[On October 24, Marina Kalashnikova interviewed Zbigniew Brzenzinski, National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter and the original patron of the Mujahideen, for the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The interview was little noticed in the US, but created something of a tempest in Moscow.]
Q: Are you completely sure on Bin Laden’s involvement into terrorist attacks in the US? Please share your assessments with the Russian audience.
Brzezinski: I have no reason to doubt the conclusions reached by the U.S. Government. Please note that in other doubtful cases – such as the sinking of the Kursk or the recent shooting down of the Aeroflot plane – U.S. governmental information has been quite correct.
Q: How long, you assume, the operation in Afghanistan may go on? Which other countries and regions may be targeted for the US-led military operation?
Brzezinski: I would imagine the operation in Afghanistan will last only a few months. Obviously, the terrorist network operating in other regions will be targeted but not necessarily in every case by military means.
Q: Do you agree that negative feelings in the Muslim countries may lead to unpredictable results, counterproductive for the major aims of the anti terrorist operation?
Brzezinski: There is no doubt that there are negative feelings toward the United States and the West in general in some portions of the Moslem world. That certainly complicates the anti-terrorist activities, and the political aspects of these negative feelings should be at some point taken into account.
Q: Which changes in the world order do you expect in case of successful completion of the operation?
Brzezinski: Hopefully, there will be strengthened international cooperation, both through the United Nations and through different regional organizations.
Q: Quoting you, “Russia is neither ally, nor enemy, but a partner.” Do you think that Russia’s status has changed with the beginning of this operation?
Brzezinski: I think Russia is a partner in some aspects of the anti-terrorist operation, and it would be very desirable if Russia evolved eventually into a genuine ally.
Q: What Russia’s input to the operation do you consider valuable?
Brzezinski: So far, mostly in the area of intelligence, but there is still much more information that Russia could convey.
Q: There are opinions among the Western analysts and journalists, that the Russian Government expects getting some benefits from the West in exchange for its assistance in the operation. Do you believe Russia will reach this aim?
Brzezinski: There have been comments by Russian government officials and press to the effect that Russia would like to have a free hand in Chechnya and perhaps obtain a delay in the expansion of NATO. However, I doubt that either objective can be fully attained, because events in Chechnya are more complex than the issue of terrorism, and the expansion of NATO is part of the construction of a larger and more stable Europe.
Q: Moscow continually stresses that its actions in Chechnya are part of international activities against terrorism. Do you agree with such claim?
Brzezinski: Some aspects of Russia’s actions in Chechnya may be directed at terrorism but even in such a case Russia should note how Britain has behaved in Northern Ireland in dealing with terrorism. Britain did not reduce Belfast to ruins and kill 30,000-40,000 civilians. Moreover, it might be worthwhile to note also that the French eventually recognized that the Algerians were not Frenchmen and brought that war to an end through a political settlement.
Q: Russian officials express criticism on possible Nato enlargement and US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. How could you reply to this criticism?
Brzezinski: The enlargement of NATO, as I noted earlier, is not directed against Russia but is part of an effort to build a more stable Europe. Russians should understand the fears particularly of the Baltic nations, given what they experienced after 1940. Moreover, the Baltic nations were not reassured by official statements by the Russian Foreign Ministry that allegedly in 1940 they joined the Soviet Union “voluntarily” and in keeping with international law. As to U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, my hope is that American-Russian discussions will produce mutual understanding regarding the need to update some of the strategic arrangements concluded between the United States and the Soviet Union back in the 1970s.
Q: Do you completely exclude returning to the ‘cold war’-type confrontation between the US and Russia?
Brzezinski: I do exclude a return to the Cold War because I do not think it would be in the interest either of Russia or of the United States. There are enough people with good common sense in the leadership of both countries to make such a return impossible.