In February 1980 President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski visited Pakistan’s President Muhammad Zia Ul-Haq in Islamabad to restore relations that had become strained over the Carter administration’s suspension of aid in April 1979, following the discovery that Pakistan was developing an atomic bomb. Carter had been committed to nuclear nonproliferation, but the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December had altered the regional geopolitics. During a visit to the Khyber Pass, Brzezinski offered a resumption of economic and military aid, which was to amount to $3.2 billion, if the Pakistani authorities would allow a few of the two million Afghan refugees camped on their territory access to Chinese and Soviet weapons donated by the Saudis in a jihad, a holy war, against the Russian occupation. This event, supported by a presidential national decision directive, marked the beginning of a campaign that would drive the Red Army from Afghanistan, act as a catalyst for the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, and ultimately embolden Muslim political extremism.
Taken to Canada at the age of three by his father, a Polish diplomat, Brzezinski was always committed to dismantling the Soviet Bloc and had warmed to his lifelong commitment that “there is no supranationalism in the Soviet Union” while preparing his dissertation at McGill University. He saw the crushing of the Prague Spring in August 1968 as “the beginning of the end” and in his thesis, “Inability to Renovate,” he expanded on the same theme. As the U.S. national security adviser, Brzezinski saw détente as simply a method of getting Moscow to lower its guard and had masterminded numerous secret presidential findings, the most significant of which was a still-classified covert action program aimed at the “delegitimization of the Soviet Union,” which involved detaching some of the component states by encouraging nationalism and separatism. As well as channeling money to émigré organizations, this policy also meant developing conduits into the most vulnerable regions to fund dissidents and opposition groups.