Point-blank: Kissinger’s proposals

Mohamed Salmawy
Friday 10 Jun 2022

The backlash continues against former secretary of state Henry Kissinger for his remarks about the Russia-Ukraine crisis.


The veteran statesman took the occasion of his 99th birthday to give the world a precious gift: the voice of reason, which has been silenced in the midst of the thunder and fever of war. This applies in particular to the US where an unvarying chorus has been stridently insisting that Russia must be defeated regardless of the cost. But, in a video interview with Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF), the seasoned elderly diplomat sounded a different note. His purpose was to start some ripples in a diplomatically stagnant pond which has offered no hope for a political solution. 

Perhaps the most important part of Kissinger’s suggestion concerned the non-acquisition of territory of another sovereign state by force as this principle applies to Ukraine. For centuries, Ukraine had been an integral part of the Russian Empire. Indeed, the Russian state was essentially founded in Kyiv. It was from this perspective that Kissinger proposed ceding some portions of Ukraine to Russia in order to end the war. He believes that the total defeat the US wants to inflict on Russia is not only unachievable but undesirable. What is needed are efforts to find the means to incorporate Russia as much as possible in the European system rather than to drive it into an anti-Western alliance with China. 

The Ukrainian president vehemently dismissed Kissinger’s ideas. Yet, some circles in Europe seemed receptive, exposing some of the cracks in European opinion. Urging the need to be realistic about the war in Ukraine, the Guardian called for peace negotiations based on the situation on the ground rather than on what people think it should be. The writer warned that perpetuating the war would be disastrous for Ukraine which is already running up its deficit at the rate of $5 billion a month. According to the Ukrainian finance minister, the war is costing his country 70 per cent of its revenues. 

Kissinger cautioned that the parties needed to be brought to the negotiating table within the next two months because beyond that point tensions and upheaval will be much harder to overcome. Will his rational advice prevail within this time frame? Or will Washington’s obstinacy persist, courting the tipping point of World War III?

*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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