Renowned American diplomat Henry Kissinger passes away at the age of 100

Henry Kissinger, the former US Secretary of State, whose unapologetic advocacy for robust American power helped shape the post-World War II world, passed away on Wednesday, as reported by his consulting firm. He was 100 years old.

“Dr. Henry Kissinger, a respected American scholar and statesman, passed away today at his residence in Connecticut,” announced Kissinger Associates in a statement late on Wednesday. The statement mentioned that a private funeral for Kissinger’s family would take place, with a later memorial service scheduled in New York, where Kissinger spent his formative years after his Jewish family fled Nazi Germany. The cause of his death was not disclosed.

Even in his centenarian years, Kissinger remained active, traveling to China in July for a meeting with President Xi Jinping. His connection with China stands as one of his most enduring legacies. In an attempt to recalibrate the Cold War against the Soviet Union, Kissinger covertly initiated contact with Beijing, leading to a historic 1972 visit by President Richard Nixon and subsequently establishing US relations with the then-isolated country. This initiative propelled China into becoming the world’s second-largest economy and a significant competitor with Washington.

Following Nixon’s resignation due to the Watergate scandal, Kissinger continued to serve under his successor, Gerald Ford. In a unique arrangement, he held both the positions of Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations to end the Vietnam War, despite the conflict not ending immediately and his North Vietnamese counterpart, Le Duc Tho, declining the prize.

Despite being despised in many parts of the world, Kissinger, as an elder statesman, commanded respect, even from the rival Democratic Party. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended his 100th birthday celebration in New York. Former President George W. Bush remarked in a statement, “America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger.”

Realpolitik Philosophy and its Impact

While Kissinger’s intellect was begrudgingly acknowledged by critics, his ruthless philosophy of realpolitik—believing that nations pursue their interests through power—remained deeply controversial. Declassified documents revealed his approval for undermining Chile’s elected Marxist president Salvador Allende and supporting General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup. He also backed Indonesia as it annexed East Timor in 1975, resulting in over 100,000 East Timorese deaths.

Kissinger’s involvement in geopolitics further extended to instances like the atrocities in Bangladesh’s fight for independence in 1971, where he prioritized US interests in maintaining a diplomatic relationship with China via Pakistan. Additionally, he authorized a secret bombing campaign in Laos and Cambodia during 1969-1970 as an attempt to strengthen the US position in Vietnam, resulting in civilian casualties and indirectly contributing to the rise of the Khmer Rouge.

His role in the Cyprus crisis in 1974, when Turkey invaded the island after the deposition of Cyprus’s elected leader, Archbishop Makarios, reflected another controversial aspect of Kissinger’s tenure.

Legacy and Legal Standing

Despite his controversial actions, Kissinger avoided significant legal consequences. In 2004, a US judge dismissed a lawsuit connected to the assassination of Chile’s army chief, ensuring Kissinger’s immunity from serious legal jeopardy.

Kissinger received acclaim across the US political spectrum post the 1973 Yom Kippur War due to his intensive negotiations between Israel and Arab states, which established the United States as a primary mediator and security guarantor in the region.

Known for his thick-rimmed glasses and distinctive deep monotone voice with traces of his native German accent, Kissinger, an immigrant academic turned ultimate insider, became widely recognizable to the public, a rarity for Secretaries of State. Additionally, he became an unlikely figure of admiration, engaging with prominent women. When asked about his reputation, Kissinger famously replied, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

He is survived by his wife of nearly 50 years, Nancy, two children from a previous marriage, and five grandchildren, according to his consulting firm.

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