Azerbaijan International

Winter 2003 (11.4)
Pages 26-27


Honorary Doctorate Bestowed on Brzezinski
by Zbigniew Brzezinski

Other articles related to Zbigniew Brzezinski published in Azerbaijan International:

(1) Geopolitically Speaking: Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski - Betty Blair
(2) Analysis - War On Terrorism: Failing to Grapple with the Political Dimension - Zbigniew Brzezinski
(3) The Caucasus and New Geo-Political Realities: How the West Can Support the Region - Zbigniew Brzezinski
(4) Geopolitically Speaking: Russia's "Sphere of Influence" - Chechnya and Beyond - Zbigniew Brzezinski
(5) Russia as Empire - Quote by Zbigniew Brzezinski
(6) Freedom is Fragile - Quote by Zbigniew Brzezinski

On November 7, 2003, Zbigniew Brzezinski (b. 1928) was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Baku State University. Dr. Brzezinski is the former National Security Advisor to the President of the United States (1977 to 1981).

He has authored numerous books including: "Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century"; "The Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the 20th Century"; "Game Plan:
A Geostrategic Framework for the Conduct of the U.S.-Soviet Contest"; "Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor, 1977-1981"; "The Fragile Blossom: Crisis and Change in Japan"; "Between Two Ages: America's Role in the Technetronic Era"; "The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict"; and "The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives".

Throughout his career, Dr. Brzezinski has been recognized internationally for his work in geopolitics. In 1981, he was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom for his role in the normalization of U.S.-Chinese relations and for his contribution to human rights and national security. In 1995, Poland decorated him with the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest civilian decoration for his contributions to Poland's recovery of its independence.

He has Honorary Doctorate degrees from Georgetown University, Williams College, Fordham University, College of Holy Cross, Alliance College, Catholic University of Dublin, and Warsaw University. He also received the Centennial Medal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University; the Hubert Humphrey Award for Public Service from the American Political Science Association; the U Thant award; as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Ford Foundation and others. In 1969, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Brzezinski currently is Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS); and Professor of American Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), at Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C.

The following article is an edited version of his speech at Baku State University when receiving the Honorary Doctorate.

Below: On November 7, 2003, the Rector of Baku State University, Abel Maharramov, (left) presented an Honorary Doctorate to Zbigniew Brzezinski. Dr. Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to U.S. President Carter (1977 to 1981), has written several books related to the geopolitics of the former Soviet Union.

On November 7, 2003, the Rector of Baku State University, Abel Maharramov, (left) presented an Honorary Doctorate to Zbigniew Brzezinski. Dr. Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to U.S. President Carter (1977 to 1981), has written several books related to the geopolitics of the former Soviet Union.First of all, let me say that it is a real honor and pleasure to receive an Honorary Doctorate from Baku State University, Republic of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is a country with profound intellectual potential, great cultural achievements and a genuinely proud history. Today, it is a remarkable opportunity for me to be here and to be associated with you in such a symbolic way.

There is a personal sense of satisfaction in having been a witness to your nation's emancipation and to the consolidation of your independence in shaping your national destiny, which is now fully in your hands. For all of you here, it is a time of national renaissance. There is an element of ecstatic emancipation in the sense of having obtained - regained - one's independence. It is now a destiny of the future - fuller, more hopeful, more fulfilling.

Independence - No Guarantee
There is also a risk, however, that for many young people, independence is something that can be taken for granted. One should always remember that independence is a condition that is derived from one's own determination to be independent. And those who have earned their freedom may be more conscious of it than those who are born into freedom, who may be more inclined to think of independence and freedom as the normal state of affairs. Unfortunately, the world we live in is not like that, and there are very few countries that are wholly secure in their independence. It is particularly the younger people - members of the academic community - that in the years to come will be shaping the destiny of this country. One should always remember that this freedom depends upon the genuine, enduring, deep, and uncompromising commitment to one's country.

Nature of the Soviet Union
I want to stress that I came to this part of the world many years ago as a student of Harvard. I had been observing the Soviet Union for many years and was convinced of two realities. Firstly, that the Soviet Union was not a union, but rather an empire. Secondly, that within that empire there were nations that wanted to be independent. That realization convinced me that some day the Soviet Union would come to an end, because within the Soviet Union there were those who were determined that the end might actually take place.

The end did happen - not because the Soviet Union was defeated in the field of battle, but because it collapsed ideologically. There were those who rejected it from within, not only for ideological reasons, but also for deeply felt historical reasons. It is critically important in nurturing a new country that awareness of this reality be cultivated so that the nation can endure.

Euro-Atlantic Community
I want to take a few minutes of time to lay the basis for further discussion and exchange of views. I want to speak about the Euro-Atlantic community.

First of all, we should begin by reminding ourselves that the Euro-Atlantic community is not a narrow geographical concept, but rather, it is broader and more elastic. It is a community with shared values, subjective values - values that we believe in. And the central value of this community is the primacy of the individual as a key, sacred component of the human community - the individual as the ultimate central focus of social and political activity of the community.

Secondly, the Euro-Atlantic community is a consensus about social and political procedures. The centrality of law, the objectivity of law, and the subordination even of the state to the law is the key principle. Everyone is equal before the law - from the lowest citizen to the highest president. Everyone has to respect the law, and the system of law has to be totally independent.

And thirdly, the Euro-Atlantic community is a manner of commitment to the notion of political choice. That is to say, all individuals, being equal before the law, have the freedom to choose the kind of government that they desire and the kind of political programs to be pursued.

That is what the Euro-Atlantic community is all about. And any country that fits those criteria can become a member of it. It is not a geographically, nor a culturally, limited entity. It is a concept based upon how the human system ought to operate and fulfill itself. Anyone can be a member of it.

Today's Euro-Atlantic community is simply the geographic core in the historical realization of this concept, but it involves a progressive expansion. The Euro-Atlantic community has been expanding over the course of the last 10 years. It has been expanding as individual countries consolidate their independence and create strong, viable states, transforming their economies and increasing their range of freedom for individual activity subject to law, and as they democratize their political processes to make them constitutional and to operate on the basis of freedom of choice.

Process Takes Time
In essence, every person knows that these three processes-consolidation of independence, transformation of economy, and democratization of politics - do not happen overnight. They are difficult and slow processes. Some move ahead of others. We know from the American experience, and it is useful to remind ourselves in America - since we have a tendency to preach to others - that we did not have full civil rights for all Americans until about 40 years ago. A significant portion of the American public was, in fact, excluded from the political process. Today, our Secretary of State [Colin Powell] and National Security Advisor [Condoleezza Rice] have come from a group within our society that was not a full participant in the political process as recently as 40 years ago. This demonstrates how difficult and slow this process is. Women - half of our population - did not even have the choice of political freedom and political rights until 80 years ago. They were not allowed to vote.

The key point is that there has to be progression and movement. And it is not a hostile act when we notice that there is not enough movement. And it is not a hostile act to encourage a more rapid movement. But it is also important to bear in mind that there are difficult stages, which may take place more rapidly in the 21st century than in the 20th, and there were some which took place faster in the 20th as compared to the 19th century.

Nonetheless, this process of change cannot easily be compressed into a single act. It's a process that extends and stretches through time. And in the former communist world, they did not have even a simple "rule of thumb" to determine how difficult and how long this process would be. But the longer a country has been dominated by communist totalitarianism, the more difficult and lengthy the process becomes. The shorter that phase was, the more superficial it was, and the quicker the process of change will be. It is not accidental that for some countries-in Central Europe, for example-the progression has been much more rapid and the changes which have taken place have come to be viewed as much more natural, while many post-Soviet nations still struggle to implement them.

Further enlargement of Europe is quintessential for the future of both the Euro-Atlantic community and those aspiring for membership. The Vilnius [Lithuania] round involved seven countries, and Warsaw [Poland] round involved three. Now the next round of discussions that will take place may be termed as the "Kiev [Ukraine] round".

And then the question arises: how many countries might this union include, and which countries might they be? Obviously, one would ask the question about the Caucasus - specifically Azerbaijan and Georgia. If the Kiev round opens the doors to Ukraine, an important precedent will have been established. This precedent would certainly be applicable to other countries. And the other important question relates to the further integration of Turkey into the Euro-Atlantic community - because the Euro-Atlantic community, even if it is a community of values, institutionally has two legs: not only the EU, but also NATO.

As a strategist, when I think of the future, I certainly expect that Azerbaijan will become part of that union. The Euro-Atlantic community is not a philanthropy, but a joint union of obligations and responsibilities. And I wish you well in this process.

Search at for articles by and about Brzezinski that have appeared in Azerbaijan International: "Geopolitically Speaking: Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski" by Betty Blair, AI 3.4 (Winter 1995); "The Caucasus and New Geopolitical Realities: How the West Can Support the Region," AI 5.2 (Summer 1997); "Geopolitically Speaking: Russia's 'Sphere of Influence' - Chechnya and Beyond," AI 8.1 (Spring 2000); and War On Terrorism: Failing to Grapple with the Political Dimension, AI 10.3 (Autumn 2002).

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