Henry Kissinger, one of the world’s most famous diplomats and national security theorists, died this week at age 100.
Kissinger had a profound effect on U.S. national security, helping establish U.S. diplomatic relations with communist China, negotiating a cease-fire that ended the Vietnam War, developing the détente policy with the Soviet Union, and using "shuttle diplomacy" to lower tensions in the Mideast and negotiate peace agreements.
He was the only person to serve simultaneously as Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, a dual role he held in the Nixon administration.
Kissinger shared the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Vietnamese official Le Duc Tho for their work in brokering the 1973 Paris Agreement ending America’s involvement in Vietnam.
Kissinger was an influential geopolitical strategist for over 50 years and advised presidents from Nixon to Trump. During an eight-hour interview with The Economist earlier this year, he said "the avoidance of conflict between great powers" was the focus of his life’s work and offered some sage advice on how to deal with China and Russia.
Some of Kissinger’s critics criticized him for being soft on China. I don't agree and believe Kissinger’s approach to China until the end of his life was based on realism and preventing great power conflict.
Kissinger saw China as a serious and growing threat to international security, telling The Economist, "We are on the path to great-power confrontation."
He also assessed that because of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the U.S. only has five to 10 years to find a way to co-exist with China.
Kissinger viewed AI as a serious military threat that makes every adversary "100% vulnerable."
Kissinger therefore believed it was urgent for the U.S. to repair relations with China.
He called for diplomacy to promote stability by stressing common values.
He believed this should be done not just at the head of state level but also through frequent discussions between U.S. and Chinese working-level officials.
This was good advice for today, given the lack of diplomacy between Beijing and Washington and the corresponding deterioration of U.S./China relations during the Biden administration.
At the same time, when asked whether China wanted to impose its culture on the world,
Kissinger told The Economist he wasn’t sure but said the U.S. could prevent this through a combination of diplomacy and force.
He added that if it proves impossible for the U.S. to co-exist with China and avoid an all-out war, "we have to be militarily strong enough to sustain the failure."
On the Russia/Ukraine War, Kissinger told The Economist that Putin’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine was "a catastrophic mistake of judgment."
However, he also said the West bore some responsibility for this catastrophe by dangling the possibility of NATO membership for Ukraine, which enraged Putin, while failing to properly defend Ukraine.
Kissinger came out in favor of Ukraine joining NATO early this year after opposing it a year earlier because he concluded that Ukraine could never be neutral.
Kissinger decided that NATO membership for Ukraine after the conclusion of the war will be essential for stability in Europe.
Kissinger told The Economist he believed it was essential to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible.
A peace agreement, in Kissinger’s view, would require territorial concessions by both sides. Because this would result in instability that could spark new wars, he called for a rapprochement between Europe and Russia to secure Europe’s eastern border.
Kissinger told Bloomberg News in June that he thought it was "improbable" that Putin would remain in power if Russia agreed to end the war in Ukraine and accepted the fact that it cannot conquer Europe and must become part of a peaceful European "consensus."
Kissinger’s assessment of the war in Ukraine is relevant today as opposition grows in the U.S. and Europe to providing military aid to Ukraine, and many experts assessing that the war has become an unwinnable stalemate. Many of the calls we will hear during the 2024 presidential election year for peace talks and a cease-fire to end the war in Ukraine will be heavily influenced by Kissinger’s recommendations.
I found one observation that Kissinger made to The Economist to be especially interesting.
Despite recent highly publicized efforts by China and Russia to demonstrate their new cooperation and friendship, Kissinger doubts China and Russia can ever work well together because "they have an instinctive distrust of one another" and are not natural allies. Let’s hope Kissinger was right about this.
Henry Kissinger had his critics, but in his long life, he was a patriot who made major contributions to promoting U.S. and global security.
And at age 100, Kissinger produced prescient national security analysis on current global security challenges that will guide our nation for years to come.
May his memory be a blessing.
Fred Fleitz is Vice Chair of the America First Policy Institute’s Center for American Security and a Newsmax TV Contributor. He previously served as National Security Council Chief of staff, CIA analyst, and as a member of the House Intelligence Committee staff. Read more reports from Fred Fleitz — Click Here Now.
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