Henry Kissinger, global US foreign policy figure, dies at 100

Former secretary of state to Richard Nixon became one of the most controversial and prominent figures in US foreign policy

Henry Kissinger, the former US secretary of state and national security adviser who helped open up relations with China, usher in a detente with the Soviet Union and end the US’s war in Vietnam, has died aged 100.

Mr Kissinger’s death at his home in Connecticut was confirmed by Kissinger Associates, his consultancy, which described him as a “respected American scholar and statesman” in a statement on Wednesday night.

Born in Germany, he fled the Nazi regime before the second World War, then became a US citizen and enlisted in the army during the conflict. After the war he turned to academia, teaching international relations for two decades at Harvard University.

Mr Kissinger’s stints in government came between 1969 and 1977, when he served under Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, at a time when cold war rivalries were evolving and economic tensions, including a big oil price shock, were consuming US foreign relations.


Kissinger Associates noted that his influence on world affairs continued well past his days in the White House – saying Mr Kissinger was “regularly consulted by American presidents of both political parties and scores of foreign leaders after he finished government service in 1977″.

Mr Kissinger won a shared Nobel Prize for negotiating the end to the Vietnam war. And while his push for more productive dialogue with China and the Soviet Union set the stage for a less tense phase of the cold war, he drew fierce criticism for adopting positions and taking actions that he deemed to be in US interests even if it meant supporting dictators and violating human rights around the world, from Chile and Argentina to Cambodia and Laos, as well as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country. I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend,” Bernie Sanders, the leftwing senator from Vermont, said during a debate with Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary contest.

Mr Kissinger remained active and vocal on big international issues despite his advanced age. Earlier this year, as the US sought to stabilise relations with Beijing, he travelled to China and met top officials there, triggering some regret in the White House.

“It’s unfortunate that a private citizen can meet with the defence minister and have a communication and the United States can’t,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said at the time.

After the deadly Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7th, which triggered a new conflict in Gaza, Mr Kissinger had warned in an interview with Axel Springer chief executive Mathias Döpfner that the war “has the danger of escalating and bringing in other Arab countries under the pressure of some of their public opinion”. He added: “And then we’re back to where we were in 1973,” referring to the Arab-Israeli conflict while he was in government.

Mr Kissinger had celebrated his 100th birthday at an event organised by the Economic Club of New York earlier this year, where he had summarised the pillars of a successful foreign policy for the US.

“We need to be always strong enough to resist any pressures. We must always be ready to defend what we define as our vital interests. We must also be clear about what our vital interests are and stay within those bounds,” he said according to Vox.

One of the earliest tributes after his death came from Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City. “Nobody in our country exercised more influence over global affairs over a longer period of time than Henry Kissinger, and his death is a loss for our country and the world – and for all of us who were fortunate enough to call him a dear friend and mentor,” Mr Bloomberg wrote on X.

Chinese media showered praise on Mr Kissinger on Thursday. In an article released on Chinese microblogging site Weibo under the title “Old friend, farewell”, state television CCTV praised his role in setting up the meeting between Nixon and Mao Zedong, which it described as the “trans-Pacific handshake that shook the world”.

Chinese media all noted that Mr Kissinger had visited China 100 times. The last time was in July, when Mr Kissinger met President Xi Jinping in Beijing, as Washington and Beijing strengthened efforts to improve relations that had dived this year after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over the US.

“We never forget our old friends, nor your historic contributions to promoting the growth of China-U.S. relations,” Mr Xi told him during the meeting, according to state news agency Xinhua. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2023