Opinion: Kissinger’s Last Advice on Russia and China Worth Following

One of the world’s most famous diplomats and theorists of national security died this week at 100.

Kissinger had a significant effect on U.S. national security, helped establish U.S. diplomatic relations with communist China, and negotiated a cease-fire that resulted in the end of the Vietnam War. He developed the détente policy with the Soviets and used “shuttle diplomacy” to lessen tensions in the Middle East and negotiate agreements for peace.

Kissinger was the only person to simultaneously serve as National Security Adviser and Secretary of State, a role he dually held in the administration of President Richard Nixon.

1973 Kissinger shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Vietnamese official Le Duc Tho for their work in brokering the Paris Agreement of 1973, ending America’s involvement in Vietnam.

Kissinger was an influential geopolitical strategist for over 50 years, advising several presidents, from Richard Nixon to Donald Trump. During a lengthy eight-hour interview with The Economist earlier in the year, he said “the avoidance of conflict between great powers” was the focus of his life’s work and offered some critical advice on how to deal with Russia and China.

Some critics of Kissinger criticized him for his softness on China. However, Kissinger’s approach to China during his lifetime was based on preventing significant power conflicts and realism.

Kissinger saw China as a growing, serious threat to international security and told The Economist, “We are on the path to great-power confrontation.”

He also assessed that because of artificial intelligence (AI), the United States only has five to 10 years to find a way to co-exist with China.

Kissinger viewed AI as a substantial military threat that makes each adversary “100% vulnerable.”

He believed it was urgent for America to repair relations with China and called for diplomacy by stressing common values and promoting stability.

Kissinger believed it should be done not just by leaders but also through consistent discussions between Chinese and United States working-level officials.

Given the lack of diplomacy between Washington, D.C., and Beijing and the corresponding deterioration of China/U.S. relations during the Biden administration, it is good advice.

At the same time, when asked if China wanted to impose its culture on the world, Kissinger told The Economist he wasn’t sure but said the United States could prevent the thorough combination of force and diplomacy.

Kissinger added that if it proves to be impossible for America to co-exist with China and avoid a war, “we have to be militarily strong enough to sustain the failure.”

About the Ukraine/Russia War, Kissinger told The Economist that Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine was “a catastrophic mistake of judgment.”

But, he also said the West held some responsibility for this catastrophe by dangling the possibility of NATO membership to Ukraine. This enraged Putin, and Ukraine was not adequately defended.

Kissinger said he favored Ukraine being allowed to join NATO earlier this year, after opposing it a year before, because he concluded Ukraine could not be neutral. He decided NATO membership for Ukraine following the war would be critical for stability in Europe.

Kissinger told The Economist he believed ending the war in Ukraine as quickly as possible was vital.

In Kissinger’s view, a peace agreement would require territorial concessions by both sides. Since this would result in instability that might spark new wars, he called for reconciliation between Russia and Europe to secure Europe’s eastern border.

In June, Kissinger told Bloomberg News that it was “improbable” that Putin would remain in power if Russia agreed to end the Ukraine war and accepted that it cannot conquer Europe and must become part of a peaceful European “consensus.”

The assessment by Kissinger of the Ukraine war is relevant as opposition grows in Europe and the U.S. to providing military aid to Ukraine, and several experts assess the war has become an unwinnable stalemate. Many calls will be heard during the 2024 presidential election year for a cease-fire and peace talks to end the fighting in Ukraine, which will be influenced heavily by Kissinger’s recommendations.

Kissinger made one observation to The Economist that was particularly interesting. Despite highly publicized efforts recently by Russia and China to demonstrate their new friendship and cooperation, Kissinger doubted Russia and China could ever work together well because “they have an instinctive distrust of one another” and aren’t natural allies. We can only hope the late diplomatic leader was right.

Henry Kissinger was criticized over her career, but during his lengthy and productive life, he stood tall as a patriot and defender of U.S. and global security. 

At age 100, Kissinger produced a national security analysis that will continue to guide the U.S. for years. 

God bless his memory.