Henry Kissinger, the legendary diplomat and politician, has died - ForumDaily
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Henry Kissinger, legendary diplomat and politician, dies

Diplomatic strongman Henry Kissinger, whose roles as national security adviser and secretary of state under two US presidents left an indelible mark on US foreign policy and earned him a controversial Nobel Peace Prize, died on November 29 at the age of 100. Writes about this Reuters.

Photo: IStock

Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut, his consulting firm Kissinger Associates Inc. said in a statement. The circumstances of the death have not been reported.

The statement said the funeral will take place during a private family service, followed by a public memorial ceremony in New York.

Late in life, Kissinger led an active life, attending meetings at the White House, publishing a book on leadership styles, and testifying before a Senate committee about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. In July 2023, he made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

During the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, he had a hand in many of the decade's landmark global events, serving as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Republican President Richard Nixon.

Thanks to the efforts of a German-born Jewish refugee, the United States opened diplomatic relations with China, held landmark U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations, expanded ties between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.

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Kissinger's reign as the chief architect of US foreign policy faded after Nixon resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal. However, he continued to be a diplomatic force as Secretary of State under Nixon's successor, President Gerald Ford, and voiced his political views for the rest of his life.

Many praised Kissinger for his brilliance and wealth of experience, but others branded the politician a war criminal for supporting anti-communist dictatorships, especially in Latin America. In recent years, his travels have been limited by attempts by other countries to arrest a diplomat or question him about past U.S. foreign policy.

The 1973 Peace Prize was awarded to him for ending American involvement in the Vietnam War, but it became one of the most controversial in history. Two members of the Nobel committee resigned as questions arose about secret US bombings in Cambodia. North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho was selected to jointly receive the award, but declined.

Ford called Kissinger a “super secretary of state,” but also noted his scrupulousness and self-confidence, which critics rather called paranoia and selfishness. Even Ford said, “Henry never made a mistake.”

With his stern expression and gravelly, German-accented voice, Kissinger projected the image of a prim academic and ladies' man who flirted with stars in Washington and New York during his bachelor years. Power, he said, was the ultimate aphrodisiac.

While he spoke on politics, Kissinger was a man of few words on personal matters, although he once told a journalist that he saw himself as a cowboy hero who rode off alone.

In 1964, he divorced his first wife, Anne Fleischer, and married Nancy Maginnes, an aide to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

Harvard Faculty

Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Fürth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, and moved with his family to the United States in 1938, before the Nazi campaign to exterminate the Jews began.

Kissinger became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943, served in the Army in Europe during World War II, and attended Harvard University on a scholarship, earning a master's degree in 1952 and a doctorate in 1954. For the next 17 years he worked at Harvard.

During much of this time, Kissinger worked as a consultant to government agencies, including in 1967, when he acted as the State Department's liaison in Vietnam. He used his connections in President Lyndon Johnson's administration to pass information about peace negotiations to the Nixon camp.

When Nixon's promise to end the Vietnam War helped him win the 1968 presidential election, he brought Kissinger into the White House as national security adviser.

But the process of “Vietnamization”—shifting the burden of the war from 500 American troops to the South Vietnamese—was long and bloody, accompanied by massive bombing of North Vietnam, mining of the North's harbors and bombing of Cambodia.

In 1972, Kissinger declared that "peace is at hand in Vietnam," but the Paris Peace Accords reached in January 1973 were little more than a prelude to the eventual communist takeover of the South two years later.

In 1973, in addition to his role as National Security Advisor, Kissinger was appointed Secretary of State, giving him unchallenged authority over foreign policy.

The intensifying Arab-Israeli conflict forced Kissinger to embark on his first so-called “shuttle” mission, which became famous for his high-pressure personal diplomacy.

Thirty-two days spent flying between Jerusalem and Damascus helped Kissinger conclude a long-term agreement on demilitarization zone between Israel and Syria in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

In an effort to reduce the influence of the USSR, Kissinger turned to its main communist rival, China, and made two trips there, including a secret meeting with Premier Zhou Enlai. The result was Nixon's historic summit in Beijing with Chairman Mao Zedong and the subsequent formalization of relations between the two countries.

Former US ambassador to China Winston Lord, who served as Kissinger's special assistant, paid tribute to his former boss as a "tireless advocate for peace," telling Reuters: "America has lost its greatest defender of the national interest."

Strategic Arms Agreement

The Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign hardly affected Kissinger, who was not involved in the cover-up and continued to serve as Secretary of State when Ford took office in the summer of 1974. However, Ford replaced him as national security adviser in an effort to hear more opinions on foreign policy.

Later that year, Kissinger traveled with Ford to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union, where the president met with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and agreed on the outlines of a strategic weapons pact.

This agreement completed Kissinger's pioneering détente efforts, which led to an easing of American-Soviet tensions.

But Kissinger's diplomatic abilities had their limits. In 1975, he was blamed for his failure to persuade Israel and Egypt to agree to a second stage of disengagement in Sinai.

And during the India-Pakistan War of 1971, Nixon and Kissinger came under fire for siding with Pakistan. Kissinger called Indians "bastards", a comment he later regretted.

Like Nixon, he feared the spread of leftist ideas in the Western Hemisphere, and his responses created deep suspicion of Washington among many Latin Americans for years to come.

In 1970, he planned with the CIA how best to destabilize and overthrow Chile's Marxist but democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, and after Argentina's bloody 1976 coup, he said in a memo that military dictators should be encouraged.

When Ford lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976, Kissinger's days in high government were all but over.

The next Republican in the White House, Ronald Reagan, distanced himself from Kissinger, who he felt was inconsistent with his conservative beliefs.

After leaving government, Kissinger founded an expensive and powerful consulting firm in New York that provided advice to the world's corporate elite. He served on corporate boards and various foreign policy and security forums, wrote books, and became a regular commentator on international events in the media.

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After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush selected Kissinger to head the investigative committee. But outrage from Democrats, who perceived a conflict of interest with many of his consulting firm's clients, forced Kissinger to resign from this post.

In 2008, Henry Kissinger argued against Ukraine's admission to NATO and for Ukraine to remain in the sphere "which Russians consider to be their own space of identity." After the start of open war between Russia and Ukraine, he criticized sanctions against Russia and justified the occupation of Crimea.

On May 26, 2022, during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine at the economic forum in Davos, Kissinger advised Ukraine to give up its territories to Russia, which caused a wave of criticism against him.

But on July 25, 2022, in an interview, Kissinger said that Ukraine should not cede territory: “Be that as it may, negotiations will definitely have to be based on the need to prevent casualties. They must first set boundaries on what they will not give in to under any circumstances. And giving up Ukrainian territory should not be one of the conditions that we can accept.”

And on August 13, 2022, he admitted his mistakes, noting that Ukraine should be treated as a NATO country. Later, Kissinger once again supported Ukraine's membership in the Alliance.

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