Henry Kissinger at 100

On May 27, Henry Kissinger celebrated his centennial. 100 years old. He is the only official in U.S. history to have served as both secretary of state and national security adviser. That was under Nixon and Ford. He is considered to be the patriarch of U.S. diplomacy, guided by his realpolitik and pragmatism in foreign policy matters as he played a key role in shaping Washington’s policy in the 1970s on a wide range of issues. He is also controversial, in particular for his role during the Vietnam war. 

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Kissinger again voiced some controversial opinions, this time about the situation in Ukraine. The US wanting to make Ukraine a NATO member was a serious mistake and led to the current conflict, Kissinger said. He added that the Biden administration has done many things right and that he supports them on Ukraine. 

In order to find peace, Kissinger argues that Ukraine should not attempt to return Crimea and Sevastopol because this can lead to negative consequences for the entire world. For Russia, the loss of Sevastopol, which was always not Ukrainian in history, would be such a comedown that the cohesion of the state would be in danger. 

So basically, Kissinger blames the U.S. for the conflict as a result of Biden’s desire to expand NATO eastward and he thinks Ukraine should let Crimea go. This is quite explosive views and goes against the opinions of the current administration. 

One could argue that in order to find a viable solution and eventually peace, both sides would have to give up something. For Ukraine, that would be giving up Crimea, for Russia, that would be giving up currently held territories in eastern Ukraine. At this point, this does not seem like a realistic peace plan. Russia was already in possession of Crimea since 2014 when the conflict started on February 2022. Since then, they have gained much territory of the eastern parts of Ukraine and stabilized its presence there. As this is the overwhelmingly Russian speaking part of Ukraine, it would be difficult to see that Russia would agree to a withdrawal from the region. 

Ukraine on the other hand will most likely want all territories back, including Crimea. This seems an unreasonable starting point to find lasting peace. The only way that could happen would be by an outright military victory, driving out Russia from the eastern territories and Crimea. Ukraine is heavily supported both financially and militarily by the west, in particular the U.S. At this point, there are no signs of diminishing support and over time the Ukrainian army will be better trained and better equipped, favoring them should the conflict continue for years to come. 

Realistically though, to follow Kissinger’s line of thoughts, the only way to find peace is for Ukraine to permanently give up territory. They will have to decide what they can sacrifice to align themselves with the west, the EU and NATO. It might cost them more than Crimea, but at this juncture, it looks like it could be worth for Ukraine. 

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  1. Brigadier General Peter Zwack, who served as a defense attache in Moscow at the time of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, just returned from a visit to the Ukraine and in a CNN interview observes that 80% of the Ukrainian people are “all-in” on fighting the Russian aggression… so it is unlikely that the war will end soon. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIgsf3rZszo)

    Regarding Crimea, there is also a danger that if we allow Russian to keep Crimea, it would set a dangerous precedent that could encourage other countries with nuclear power to annex smaller entities. I think democratic countries need to be in for the long haul on this one.

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