Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, the diplomat with the thick glasses and gravelly voice who dominated foreign policy as the US extricated itself from Vietnam and broke down barriers with China, died on Wednesday, his consulting firm said.
He was 100.
With his gruff yet commanding presence and behind-the-scenes manipulation of power, Kissinger exerted uncommon influence on global affairs under US presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, earning vilification and the Nobel Peace Prize. Decades later, his name still provokes impassioned debate over foreign policy landmarks long past.
Kissinger’s power grew during the turmoil of Watergate, when the politically attuned diplomat assumed a role akin to copresident to the weakened Nixon.
“No doubt my vanity was piqued,” Kissinger later wrote of his expanding influence. “But the dominant emotion was a premonition of catastrophe.”
A Jew who fled Nazi Germany with his family in his teens, Kissinger in his later years cultivated the reputation of respected statesman, giving speeches, offering advice to Republicans and Democrats alike and managing a global consulting business. He turned up in former US president Donald Trump’s White House on multiple occasions.
However, Nixon-era documents and tapes, as they trickled out over the years, brought revelations — many in Kissinger’s own words — that sometimes cast him in a harsh light.
Never without his detractors, Kissinger after he left government was dogged by critics who argued that he should be called to account for his policies on Southeast Asia and support of repressive regimes in Latin America.
For eight restless years — first as national security adviser, later as secretary of state, and for a time in the middle holding both titles — Kissinger ranged across the breadth of major foreign policy issues. He conducted the first “shuttle diplomacy” in the quest for Middle East peace. He used secret channels to pursue ties between the US and China, ending decades of isolation and mutual hostility.
He initiated the Paris negotiations that ultimately provided a face-saving means — a “decent interval,” he called it — to get the US out of a costly war in Vietnam. Two years later, Saigon fell to the communists.
And he pursued a policy of detente with the Soviet Union that led to arms control agreements and raised the possibility that the tensions of the Cold War and its nuclear threat did not have to last forever.
SEE KISSINGER’S ON PAGE 5
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