Statement by Dr. John J. Hamre, CSIS President and CEO
Dr. Brzezinski’s intellectual contributions and influence at the Center for Strategic and International Studies cannot be overstated. For 36 years, Dr. Brzezinski kept his personal office at CSIS. But he participated widely and generously in the intellectual activities of the center. Together with Carla Hills, Zbig Brzezinski cochaired the CSIS Advisory Board for 30 years. Because of his towering reputation, the most important policy intellects in Washington and around the world came to CSIS to participate in activities championed by Dr. Brzezinski. But his public engagement was matched by a private engagement with our scholars. Dr. Brzezinski would routinely join a roundtable discussion where researchers would share preliminary insights concerning their work. Unfailingly, he would pose a crucial question that challenged the scholar to a more profound understanding of the dynamics within his or her research. By this means, Dr. Brzezinski touched hundreds and hundreds of policy intellectuals here in Washington and around the world.
In recent years, Dr. Brzezinski challenged us to undertake a new discipline in analysis. He argued that strategic thinking in America is chronically weak because we don’t ground research in an understanding of history and geography. Through the gift of an important donor, CSIS was able to establish the Brzezinski Institute on Geostrategy, which specifically champions projects grounded on historical and geographical analysis. The Brzezinski Institute has sponsored the major new project Reconnecting Asia, which examines the implications of the massive infrastructure building underway in Asia from an historic and geographic perspective. During the months preceding his death, Dr. Brzezinski was working on his final book, examining the competing imperial traditions in Asia and how they are reflected in the foreign policy of major nations in Eurasia.
Dr. Brzezinski became famous when he was selected to be national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. What is less well known is that President Ronald Reagan asked Dr. Brzezinski to stay on as his national security adviser. He declined, not out of disrespect for President Reagan, but with the conviction that the president needed a fresh perspective to shape his administration’s foreign policy agenda. He continued, however, to be an intimate confidante to every succeeding president through Barack Obama. If there was a single architect of the fall of the Soviet Union, it was Zbigniew Brzezinski. He considered it the moral imperative of the age and the singular focus of his professional career. In recent months he spoke often of his worry that the world was entering an even more dangerous phase. He will not live to guide us through this perilous time, but he has left behind hundreds of analysts and followers who will pick up the challenge to guide America. He will be greatly missed, but through these students and colleagues, he will be with us always.