5. Memorandum From the Director of the Trilateral Commission (Brzezinski) to the Members of the Trilateral Commission1


  • The Commission: Its Past and Future

Since the Ottawa and Washington meetings of the Commission2 complete the first three years of the Commission’s life span, I would like to share with you some personal impressions of what we have achieved in these three years and what we can hope to achieve in the future. I might also add that this is my final report to you as the Commission’s director.

As I said in my address in Ottawa, the international context in which the Commission was established has changed significantly since its creation.3 While relations between the trilateral countries themselves are considerably freer of friction than they were in 1973, greater uncertainty clouds the East-West relationship and the salience of relations between the developed and the developing worlds to political and economic stability has been more clearly established. Throughout the period, I think it is fair to say that the Commission has been in the forefront of those who have sought to intensify cooperation between the [Page 27]trilateral countries and to propose progressive reforms in relations between North and South. Quite apart from the influence which it may have had in this way, the Commission has increasingly become an effective and recognized organization in which major problems of topical and political importance can be discussed in a policy-oriented fashion.

As I suggested in Ottawa, the uncertainties currently hanging over the East-West relationship make it appropriate that the Commission should begin its new phase by paying also some attention to relations with the Communist countries. I think it is also important to sustain the work that we have done in the North-South area. In this way we can contribute to insuring that the improvement in the tone of the discussions between the developed and the developing countries is translated into practical, longer range measures which can avert the threat of serious North-South turbulence.

I fear that otherwise North-South tensions might interact dangerously with East-West conflicts in such areas as the Middle East or Southern Africa. In general, this potential intersection of East-West and North-South conflicts deserves our closer attention. It represents a novel and an ominous development on the world scene.

I also proposed in Ottawa that now that the members of the Commission have established a good working relationship with one another, we might consider broadening the circle of those involved in our work by inviting guests to our meetings, possibly including some governmental representatives. I also suggested that in the future our task forces might give slightly lower priority to achieving consensus so as to provide more scope for originality. We shall be looking at these and other ideas for changing and improving the operation of the Commission during the coming weeks and months. We would welcome any comments and suggestions which you may have in this connection.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your interest and support in the Commission in its first three years. There is no doubt that during that time the idea of trilateralism has increasingly taken root in the consciousness of the leaderships, in and out of government, in our three regions. This has been an important change and one to which our efforts have, I believe, made a major contribution. For the future, our task will be to build on this initial success and ensure that the trilateral idea does not become frozen but remains flexible and relevant to changing international conditions. I look forward to continuing with you in this work.

  1. Source: Carter Library, Brzezinski Donated Historical Material, Trilateral Commission Files, Box 6, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chron File: 5/1/76–12/31/76. No classification marking.
  2. The Commission’s executive committee met in Washington in December 1975. The Commission met in plenary session in Ottawa, Ontario, in May 1976.
  3. Brzezinski’s address is printed in Charles B. Heck, ed., Trialogue: Improper Corporate Payoffs Termed a “Cancer” Which Weakens Firms, Subverts Markets and Threatens Democratic Values, Canada, May 1976 (New York: The Trilateral Commission, 1976), pp. 15–16.