The life and times of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is pictured wearing a blue suit at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

File: Henry Kissinger attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 24, 2013. Picture: Pascal Lauener Reuters

Published May 19, 2023



On May 27, Henry Kissinger will celebrate his 100th birthday. As national security adviser and secretary of state, Henry Kissinger significantly influenced US foreign policy from 1969 to 1976 under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

In 1969, for the first time, the US and the USSR agreed to significantly slow the nuclear arms race with the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (Salt).

The Vietnam War had settled into a deadly stalemate, dividing America. Kissinger led the peace talks, which allowed the US military to make a secure and dignified withdrawal in 1973, after eight years of conflict.

As adviser for national security affairs and secretary of state, Henry Kissinger was a significant influence in shaping US foreign policy from 1969 to 1976 under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

The Nixon administration made a diplomatic rapprochement with mainland China to strengthen America’s position in Asia. The Communists had won control in 1949, estranging the US After Kissinger’s secret negotiations with premier Zhou Enlai, Nixon took a spectacular trip to China in February 1972 to seal the new relationship.

In October 1973, Israeli officials telephoned Kissinger to say that they were fighting off an invasion. Egyptian forces attacked the Sinai while the Syrian army was in Israel’s north. The so-called fourth Arab-Israel War had begun. Nixon dispatched Kissinger to negotiate with Israel, Egypt, and Syria - Kissinger’s famous “shuttle diplomacy”.

Kissinger’s successes make him a diplomat of historical stature, leaving his mark on the 20th century.

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