia.


We have to deal with these problems but you can be more effective if you speak with one voice, in giving us good advice and joining us in responsible cause of action.


But not limiting yourself by just giving advice.

I think we have to, bite the bullet, on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because we are probably within the last year in which a two state solution is too feasible. Anybody who looks at the topography of the country and what's been happening at the west bank and one looks at demographics, knows that that opportunity is slipping away.


It's been slipping away for 41 years. It cannot continue slipping away on this or that excuse because, one leadership is divided, another leadership is weak, or if something happens painfully on a human scale! But a minuscule scale actually when the numbers are considered. And the only way this conflict will be resolved if the parties are helped to resolve it. And the only party that can help to resolve it, in the first instance, is the United States.


And if the United States takes a clear position as to what are the essential fundamental, elements of the basic settlement. I have no doubt that the rest of the world will endorse it almost unanimously, I can not think of a country that will dissent! And I think Israeli-Palestinian part of looking will be influenced once it is made explicit.


Because than it is much easier, much more difficult, to stall, to evade. And that means it has to be done fairly soon. Particularly the highest level. And clarifying for the record something that instinctively most people affected in Israel and Palestine ordinal.


Namely their four fundamental elements beyond which the process has to be negotiated, but which is the point of departure negotiations, and not an excuse for delaying these negotiations. And that is the eventual Palestinian state will be demilitarized.


Perhaps with a NATO presence on it's soil? Or an American presence on the Jordan river, to give Israel the strategic depth it says it needs, for it's security.


Secondly that the territorial settlement involves 19-67 lines with equitable exchange, that's one on one bases. Permitting Israel to incorporate into Israel the heavily urbanist settlements on the fringes of the 67 lines.


But with exchanges, compensations in the Negev and Galilei. And now with increasing difficulty for parties to swallow, in the case of the Palestinians.


Third: No right of return, no right of return for the Palestinians refugees or rather, their descendents, to what is Israel. Because we can not expect Israel to commit suicide for the sake of piece, demographic suicide.


So, no right of return, he has acknowledgment of their suffering, he has compensation, he has resettlement. But no right to return. And last by not least, a bitter pill for the Israelis to swallow. Without which no piece would be viewed by the Palestinians as legitimate or enduring because even visually it can be perceived as unfair: The sharing of Jerusalem.


The sharing of Jerusalem,.. as,... two capitals in one city. East Jerusalem, the Palestinian. West Jerusalem, the Israeli Some fashion of arrangements for sharing the old city and a Palestinian flag over the golden dome which can be seen almost visually from anywhere in the Palestinian territory. With such a statement the peace process will take of and if I am wrong?

It will be no worse than it is. (Audience laughs; ah ah ah ah) Because if it remain stalled. And being stalled is not an enduring static condition It's a pra.... Iraq is on the way of being resolved one way or the other. Part of the debate in the United States has been as to a date fixed for withdrawal. That was a criticism made of Obama but look at a what has happened.


The Bush administration already settled with the Iraqis of a date for withdrawal. Slightly over a year later than the date that Obama has been talking about. What will be needed however is with a withdrawal is a serious dialog with all of Iraq's neighbors. About the security consequences of American withdrawal and the consequences for them.


And not a single one of them can envisage benefiting from unrest in Iraq without IT spilling over into it's own territory. Just look at demographics and the geography of the region. And in such a dialog in the context of withdrawal has change of being constructive. And that brings to the third aspect, namely: If there is such dialog it will help to negotiate with Iran about it's nuclear problem. And we have to negotiate seriously which means changing our posture.


Abandoning what is the current American posture which is that we negotiate after the Iranians make fundamental concession as precondition to negotiations. And that is not a way to achieve a negotiating process, that's not a way to set it in motion. And there is something else we maybe advised to give up; Which is the useless and counterproductive threat of military action.


Because threatening military action unifies the Iranian populous, helps to bridge the enormous cap between the population at large and the Mullahs. And doesn't help the negotiating process. It's an option which you can always keep in reserve if you really mean to use it. But it is not productive to negotiations.


And quiet frankly I don't think it would be very productive if it where ever exercised. Because a war with Iran would be a messy business indeed in the entire region. With a variety of local consequences and global economic consequences. Which we know in advance would be disastrous through a scale which we can not predict so, it's not a viable notion for a actual policy. And last by not least we have to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan. And here to some extend based on my own experience of dealing with that problem in relationship to an other power.


I think it is important that we do not over militarize our effort and we do not make the mistake that the other power did in Afghanistan. Yes, some deployment of troops maybe necessary and both Presidential candidates in the United States have said so. But that can not be the central focus of our efforts.


Yes, some troops maybe necessary and that means also European troops participating on the bases of equality. And not of preferential choice of sites, with some for example, not even patrolling at night because it is dangerous. It means facing the risks together and paying the price together. But above all else it means in my judgment demilitarizing the effort and politicizing it. And particularly seeking to the possibility exploring the possibility on negotiating arrangements with The Talibans.

Not Taliban but Talibans in different parts of Afghanistan. In exchange for an arrangement in which their elimination or termination of Al Qaeda presence in their particular area would be reciprocated by military disengagement from that area. I think if we move in that direction we will avoid the mistakes that the Soviets made and kept them very busy in a self destructive fashion for some, ten years.


Let me end my final point briefly about itself, America itself it's a very perocial point. In my judgment as we look ahead in the detainee of the next President. We all have an intelligent foreign policy in America when we have a intelligent President. (Some audience laughs) And we have just, we have chosen one, but that's not enough.


We need an intelligent public in America. I can say from my own personal experience and I think others can opt test to it as well. That the American public unfortunately is widely undereducated about the world. And we are a democracy our foreign policy has to reflect the popular will that's just a basic fact of life!


And we cannot have a complex intelligent policy in a complex age if the public is not educated about the world. It makes us acceptable when it is not to deliberately propagated demagogy and lately it has been victimized propagation of a culture of fear. And that makes for parallelizes in foreign policy. It also facilitates the activity on American soil of foreign lobbies.


In the historical recent past, many (Huh?) or some of these lobbies capitalize an ideological appeal.


Today they are much more effective they are capitalizing on money, and money, and money goes a long way, and we've to be alert to that. And last by not least the President himself has to tackle the fact that the American public needs education about the world. And he has to try to make the American public understand the new dimensions of the world.


That is an essential task, that is a vital task, that the he has to undertake. And I think, without sounding overly partycism and certainly not excessively differential to the new President. That he has the intellectual and the rhetorical gifts to do just that.


So, let me simply end by saying; yes we can.


(Audience laughs and applauses afterwards)


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