Henry Alfred Kissinger, a towering figure in 20th-century diplomacy and politics, has passed away at the age of 100.
Known for his role in shaping U.S. foreign policy and his controversial realpolitik approach, Kissinger was a key player in international affairs.
A conservative internationalist, Kissinger prioritized American interests and stability. He is widely recognized for facilitating a thaw in relations between the U.S. and China, leading to President Richard Nixon's historic visit in 1972. This diplomacy was instrumental in isolating the USSR and ultimately contributed to its collapse.
However, Kissinger's legacy is not without controversy. His decision to expand the Vietnam War to Cambodia and his support for right-wing dictatorships drew widespread criticism from the left. Kissinger's realpolitik, a strategy focused on practical and material considerations over moral or ideological ones, often sparked debate.
Born to a Jewish family, Kissinger's journey to the U.S. as a Nazi refugee was only the beginning of his remarkable life. He served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army during World War II before studying at Harvard, where he became a respected scholar in international affairs.
His expertise saw him in an advisory role to the U.S. government before President Nixon appointed him to the post of National Security Advisor and, later, Secretary of State.
Throughout his tenure, Kissinger played pivotal roles in various geopolitical events. During the Yom Kippur War, he strived to balance power and maintain détente with the Soviet Union. His efforts in ending the Vietnam War won him the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize.
Despite the chaos of the American withdrawal from Saigon in 1975 and the Watergate scandal, Kissinger's reputation weathered the storms. His focus on realpolitik was evident when he dismissed the idea of pressuring the Soviet Union to allow Jews to emigrate.
Kissinger once told Nixon:
"The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern."
After retiring from public office, Kissinger continued to influence global politics. He consulted for American and world leaders and penned insightful writings on foreign policy. His book "World Order," published in 2014, is a testament to his enduring impact on international relations.
Even in his later years, Kissinger did not shy away from controversy. His stance on the Ukraine war, advocating for a settlement that would acknowledge Russia's role in Europe, was met with considerable debate.
Kissinger's death marks the end of an era, and his legacy, filled with both achievements and controversies, will continue to be a significant part of U.S. history.