Global Disorder

Henry Kissinger: Diplomacy Has its Limits

Henry Kissinger in NY Kai Nedden HB
Henry Kissinger during an interview with Handelsblatt in New York.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Henry Kissinger, now 92, remains a powerful voice in the global foreign policy debate.

  • Facts


    • Henry Kissinger is a former diplomat who served as secretary of state to U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
    • He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
    • Mr. Kissinger published his latest book called “World Order” in September 2014.
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Henry Kissinger is famous for his political realism, and prefers diplomatic solutions to military conflict. In an exclusive interview, the former U.S. secretary of state under presidents Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon made it clear that diplomacy has its limits even today.

Mr. Kissinger said he sees no chance of a “meaningful negotiation” with Islamic State and instead called for the group’s military defeat. That doesn’t mean diplomacy won’t play a role: The 92-year-old diplomat called for a broader coalition of Middle East and transatlantic actors to defeat the radical Islamist group.

When it comes to the refugee crisis created partly out of the war in Syria, Mr. Kissinger sees more opportunities. Despite the reluctance by many in Europe to accept the influx of more than a million asylum seekers, Mr. Kissinger took a more positive view: “The immigration issue in Europe is a very rare historic event where a region does not defend its borders, but instead has opened its borders. That has not happened for several thousand years.”

Mr. Kissinger, himself a refugee who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938 and came to the United States, said he had “great sympathy” for the difficult situation that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has found herself in when it comes to the refugee crisis, but urged her to be mindful of the impact on society. The United States, long “a country of immigrants,” could also do more to help.

Mr. Kissinger also sees a very different historic event in Europe as a potential road map for the Middle East. The 92-year old former diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner called for “something like the Treaty of Westphalia” for the Middle East, referring to the broad treaty that reset Europe’s borders, ended the 30 Years’ War on the continent in 1648 and became the basis for a new international order. Only with such a comprehensive deal could the “turmoil” in the Middle East today finally come to an end.


Handelsblatt: Dr. Kissinger, since you published your new book, “World Order,” it seems that every week the world has gotten into deeper disorder. It feels more archaic, more brutal, more chaotic. What are the main driving forces for our current situation?

Henry Kissinger: Of course, the book was not written as a prescription of the immediate future. It tried to describe a condition and indicate what the long term dangers were. So I am not surprised that there is more disorder in the world. I think the fundamental problems are these: It’s the first time in history that events are concurring contemporaneously. That means that people know what is going on in every part of the world, simultaneously. That accelerates processes and makes them more complicated. Secondly, there are a number of upheavals in different parts of the world. But they don’t have the same characteristics, so there is no unifying principle by which they can be solved.

The past confrontations between East and West, but also the North-South divide had in comparison an almost clear and calculable structure. What regions are you most concerned about today?

The Middle East! There you have in itself three or four different revolutions going on simultaneously. There are upheavals against the existing state, upheavals among various religious groups, between various ethnic groups, and upheavals going across national boundaries.  And there are attacks on the whole system. And this is only one region!

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