Formula of Power: Kissinger Celebrates His 96th Birthday, Gives His Take on Current Global Situation

Formula of Power

"Diplomacy is the art of restraining force". Henry Kissinger, an excerpt from his Diplomacy book.

Henry Kissinger is an American statesman, diplomat, and eminent foreign policy analyst, Nobel Peace Prize winner. He's got a high forehead of an intellectual, a heavy square rim of glasses, a classic navy-blue two-piece suit. He's elegant and fairly conservative as always. On May 27, the patriarch of world diplomacy celebrated his 96th anniversary.


- I shall honestly say — you look great.

Henry Kissinger: You know, life is divided into three ages — youth, middle age, and the age when you look great.

Henry Alfred Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923, in Fürth, Germany. In 1938, he emigrated with his family in the United States. He graduated from Harvard University, defended his Doctor's Dissertation, worked as a professor. In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked as an international advisor to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. From 1969 to 1975, he served as the National Security Advisor of US Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. From 1973 to 1977, he was the US Secretary of State. In 1982, he founded Kissinger Associates, a consulting firm, which he still runs.

Today, Henry Kissinger is as respected and demanded as in the times of his political activity. Deep political words and historical studies he wrote have become handbooks for many young diplomats around the world. He gets invited to consult current top-level politicians.

- Thank you for your time. I know you have a very busy schedule. It’s a great honor for us.

Henry Kissinger: I love Russia.

- You have already met with President Putin more than once.

- Yes, I’ve met him many times.

- I know that he is attentive to your assessments of international relations.

- Russia should be involved in solving all world problems. In the end, it will be so.

Henry Kissinger comes to Russia almost every year and meets with President Putin. They have a good relationship of trust. Kissinger is an honorary doctor of the Diplomatic Academy of Russia, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Vladimir Putin: "You've been in the diplomatic service and near it for a very long time. You've spent almost all your life in world politics. You have many friends in Russia, including veterans of our foreign policy and people who listen with great attention to your assessments of the development of the situation in the world and in various regions. I'm glad to see you again".

It’s not the first time we meet Henry Kissinger. Today we’re going to recall our past conversations as well.

Henry Kissinger: "President Putin invited me to the Kremlin when I was in Moscow. In New York, he generously devoted an entire evening to me. He had dinner here, in my apartment, with only one translator. My impression is that Vladimir Putin has an analytical mind".

Henry Kissinger rightly presents a unique example of a self-made man. The story of his life is indicative. Henry essentially came from a refugee family. He was born into a Jewish family in Germany, in the Bavarian town of Fürth, six months before Hitler’s beer hall putsch. His father taught at the gymnasium, and his mother was a housewife. In 1938, his mother Paula insisted that they left for the United States. All their relatives who remained in Germany died during the Holocaust.

The family settled down in New York. Fifteen-year-old Henry attended school in the evenings, and he worked in a shaving brush factory during the day. Later, Kissinger enrolled in a college to studying accounting. But in 1943 he was drafted into the US army. In the same year, he became a US citizen. In the winter of 1944, the 84th Infantry Division, where he served in the military intelligence section, took part in the Ardennes Counteroffensive. Henry was fluent in German, so in 1945, he was reassigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps. He was engaged in "de-Nazification" — the identification of the Nazis and in reestablishing civilian administrations in German cities. He was given charge of a team in Hanover assigned to tracking down Gestapo officers and other saboteurs, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. In 1946, he taught at the US Command Intelligence School in Europe. In 1947, he returned to the United States.

- In my opinion, your diplomatic career can be considered the most remarkable career of our time. It's truly so. You are a great diplomat. What advice would you give to young diplomats now? What's a recommendation from Kissinger?

Henry Kissinger: They need to understand their objectives and try to solve the most urgent problems in relations between countries while keeping in mind the longer-term objectives. But at the same time, one should keep in mind that other countries have their own objectives which should be taken into consideration during their work and it's necessary to build peaceful relations when mutual understanding is achieved.

ЭTo be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it. This was written by Kissinger in his memoirs. He himself chose to know everything when he was young.

In 1950, he graduated from Harvard College. He received his BA degree summa cum laude, "with the highest praise". Then he received his MA and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard University. At the age of 39, he became a professor. He worked as an international advisor to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 1960, in 1964, and in 1968, he supported Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York, when he sought the Republican presidential nomination.

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the presidential election Henry Kissinger hit the lottery. The new US president has appointed him as National Security Advisor. From that moment on, Henry Kissinger aimed all the accumulated knowledge, all the experience, all his extraordinary mind at international diplomacy.

- Relations between the Soviet Union and the United States, between Russia and the United States, then and now. In your opinion, which ones are more difficult?

Henry Kissinger: It seems to me that at the moment our relations are more frozen because there is no consistent and systematic dialogue. But I am hopeful the situation will improve, and we will succeed. The situation was different during the confrontation, during the Cold War. Then our objective was to ease the confrontation.

From January 1969 to September 1972, Kissinger made 29 visits to 26 countries, participated in 140 meetings of President Nixon with leaders of foreign countries. His shuttle diplomacy was a great success. In September 1973, President Nixon appointed Kissinger as US Secretary of State. For the first time, two senior positions, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, were given to one person.

In this photo, Henry Kissinger swears in as Secretary of State. His mother, Paula, holds the Bible which his son takes an oath on. It's a mother's happiness to be with her son in his hour of triumph.

- During the long years of your career as National Security Advisor, Secretary of State, diplomat, what do you think were the most difficult times? The days when you couldn't sleep at night.

Henry Kissinger: One king of Prussia once complained to Bismarck that he could not sleep at night. And Bismarck replied the post of a ruler obliged him to have the ability to sleep at night. I can't say I've had sleepless nights. But there were occasions when it came to the future of Central Europe. Or when it came to the complex issues of nuclear weapons. The situation didn't seem unclouded.

The Middle East, October 1973. The Yom Kippur War. On the Sinai Peninsula, Israeli forces surrounded the Third Egyptian Army, cut across the Suez Canal, and enter mainland Egypt. Anwar Sadat asked the Soviet Union for help. US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger immediately flew to Moscow and held two-day secret talks there. On the evening of October 24, Leonid Brezhnev, the CPSU General Secretary, sent a telegram to US President Richard Nixon. At the same time, three ships of the Soviet Navy, which at that moment were in the Mediterranean, headed toward Port Said.

Henry Kissinger: "The biggest risk was, of course, in the Middle East. The alarm was raised twice — the first time during the invasion of Syria into Jordan. The second time was when Brezhnev sent a proposal to Nixon to jointly intervene after the end of the 1973 Israeli-Arab war. The message said that if we didn't intervene together, the USSR would do it alone. We were determined to prevent it".

The United States on that day went on a DEFCON III alert, the highest available peacetime level of nuclear combat readiness. It was done for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Next time it happened on September 11, 2001.

Henry Kissinger: "Did I spend a sleepless night? I think if you cannot sleep at night, then this is not your kind of job. Yes, we were on alert that day. We sent a message to the Soviet Union, and I went to bed. I was sure we would settle it in a day or two, although I had no idea how. Six hours later, when I woke up, the answer came from Moscow that it would get settled".

As US Secretary of State, Kissinger was always in the thick of the action. He was in Israel, Egypt, China, the Soviet Union, Japan, North Vietnam. He was a mediator between Washington and Hanoi in peace negotiations. It was Kissinger who signed the Paris Peace Accords on behalf of the President of the United States in January 1973, de jure ending the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

More than once, Henry Kissinger visited China on a secret mission. In February 1973, he organized a summit meeting in Beijing between President Nixon and the Chairman of the State Council of China, Zhou Enlai. This visit marked the beginning of diplomatic relations between the United States and China after 22 years of hostility. Many Kissinger missions are held in the strictest secrecy.

Henry Kissinger: I made a secret visit to Beijing. Your leaders decided that there should be a secret visit to Moscow as well. We flew... I forgot the name of the VIP airport near Moscow. I was greeted by General Antonov from the KGB who was my escort. The first major meeting was the next day with Brezhnev. He came to this state house, and we spent the whole day together. What was my impression? I confess that I liked Brezhnev. I thought he was, before the stroke at least, he was a cheerful person.

- You told me ten years ago that during negotiations with Brezhnev, you asked a question, Brezhnev went to the window to have a smoke and then got back to the table.

- Yes, he listened to the translation into Russian. He didn't understand what I was saying. While I was talking, he was walking around, smoking. I remember he had an unusual cigarette case with a timer which prevented him from smoking too much. When he took a cigarette out, the case lid got blocked. So he had to wait.

Between 1969 and 1970, there was established a secret channel of communication between Henry Kissinger and the USSR Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Dobrynin. This channel was used to hold a lot of secret talks. Only the head of states knew about it. Topics were different — the lessening of tension, Vietnam, Cuba, the Middle East, Jewish emigration from the USSR. Thanks to Kissinger, about 100,000 citizens of the Soviet Union emigrated to Israel.

Henry Kissinger: "The Soviet ambassador, Dobrynin, repeatedly invited me to play chess with him. I always refused. For two reasons, firstly, he would have won, secondly, I didn't want your psychologists to study the way I thought. I didn't want to make their life easier. I would say that my game with the Soviet Union was also a game of chess".

In the 2000s, historical documents of the mid-twentieth century were declassified and published, revealing the essence of US foreign policy of that time. The series of documents was called Foreign Relations of the United States. Kissinger is associated with détente, easing of international tension at the times of the ideological confrontation of the two systems, the tough confrontation of the USA and the USSR.

Henry Kissinger: "This was the Cold War period. We had many disagreements. But we also came to the conclusion that cooperation between our countries should be the main goal of our efforts. So, at one level, Dobrynin and I were adversaries, at another level, we were partners. Over time, we became friends".

Kissinger made several trips to Moscow to prepare President Richard Nixon's visit to the Soviet Union. Together with Gromyko, who was then foreign minister, they prepared the first summit. Richard Nixon arrived in Moscow on May 22, 1972. Then, General Secretary Brezhnev and US President Nixon signed an agreement on the limitation of strategic arms, SALT I.

Henry Kissinger: "I had great respect for Gromyko. He knew his business. He knew exactly what he was supposed to do. He was very stubborn, precise, and very accurate. He had a very good sense of humor, an intellectual one. Gromyko was a master of double negatives. It really took some time to get what he meant. It wasn't easy to deal with Gromyko. President Nixon believed, as I did, it was extremely important for Russia and the United States to understand each other. He was always ready to conclude specific agreements on the basis of mutual benefit".

In 1975, Gerald Ford became President. He retained Kissinger as Secretary of State. At the summits in Vladivostok and Helsinki in 1974 and 1975 respectively, in the talks between President Ford and Secretary General Brezhnev, Kissinger played a key role. The final act of the meeting on security and cooperation in Europe was signed in Helsinki. Specialists in the field of international relations, in a survey conducted by Foreign Policy in 2015, gave the most votes to Henry Kissinger, calling him the most effective US Secretary of State in the past 50 years.

Henry Kissinger: "I was lucky that in my mature years I did what I was really interested in. My profession is my happiness. I enjoyed doing it".

During his life, Henry Kissinger has written over 20 books on foreign policy and diplomacy. In one of his recent books named World Order, he analyzes the current state of world politics and talks about the failure of the power balance system.

Henry Kissinger: Now the objective is to create a new world order. All states should participate in the process with the conviction that they will find their place in this world order.

- That is, the current situation can't be considered another cold war?

- No, I don't think the modern period is a cold war.

- What would you recommend to our countries to overcome the crisis?

- Of course, I view the situation as an American. Absolutely. I support the fundamentals and interests of politics of the United States. But Russia is a great country with a rich history. I find it hard to imagine an international order in which Russia will not be among the major players. Today's objective is Russia and the United States should show mutual respect and continue cooperation. It will take a long time until we succeed. But we should always keep this objective in mind.

Formula of Power


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