Henry Kissinger, a prominent figure in U.S. foreign policy and a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, passed away at his Connecticut home, as confirmed by Kissinger Associates Inc.
Having served under two U.S. presidents, Kissinger remained active well into his centenary year. He continued his involvement in White House meetings, authored a book on leadership styles, and provided testimony to a Senate committee regarding the nuclear threat from North Korea. Notably, in July 2023, he made an unexpected visit to Beijing for discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During the 1970s, while serving as Secretary of State under Republican President Richard Nixon, Kissinger played a significant role in pivotal global events. His contributions led to diplomatic breakthroughs, including the opening of relations with China, critical U.S.-Soviet arms control talks, enhanced ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.
Following Nixon's resignation in 1974, Kissinger's influence on U.S. foreign policy diminished. Nevertheless, he remained a notable diplomatic figure during President Gerald Ford's tenure and continued to express strong opinions throughout his life.
While widely admired for his expertise and experience, Kissinger faced criticism for supporting anti-communist dictatorships, particularly in Latin America. His international travels were restricted as several nations sought to question or detain him regarding past U.S. foreign policy decisions.
The contentious awarding of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, shared with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho (who declined the honour), sparked debate and raised questions about the U.S.'s covert bombing of Cambodia. This drew significant criticism, leading to the resignation of two Nobel committee members.
President Ford praised Kissinger as a "super secretary of state" while acknowledging his sensitivity to criticism, which some saw as paranoia and egotism. Ford once remarked that "Henry, in his mind, never made a mistake," in an interview before his own passing in 2006.
Despite his serious demeanour and distinctive German-accented voice, Kissinger had a public persona as a ladies' man during his bachelor days, often seen with starlets in Washington and New York. He famously remarked that power was the ultimate aphrodisiac and likened himself to a lone cowboy hero riding into the sunset.
Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Furth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, he immigrated to the United States with his family in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. Adopting the name Henry, Kissinger became a U.S. citizen in 1943, served in the Army during World War II in Europe, and pursued higher education at Harvard University. He obtained master's and doctorate degrees and remained on Harvard's faculty for 17 years.
During this time, Kissinger advised several government agencies, acting as an intermediary for the State Department during the Vietnam War. His connections with President Lyndon Johnson's administration facilitated the transmission of peace negotiation information to Nixon's team.
Upon Nixon's victory in the 1968 presidential election, Kissinger became the national security adviser. However, the prolonged and violent process of "Vietnamization" witnessed substantial U.S. military involvement, including extensive bombing campaigns in Cambodia and North Vietnam.
In 1973, in addition to serving as national security adviser, Kissinger was appointed secretary of state, granting him unparalleled authority in foreign affairs. His 'shuttle diplomacy' strategies, notably between Israel and Syria, led to significant agreements, including the disengagement in the Golan Heights.
Kissinger's outreach to China, culminating in Nixon's historic summit with Chairman Mao Zedong, aimed to reduce Soviet influence, marking a pivotal shift in global relations.
Despite his successes, Kissinger faced criticism for his role in various conflicts, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and the India-Pakistan War, where his actions were heavily scrutinized and condemned.
After leaving government, Kissinger established a prominent consultancy firm, advised multinational corporations, authored books, and remained a sought-after commentator on international affairs. His appointment by President George W. Bush to head an investigative committee following the 9/11 attacks was met with controversy due to potential conflicts of interest stemming from his firm's clientele.
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Divorced from his first wife, Ann Fleischer, in 1964, Kissinger remarried Nancy Maginnes, an aide to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in 1974. He had two children from his first marriage.
Henry Kissinger's passing marks the conclusion of an era in global diplomacy, leaving a legacy that continues to influence international relations.