Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tadae Takubo

【#927】Brzezinski’s Respectable Foresight

Tadae Takubo / 2022.06.14 (Tue)

June 13, 2022

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, authored a book titled “The Grand Chessboard” 25 years ago. French demographer Emmanuel Todd quoted this book to discuss the significance of the Ukraine war in the May issue of the monthly Bungei Shunju magazine.

The first point that deserves special notice is that Brzezinski predicted China would grow into a global hegemonic power on the Eurasian continent to challenge the United States. The second point is that Brzezinski cited a thesis of British geopolitician Halford John Mackinder to forecast that if Russia invades Ukraine and achieves its goal, it may become a Eurasian or even a global power.

Prediction of China’s rise and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

China used to be seen as a younger brother of Russia (or the Soviet Union) in their relationship. But the relationship has now been completely reversed due to China’s remarkable military buildup accompanying its economic power growth. Plagued with massive war spending and economic sanctions imposed by Western democracies effectively en masse, Russia is entering a delicate period of whether domestic discontent against President Vladimir Putin might surface. In any event, Western experts roughly agree that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was a strategic failure even if it brings about Russia’s tactical victory.

As Russia is economically squeezed, its overall national power will be affected. Where would Russia sell oil, natural gas and grain that had been money-making products for exports? Neighboring China has great energy and grain demand. Russia has no choice but to become economically interdependent with China. Their brotherhood will be enhanced more than ever. Noting that “China’s history is one of national greatness” and that “history has predisposed the Chinese elite to think of China as the natural center of the world,” Brzezinski viewed China as exerting influence on geopolitical dynamics in Asia.

Japan required to have world historical perspectives

The problem is Japan. Brzezinski said: “As one of the very top economic powers in the world, Japan clearly possesses the potential for the exercise of first-class political power. Yet it does not act on this, eschewing any aspirations for regional domination and preferring instead to operate under American protection.”

Japan is abruptly to increase defense spending due to the Ukraine war as well as the U.S. request, but I question if Japan understand the position in which it is put when enhancing defense capabilities. I do not see Japan as having a world historical perspective.

Tadae Takubo is Vice President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and a professor emeritus at Kyorin University.