Like his lifetime, Kissinger’s death divides opinion around the world

(Jason Lee/Associated Press)

Like his lifetime, Kissinger’s death divides opinion around the world


November 30, 2023

Global leaders paid tribute to former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Thursday, but there was also sharp criticism of the man who remained an influential figure decades after leaving official service as one of the most powerful diplomats in US history.

Kissinger, who died on Wednesday at the age of 100, was praised as a skilled defender of American interests. On social media, he was widely called a war criminal who caused lasting damage around the world.

“America has lost one of its most trusted and distinctive voices” in foreign affairs, former President George W. Bush said, in a tone that many senior officials, past and present, tried to convey.

“I have long admired the man who fled the Nazis as a young boy from a Jewish family and then fought against them in the U.S. Army,” Bush said in a statement. When he later became Secretary of State, his appointment as a former refugee said as much about his greatness as it did about the greatness of America.

Kissinger served two presidents, Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, and dominated foreign policy as the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam and established ties with China.

In China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin called Kissinger a long-time friend and close friend of the Chinese people, and a pioneer and builder of China-US relations.

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Many on social media in China mourned his death. State broadcaster CCTV shared on social media an old segment showing Kissinger’s first secret visit to China in 1971, when he raised the possibility of building US-China relations and met with then-Prime Minister Zhou Enlai.

Kissinger exerted an unusual influence on global affairs long after he left office. For example, in July he met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, while US-China relations were at a low point.

Criticism of Kissinger, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was especially fierce on social media, where many posted celebratory videos in response to his death.

A Rolling Stone magazine headline read: Henry Kissinger, criminally beloved by America’s ruling class, finally dies.

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“Henry Kissinger’s bombings probably killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians and set off the attack [a] path for the Khmer Rouge’s devastation, Sophal Ear, a scholar at Arizona State University who studies Cambodia’s political economy, wrote on the Conversation website.

The cluster bombs dropped on Cambodia under Kissinger’s watch continue to destroy the lives of every man, woman or child who encounters them, Sophal Ear wrote.

The head of Cambodia’s Independent Documentation Center, Youk Chhang, described Kissinger’s legacy as controversial. More than half of Cambodia’s current population was born after the Khmer Rouge were ousted in 1979 and Kissinger left the government, so there isn’t much awareness among Cambodians about his record, he said.

Kissinger initiated negotiations in Paris that ultimately provided a face-saving way to get the US out of a costly war in Vietnam.

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Nixon’s daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, said their father and Kissinger enjoyed a partnership that produced a generation of peace for our nation.

Dr. Kissinger played a major role in the historic opening to the People’s Republic of China and in promoting détente with the Soviet Union, bold initiatives that marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. His shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East helped ease tensions in that troubled part of the world, the Nixon daughters said in a statement.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was in awe of Kissinger.

Of course, like anyone who has faced the toughest problems of international politics, he has been criticized and even denounced at times,” Blair said. But I believe he was always motivated, not by crude realpolitik, but by a genuine love for the free world and the need to protect it. He was a problem solver, whether it was the Cold War, the Middle East or China and its rise.”

Israeli President Issac Herzog told Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken in Tel Aviv on Thursday that Blinken is following in the footsteps of a giant, a titan, Dr. Henry Kissinger, who left us peacefully this evening.

He laid the cornerstone of the peace agreement [was] later signed with Egypt, and so many other processes around the world that I admire, Herzog said. I have always felt his love and compassion for Israel in his belief in the Jewish state.

Blinken said Kissinger really set the standard for anyone who followed the job. I have had the great privilege of receiving his counsel many times, including just a month ago. He was extremely generous with his wisdom and his advice. Few people were better students of history. Even fewer people have done more to shape history than Henry Kissinger.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a message to Kissinger’s wife that the late diplomat was a wise and far-sighted statesman and that his name was inextricably linked to a pragmatic line of foreign policy, which once made it possible to achieve détente in the international tensions. and achieving key Soviet-American agreements that helped strengthen global security.

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French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Henry Kissinger was a giant of history. His century of ideas and diplomacy had a lasting impact on his time and on our world.”

Leaders of Kissinger’s native Germany paid tribute to the former foreign minister.

His commitment to the transatlantic friendship between the US and Germany was significant, and he always remained close to his German homeland, Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

In a letter of condolence to Kissinger’s family, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote that Henry Kissinger’s détente and disarmament policy laid the foundation for the end of the Cold War and the democratic transition in Eastern Europe that led to the reunification of Germany .


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