In This Review

The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives
The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
240 pp, Basic Books, 1997

The great merit of this volume lies in its analysis of the strategic outlook and policy dilemmas of a host of states in Eurasia, a tour d'horizon lucidly rendered. Brzezinski's analysis of the triangular relationship among China, Japan, and America -- together with the policy recommendations flowing therefrom -- is particularly good. But the heart of the book is the ambitious strategy it prescribes for extending the Euro-Atlantic community eastward to Ukraine and lending vigorous support to the newly independent republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus, part and parcel of what might be termed a strategy of "tough love" for the Russians. That grand design is problematic for two reasons: one is that the excessive widening of Western institutions may well introduce centrifugal forces into them; a second is that Brzezinski's test of what constitutes legitimate Russian interests is so stringent that even a democratic Russia is likely to fail it. Russia, in effect, is to be accorded the geopolitical equivalent of basketball's full court press (whereas China, by contrast, merits the geopolitical equivalent of football's prevent defense). Given Russia's weak and friendless condition, a point to which Brzezinski frequently returns, that strategy is difficult to square with the author's otherwise sensible emphasis on ensuring a balance of power in Eurasia.