Brzezinski on U.S.-Russia ties: It's not the 70s
(CBS News) In the late 1970s, national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski recalls a time when he was woken up in the middle of the night by a White House aide.
"I was informed we were under nuclear attack (by the Soviet Union)," he told CBSNews.com.
The report was quickly refuted. But Brzezinski tells the anecdote to underscore the dramatic difference between U.S.-Russia relations when he served under President Jimmy Carter compared to today, when such a nuclear war false alarm would be almost inconceivable.
"All I can tell you is 30-35 years ago, the relationship was across-the-board fundamentally antagonistic and occasionally somewhat threatening," he said. "This is not the case now."
Brzezinski, now a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, gave his perspective as negotiations between Washington and Moscow are increasingly under scrutiny. This week a political spat erupted after President Obama was caught on an open mic telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" after the November elections to cut a deal on a U.S. missile defense shield in Europe.
Critics pounced, accusing the president of a hidden agenda with Moscow. But after GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Obama's comments "very alarming," Medvedev fired back.Obama, Romney spat shows deep divisions over Russia
"It is 2012, not the mid-1970s," Medvedev said, adding that the U.S. and Russia are not the enemies they once were.
Brzezinski agrees. Three decades ago, the U.S. and Russia were preoccupied with each other as the menace of nuclear war shadowed each superpower. No longer, says Brzezinski.
"(The American) public is worried about other things," he said.
Brzezinski characterized the two nations' current ties as a "mixed relationship" - a combination of practicality, antagonism and indifference. Indeed the two countries have just as many shared national security interests (limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, thwarting terrorism and bolstering a global energy system) as they do political differences (disputes over missile defense, Syria and Iran, for example).
Brzezinski said that negotiating on missile defense is currently the biggest obstacle between the countries. He said the deep division on that issue is a reflection of long-held suspicion of the U.S. in the Russian psyche - a "residual resentment" that he says could worsen when Vladmir Putin takes over as president in May.
Putin, he warns, is driven by "personal obsessions" rooted in the past. Brzezinski pointed out that the incoming president is still hoping to establish a "Eurasian Union," which would recreate the boundaries of former Soviet republics.
"He's clearly driven by nostalgia for the past and the (Soviet) super-national status," he said.
Popular on CBSNews.com
- Mexico's drug war 20 Photos
- U.K. official: London attack suspects probed before
- Graphic video: Man dead in "truly shocking" London attack Play Video
- Tokyo's rockabilly scene 16 Photos
- Man dead in "truly shocking" London attack 251 Comments
- London soldier slaying homegrown Islamic extremism?
- Slain London soldier was 25-year-old drummer, father
- Mexican volcano on verge of eruption 15 Photos