President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has died Friday at the age of 89.
“My father passed away peacefully tonight,” his daughter wrote in an Instagram post. “He was known to his friends as Zbig, to his grandchildren as Chief and to his wife as the enduring love of her life. I just knew him as the most inspiring, loving and devoted father any girl could ever have. I love you, Dad.”
Carter issued a statement late Friday, calling Brzezinski a “brilliant, dedicated and loyal,” adding: “I will miss him.” He said “Zbig” was a “superb public servant” as well as “inquisitive, innovative and a natural choice to be my national security adviser.”
To the world, the Polish-born Brzezinski was a steely, opinionated power in the Carter White House, from 1977 to 1981, who left a big footprint in world affairs. He helped guide Carter during the Iran hostage crisis, when 52 Americans were held in Tehran for 444 days, and he supported billions of dollars in military aid to help Islamic fighters battle the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Brzezinski was instrumental in the doomed 1980 commando raid to rescue the hostages in Iran, who were held by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s forces after the overthrow of the shah. The mission never reached the hostages, and eight servicemen died when their aircraft crashed. (The hostages were finally released on the day Ronald Reagan became president.) But Brzezinski also aided Carter in achieving the historic Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt in 1978.
Brzezinski was a staunch foe of the Soviets who instead encouraged developing ties and normalizing relations with China. His single-minded foreign policy path often put him at odds with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who ultimately left his post in 1980 after the failed hostage rescue.
Brzezinski first came to government work in 1966 after earning a doctorate in political science from Harvard University and teaching there and at Columbia University. The author of multiple books, he remained active, opinionated and outspoken to the end. He was a sharp critic of President Donald Trump, whose foreign policies he skewered as muddled.
America needs “clarity of thought and leadership that projects optimism and progress,” he wrote earlier this year in a New York Times opinion piece with researcher Paul Wasserman. “‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘America First’ are all very well as bumper stickers, but the foreign policy of the United States needs to be more than a campaign slogan.”