Henry Kissinger, a great controversial figure in American diplomacy and secretary of state under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, died Wednesday at the age of 100.
Key player in global diplomacy during the Cold WarHenry Kissinger “died today in his home in Connecticut,” his consulting firm Kissinger ociates said in a statement, without specifying the reason for his death.
The diplomat’s family will hold a private funeral, the statement said, referring to a subsequent public tribute ceremony in New York.
With his death, “America has lost one of its surest and most listened to voices in foreign policy,” greeted former American President George W. Bush, a Republican like him, in a press release.
Initiating rapprochement with Moscow and Beijing in the 1970s, Henry Kissinger saw his image tarnished by dark pages in the history of the United States, such as support for the 1973 coup in Chile or the invasion of Timor Eastern in 1975 and, of course, the Vietnam War.
In Beijing in July
It is his sense of “realpolitik”, of the cold calculation of national interests defended by power, that has made him a highly criticized figure around the world.
A diplomat as listened to as he was controversial, the man with the gravelly voice liked to distill his thoughts to journalists and at international conferences. Fascinating his audiences with his longevity and vast experience, he was admired by some as a great sage, hated by others who saw him as a war criminal.
The man, who celebrated his 100th birthday in May, had retained the ear of the great people of this world, many decades after leaving his responsibilities in international affairs.
He went to Beijing in July to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who on this occasion greeted a “legendary diplomat”.
Thawing of relationships
China occupies a special place in Kissinger’s career. He played a key role in the thaw of American relations with Mao’s China by making secret trips to organize Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Beijing in 1972.
This hand extended to China put an end to the isolation of the Asian giant and contributed to the rise of Beijing, initially economically, on the world stage.
Another important contribution: he led, always in the greatest secrecy and in parallel with the bombings of Hanoi, negotiations to end the Vietnam War.
Henry Kissinger is also recognized in the United States for his role as mediator between Israel and Arab countries. In 1973, after the surprise attack on Arab countries during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur in Israel, he notably organized a mive airlift to supply the Israeli ally with weapons.
A German Jew born in 1923 in Bavaria, Heinz Alfred Kissinger, he fled Nazi Germany and became a naturalized American at the age of 20. The son of a schoolteacher, he joined military counter-espionage and the American army before pursuing brilliant studies at Harvard, where he also taught.
Recognizable by his large frame of gles, he established himself as the face of world diplomacy when Republican Richard Nixon called him to the White House in 1969 as national security advisor, then as secretary of state, cumulatively both positions from 1973 to 1975.
He survived the departure of Nixon – who resigned in 1974 due to the Wantergate scandal – and remained master of diplomacy under his successor Gerald Ford until 1977.
Signing a ceasefire earned him the Nobel Peace Prize with the North Vietnamese leader in 1973, one of the most controversial in Nobel history.
Duke Tho refused the price, arguing that the negotiated truce was not respected, and Mr. Kissinger did not dare to go to Oslo, for fear of demonstrations.