Henry Kissinger, former White House national security adviser and former secretary of state, celebrates his 100th birthday on Saturday. Considered by many as a master strategist and politician, and by others a war criminal, Kissinger remains an important voice on US foreign policy to this day, Reuters reported.
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923 in a Jewish family in Furth, Germany. Kissinger’s family immigrated to the United States in 1938 as persecution against Jews increased in Germany under Adolf Hitler.
In the United States, Kissinger took the name Henry, and five years after leaving Germany, he received American citizenship. During World War II, he served in the army, and soon began to study at Harvard University on a scholarship. In 1952, he defended his doctorate and for the next 17 years he taught political science at Harvard, regularly advising the US government on foreign policy.
In 1969, new Republican President Richard Nixon appointed Kissinger as National Security Advisor. Kissinger supported a scientific approach to foreign policy, according to which it should serve the interests of the state – the so-called realpolitik.
Kissinger was involved in organizing two historic foreign visits of Nixon in 1972 – to China and the Soviet Union. His efforts contributed to Beijing’s diplomatic opening to the world and to the initial US-Soviet talks on arms control, leading to political stability between Washington and the major communist powers.
In 1973, Kissinger became Secretary of State, becoming the first person born outside the United States to hold that position. He also remained so after Richard Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal in 1974, and Gerald Ford took his place as president.
Criticism of Kissinger
In 1972, along with Richard Nixon, he was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. A year later, Kissinger, along with Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiations that led to the end of American intervention in Vietnam. The American Nobel Prize caused much controversy, and two members of the Nobel committee resigned from their seats on the committee. Le Duc Tho himself refused the award.
Kissinger is praised for “transfer diplomacy”, thanks to which, in 1974, he managed to reduce the tension in the Middle East that had arisen in the region after the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Egypt and its allies. This led to the conclusion of the Sinai Convention in 1975.
In 1977, he completed his mission as secretary of state. Reuters noted that while many people praise Kissinger for his diplomatic achievements, others consider him a war criminal for his support of anti-communist dictatorships in Latin America.
“Kissinger has touched or influenced every crisis and event we face today, changing the world like few other people who have never been elected to office,” American journalist David Andelman assessed on CNN.
Kissinger on the war in Ukraine
Henry Kissinger returned to the White House in 1985 as a foreign affairs adviser to President Ronald Reagan. In the years that followed, he continued to work professionally, advising American leaders and lecturing at universities. In December 2022, Kissinger called on Russia and Ukraine to negotiate peace. “The time is approaching to build on the strategic changes that have already been achieved and incorporate them into a new framework for achieving peace through dialogue,” he wrote in the Observer at the time. The Ukrainian side criticized Kissinger’s words, calling them an attempt to “appease the aggressor.”
In January this year, he spoke remotely at the World Economic Forum in Davos, admitting that before the war in Ukraine he was against the country’s membership in NATO, because he feared that it would start the process we are seeing now. However, he said the concept of a neutral Ukraine “doesn’t make sense anymore.” He added that after peace talks, NATO should guarantee Kyiv’s membership.
However, Kissinger said that negotiations with Russia should continue to stop the escalation of the war, and sanctions and other means of pressure on the Kremlin should be maintained until a final solution is reached. He also noted that there are at least 15,000 nuclear weapons on Russian territory.
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