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Brzezinski’s sharp elbows and intellect served him well as a Washington insider
Arthur Grace—Zuma Press

To understand Zbigniew Brzezinski, you first had to grasp his distrust of Moscow.

Even until his death on May 26 at age 89, the Polish-born, Harvard-credentialed former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter remained among the rarified ranks of celebrity scholars, up there with Henry Kissinger, a predecessor to whom he was always compared. Zbig, as his friends knew him, worked for Democrats, although he was to the right of many Republicans when it came to the Soviet Union. To curb communism, he tacitly backed Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia and favored the Islamic militants battling the Soviets in Afghanistan.

An adviser to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson earlier, Brzezinski gave a critical eye to the six Presidents that followed Carter. While he chose his words carefully, he seldom censored them.

This appears in the June 12, 2017 issue of TIME.

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