Putin praises ‘wise and far-sighted’ Kissinger

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with former US secretary of State Henry Kissinger (R) during the meeting of Russian-U.S. public working group 'Russia-US : look into the future' in Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow 13 July 2007
Henry Kissinger met Vladimir Putin on many occasions - Sergei Chirikov/EPA
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Vladimir Putin has praised Henry Kissinger as a “wise and far-sighted statesman” who calmed Cold War tensions with a “pragmatic” foreign policy, after the diplomat died aged 100.

The Russian president, an international pariah after his invasion of Ukraine, drew an unflattering comparison with Joe Biden’s policy of sending weapons to Kyiv.

In a message to Mr Kissinger’s wife, Putin said his name was “inextricably linked with a pragmatic foreign policy line”.

This, he added “at one time made it possible to achieve détente in international tensions and reach the most important Soviet-American agreements that contributed to the strengthening of global security”.

As secretary of state under Richard Nixon, Mr Kissinger coaxed the Soviet Union into talks that became known as détente and led to the first arms control treaties between Moscow and Washington.

He met Putin on several occasions over the years and forged a closer relationship with him as Russian relations with the US deteriorated.

Last year, Mr Kissinger controversially suggested that Ukraine should make a peace deal with Russia, which Kyiv dismissed as “appeasing the aggressor”.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former president of Russia, said: “He was a pragmatist who took realities into consideration, and not just followed the US foreign policy canons. Now, there aren’t even traces of the people like him in the US administration and the Western world.”

Mr Kissinger played a crucial role in the thaw in relations between the US and “Red China”, part of a “triangular strategy” that led the two communist countries into competition to improve relations with Washington.

Nixon’s surprise visit to China prompted an invitation to visit the Soviet Union from Leonid Brezhnev in 1972, just three months later.

Mr Kissinger is also credited with having edged the Soviet Union out of its sphere of influence in the Middle East for nearly four decades until Putin entered the Syrian Civil War in 2015.

He continued to be involved in global affairs past his 100th birthday, visiting Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, in July this year and advising a string of US presidents on foreign policy.

Beijing’s foreign ministry hailed Mr Kissinger for his “historic contributions” to US-Sino relations, describing him as an “old and good friend of the Chinese people”.

But Mr Kissinger was also branded a war criminal for the secret bombing of Cambodia and criticised for his role in a coup in Chile.

Youk Chhang, the head of the independent Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Kissinger’s legacy was “controversial”.

Rolling Stone magazine’s obituary was headlined: “Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies.”

In Times Square in New York, where pro-Palestinian protesters were demonstrating against the war in Gaza, cheers could be heard after an organiser announced the news of his death.

But Isaac Herzog, the Israeli president, said Mr Kissinger “laid the cornerstone of the peace agreement, which [was] later signed with Egypt,” to end the Yom Kippur war of 1973.

Mr Kissinger fled Nazi Germany as a Jewish refugee in 1938 and later served in the US Army in Europe during the Second World War.

“He always remained close to his German homeland. The world has lost a great diplomat,” said Olaf Scholz, the German Chancellor.

George W Bush, the former US president, said: “I have long admired the man who fled the Nazis as a young boy from a Jewish family, then fought them in the United States Army.”

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