Global leaders across the decades offered tributes to former US Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, who died at home in Connecticut aged 100 last week.
An iconic and influential statesman of the 20th century, Kissinger, who fled Nazi Germany with his family to New York in 1938, served both President Gerald Ford and President Richard Nixon at the White House, securing his place at the highest level of foreign policy in American politics.
A statement from Kissinger Associates said he would be buried at a private family service before a memorial service to be announced in New York City.
President Isaac Herzog said Kissinger was a great friend of Israel with a brilliant mind on the global diplomatic landscape.
On behalf of the State of Israel, Herzog noted: “The nation is still blessed by the fruits of the historic processes he led, including laying the foundations for the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. In our final conversation, where I wished him a happy birthday, he told me, ‘remember, I always loved and supported Israel, and I always will.'”
Kissinger, the first Jewish person to hold the position of Secretary of State, is remembered for his ‘shuttle diplomacy’ for Middle East peace to help end the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Politically active to the end, he spoke about aborting a two-state solution with the Palestinians following Hamas’ October 7 massacre in Israel, reportedly telling Politico: ‘I don’t see a peaceful outcome with Hamas involved in the conflict. I would favor negotiations between the Arab world and Israel. I do not see, especially after these events, that direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are very fruitful.’
Regarding long-term Middle East peace, Kissinger stated: ‘A formal peace doesn’t guarantee a lasting peace. The difficulty of the two-state solution is shown by the experience of Hamas. Gaza was made quasi-independent by (former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon in order to test the possibility of a two-state solution. It has led, in fact, to a much more complex situation. It has become so much worse in the last two years than it has been in 2005.’
He added: ‘Egypt has moved closer to the Arab side, so Israel will have a very difficult time going forward. I hope that at the end of it there will be a negotiation, as I had the privilege to conduct at the end of the Yom Kippur War. At that time, Israel was stronger relative to the surrounding powers. Nowadays, it requires a greater involvement of America to prevent a continuation of the conflict.’
In post when the US exited Vietnam, and during Watergate, Kissinger impacted US relations with the Soviets and China, and the Cold War. A Nobel Peace Prize winner yet controversial figure, policies relating to Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and Latin America were criticized.
Long after his days at the forefront of international diplomacy, Kissinger remained a sought-after political figure, including when Donald Trump was in office. Through his consulting business, Republicans and Democrats sought his expertise. Aged 99, he promoted a leadership book.
Nixon’s daughters, Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, said Kissinger in a partnership with their father produced a “generation of peace” for the US.
They noted: “Dr. Kissinger played an important role in the historic opening to the People’s Republic of China and in advancing détente with the Soviet Union, bold initiatives which initiated the beginning of the end of the Cold War. His shuttle diplomacy to the Middle East helped to advance the relaxation of tensions in that troubled region of the world.”
President Joe Biden recalled the first time he met Kissinger.
“I was a young Senator, and he was Secretary of State, giving a briefing on the state of the world,” he said. “Throughout our careers, we often disagreed. And often strongly. But from that first briefing, his fierce intellect and profound strategic focus was evident. Long after retiring from government, he continued to offer his views and ideas to the most important policy discussion across multiple generations.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Kissinger set the standards for everyone who followed in the job.
Former president, George W. Bush, said America had lost a dependable and distinctive voice on foreign affairs.
Comments from other presidents followed Kissinger’s death.
“Kissinger has been a friend of mine, I’ve liked him, I’ve respected him,” Donald Trump said during an Oval Office meeting in 2017.
“I read all Dr. Kissinger’s books, and I was immensely enlightened by them,” Bill Clinton said in 2000.
Nixon told The Washington Post in 1999 that Kissinger had been the “greatest influence on me,” but added that “sometimes he is as wrong as hell.”
Gerald Ford told the paper in 1974: “Henry in his mind never made a mistake, so whatever policies there were that he implemented, in retrospect he would defend.”
Jimmy Carter described Kissinger as “brilliant and devious” in The Boston Globe in 1981.
“Kissinger is an extremely complicated guy,” George H.W. Bush noted in 1974. “Petty little unpleasant characteristics fade away, when you hear him discussing the world situation.” He added: “He is like a politician with the roar of a crowd on election eve or the athlete running out at the 50-yard line just before the kick-off. The public turns him on.”
In the UK, Lord David Cameron said: “He was a great statesman and a deeply respected diplomat who will be greatly missed on the world stage.” Cameron met Kissinger a few months ago when they discussed Iran, Russia, and the war in Ukraine. “Even at 100, his wisdom and thoughtfulness shone through,” he commented.
Former prime minister, Tony Blair, said: “If it is possible for diplomacy, at its highest level, to be a form of art, Henry was an artist.” He added: “Like anyone who has confronted the most difficult problems of international politics, he was criticized at times, even denounced but I believe he was always motivated not from a coarse ‘realpolitik’ but from a genuine love of the free world and the need to protect it.” Blair continued: “’Not once did he ever stop thinking about the future, reflecting on it, and proffering wisdom upon it, most recently on the technology revolution.”
Boris Johnson noted that the world had lost a “giant of diplomacy strategy and peacemaking”. He wrote: “The world needs him now. If ever there was an author of peace and lover of concord, that man was Kissinger.”
Amongst world leaders, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised Kissinger’s commitment to a transatlantic friendship. “He always remained close to his German homeland, the world has lost a great diplomat,” he said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Kissinger was a “giant of history”, adding, “Century of ideas and diplomacy had a long-standing influence on his time and on our world.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Kissinger’s contribution to US-Soviet relations as a “wise and visionary statesman” and contributed to strengthening global security.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hailed Kissinger’s “significant contributions to the regional peace and stability, including normalization of diplomatic ties between the US and China”.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said Kissinger, a recipient of the Theodor Herzl Award, was a “towering figure” who addressed some of the most complex issues of the mid-20th century and represented the best of the World War II generation. Lauder added that he was a statesman whose “wisdom and friendship were a beacon of light”.
Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, May 1923, he settled in Manhattan, changing his name to Henry. He is survived by his wife Nancy, children by his first marriage, David and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.