At 100 years old, Henry Kissinger who died this Wednesday at his home in Connecticut, He continued to show enormous lucidity and exhibit his unmatched experience in the diplomatic field. The former North American Secretary of State, the man who directed his country’s foreign policy for decades and who also served as an advisor to all presidents of modern times, gave an extensive interview in June to Bloombergin which he addressed different issues of the international situation: from the war in Ukraine, and Putin’s Russia, to the growing tensions between China and Taiwan.
In a time marked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and different sources of conflict in various regions of the world, such as the Indo-Pacific and the Middle East, the prestigious diplomat maintained that few politicians today have experience in conflict situations. This, as he explained, can affect them when making important decisions.
“Leaders who have not had an experience of catastrophe or on the verge of a catastrophe sometimes believe that they have more options than they really do (…) It is something characteristic of our time,” he commented during the interview conducted by the journalist John Micklethwait.
Putin’s war in Ukraine
The head of the Kremlin is a man with experience in conflicts but, as history shows, not precisely as a solver of these sources of tension but as the main generator.
Asked by Micklethwait about the war in Ukraine and the possible future of the former agent of the KGBKissinger said the Russian president may have difficulty staying in power if the conflict forces Moscow to abandon the military offensive and accept a peace deal with Europe.
“I would like a Russia that recognizes that its relations with Europe must be based on an agreement and a kind of consensusand I believe that this war, if it ends properly, could make that feasible,” said the former North American Secretary of State.
When asked by the journalist whether Putin could remain in power if the war ended on those terms, Kissinger was forceful: “It’s unlikely”.
He also highlighted the importance of Ukraine emerging from the conflict as a strong democracy, and argued that it is preferable to avoid “the dissolution of Russia or the reduction of Russia to resentful impotence” that threatens to fuel new tensions.
He described Putin as a “Dostoyevsky-type figure beset by ambivalences and unrealizable aspirations,” and stated that he is a leader capable of exercising the power he built, but considered that he used it “excessively” in relation to Ukraine.
Regarding the future of Europe in the post-war, he noted: “It will become more stable, the world will become more stable, when Russia accepts the fact that it cannot conquer Europe. But it has to remain part of Europe by some kind of consensus like other States do.”
In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the international community is closely monitoring the growing tensions between China and Taiwan in the face of constant threats from Xi Jinping’s regime. Asked by Micklethwait what possibilities he sees for a Chinese invasion of Taipei in the coming years, Kissinger acknowledged that he believes a military conflict is likely.
“Given the current trajectory of relations, I think some military conflict is likely,” he claimed.
But he clarified: “I also believe that the current trajectory of relations must be altered and in the weeks leading up to our conversation there have been signs on both sides of attempting to end them. They have not yet engaged in the kind of dialogue I have suggested. But I think they are getting closer. “I leave my mind open as to the outcome.”
He also recalled that in recent times China has become very involved “in issues that go beyond its traditional region”: “China has been seen speaking with Zelensky, China has been seen negotiating a kind of truce between Iran and Saudi Arabia”.
The former North American Secretary of State is one of the most authoritative voices to speak about the Asian giant and the effects of its global aspirations. He acknowledged, however, that he is still unclear about the outcome of the growing tensions between the United States and China.
He warned, however, that wars between two superpowers cannot be won: “They can only be won at disproportionate costs.”
“It is a unique situation in the sense that the greatest threat to each country is the other, that is, the greatest threat to China is the United States, according to its perception, and the same thing happens here,” he explained.
Kissinger described India’s non-alignment stance during the Cold War as “a source of considerable irritation.” However, he considered his current policy “extremely thoughtful.”
As he explained, Narendra Modi’s government performs best when it defends its own interests, and many of them overlap with those of the United States.
Looking to the future, he said: “India is a great power and in the coming decades it will grow comparable to China.” “Maybe not to the same extent, but it doesn’t exactly matter at that point. “It will have enough strength to achieve this and that is why it performs better when it defends its own interests, which overlap with many of our interests as a great power to prevent any country from dominating the world or its regions in such a way that we lose influence to achieve important objectives.” .
Kissinger agreed with Micklethwait that Europe’s political center of gravity is shifting towards Germany. He warned, instead, that this poses a challenge to Berlin on how to exercise that power.
The diplomat finds similarities with the situation at the end of the 19th century, when the chancellor Otto von Bismarck he resigned and the newly united Germany entered a crossroads. The “tragedy” that led to two world wars a few decades later led the country to not know how to recognize its own “transformation.”
“The leading country has to be an example of moderation and wisdom when it comes to balancing the interests of all the countries of Europe (…) We are now at a time when a new structure of Europe must be created based on this reality,” he noted.
Kissinger opined that, “psychologically”, at this moment the United Kingdom, now outside the European Union (EU), is in a better position to polish ties with the United States, unlike a country like France that remains in the continental bloc.
Regarding the EU, he said that the bloc will most likely maintain its close cooperation with the United States and follow a policy parallel to Washington. This, coupled with the UK’s long history of “special partnership” with the United States, means there is now “a great opportunity for it to act as a link between a unifying Europe and the United States.”
The former North American Secretary of State also spoke about domestic politics and regretted that the country became polarized in a worrying way.
According to your opinion, The current debate has shifted toward an “extreme America First theory that applies to both sides.” [republicanos y demócratas]but in such a way that it focuses too much on America and not on global issues.”
This, for Kissinger, represents a risk for the future: “Anyone who wants to pursue a serious American foreign policy must balance both. Or the United States will be isolated.”
Asked about the approach of Joe Biden’s government, he responded: “I think the current administration is trying to do serious work on this, but it is so afraid of attacks on itself that justice is not being done.”