by Hafiz Pashayev
After 14 years as the Azerbaijan’s first ambassador to the United States, I left Washington with many friends. Among them, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski had a special place in my heart. We met in early days of Azerbaijan’s independence. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Berlin Wall have brought tectonic changes to the region and to the world order. These were exciting times for all, especially for grand strategists like Brzezinski. He well understood the unique and sensitive developments in the post-Soviet space and could draw sharp analysis from the rapidly changing events.
Brzezinski was an adamant supporter of the independence of the former Soviet Republics. We could feel his voice of passion and courage all over Washington. Throughout many political events and discussions, Brzezinski and his colleagues were there to lend a hand to us, newly arrived Ambassadors. Brzezinski had a special sympathy to my homeland Azerbaijan, calling it a “linchpin” of the region.
I vividly remember his visits to Baku and discussions with late President Heydar Aliyev. Two grand politicians in one room, discussing US-Soviet past and current policies were a mesmerizing opportunity to observe. It was precisely Brzezinski who first brought a message from President Bill Clinton to President Heydar Aliyev regarding the new route for the Caspian oil to reach world markets via Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. A visionary strategist, Brzezinski knew that this major oil pipeline will significantly change the political map of the region and firmly seal the independence of Azerbaijan, as well as of neighboring countries. He knew how to pass decisions with results to come in decades.
Brzezinski did not limit his visits to meetings with politicians only. Once he asked to take him to the refugee camps. After seeing hundreds of poor kids and women in the tent camps in rural Azerbaijan, Brzezinski seemed genuinely heartbroken. So heartbroken, that refused afterward to join the lavish dinner, organized by the hospitable local mayor in his honor. On another occasion, Brzezinski asked me to take him to meet Azerbaijani intellectuals. I gathered famous writers and scientists of Azerbaijan to delve into a philosophical discussion with Dr. Brzezinski, a discussion which is still so memorable for me up to this day. Our families quickly bonded as well and we often exchanged visits to each other’s homes. I was proud to be included in the narrow circle of his friends whom he invited to annual breakfast in his house on January 1.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was a man of global caliber. But foremost, he was an American patriot. His only mission was to defend American interest. And it is in that context that he was increasingly getting worried about the growing role and influence of money in American political system. His sharp mind, clear-cut speaking style, to-the-point arguments made him one of the most popular political analysts of our times. Whenever he would publish an article or speak on TV, we all rushed to learn his views. Every line, every sentence was filled with deep meanings. He knew all details of world politics in every corner of the planet and knew how to link the current with the past and the future. It is not a coincidence that many Presidents and world leaders were keen to seek his guidance and counseling. I used to joke with him that even though he represents political science, nevertheless he speaks like a mathematician. Concise, clear and with firm arguments.
My recent trips to Washington seemed incomplete if I could not visit my old friend. We were open about successes and shortcomings of Azerbaijan. Brzezinski never shied away from his honest and sincere feedback. I especially appreciated his support to my new university in the last decade and I sincerely hoped that he would visit Baku once again in his capacity of the board member of our university. It is a pity we didn’t see that dream to come true.
The world political scene has lost a giant of the highest caliber. A man of integrity, honesty, deep sense of humor and kind heart will be missed very much.
(as published on June 5th, 2017 by AzerTAj state news agency)