As controversial in death as in life: Tributes pour in for Henry Kissinger

Tributes and statements have begun pouring in for the influential US diplomat after he died aged 100 at his Connecticut home on Wednesday

Rachel Sharp,Ariana Baio
Thursday 30 November 2023 21:33 GMT
Henry Kissinger, America's most famous diplomat, dies aged 100

Henry Kissinger was as divisive in death as in life.

As news circulated that Kissinger, 100, died on Wednesday evening, the world reacted to his passing with mixed feelings.

Statements from political figures, world leaders and organisations poured in, recognising Kissinger’s remarkable impact on US foreign policy during the Cold War.

As former president Richard Nixon’s national security advisor, he was responsible for negotiating the US’s exit from the unpopular Vietnam War.

Though he won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work, Kissinger’s legacy was tainted when it emerged he authorised the secret carpet-bombing of Cambodia killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and conducted covert negotiations to obtain the Paris Peace Accords which ultimately did not hold up.

Despite this, Kissinger remained a central figure in several administrations’ approach to foreign politics. Even after leaving his official diplomatic capacity, he continued to advise several administrations and wrote several books.

Here’s what world leaders, political allies and foes have been saying since his death.

George W Bush remembers ‘distinctive voice’ on foreign affairs

Former president George W Bush remembered Kissinger as “one of the most dependable and distinctive voices” on foreign affairs.

“America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger. I have long admired the man who fled the Nazis as a young boy from a Jewish family, then fought them in the United States Army,” he said.

“He worked in the Administrations of two Presidents and counseled many more. I am grateful for that service and advice, but I am most grateful for his friendship. Laura and I will miss his wisdom, his charm and his humor. And we will always be thankful for the contributions of Henry Kissinger.”

China mourns death of ‘old friend’

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called Kissinger an “old friend and good friend of the Chinese people, and a pioneer and builder of China-US relations.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has also sent his condolences to President Joe Biden, the spokesperson added.

China News wrote in an obituary: “Today, this ‘old friend of the Chinese people,’ who had a sharp vision and a thorough understanding of world affairs, has completed his legendary life.”

CCTV, the state broadcaster, called Kissinger a “legendary diplomat” and a “living fossil” who had been a witness to the development of China-US relationship, as it broadcast archive footage of his first secret visit to China in 1971.

On Chinese social media on Thursday, many also mourned his passing, with a top comment on Weibo reading: “Farewell, old friend of the Chinese people.”

Kissinger is well-regarded in China after he became the first high-ranking US official to visit China in 1971, playing an integral role in building diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington.

Cambodian scholars remember ‘controversial’ figure

The head of the Independent Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang, described Kissinger’s legacy as “controversial.”

“Henry Kissinger’s bombing campaign likely killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians — and set (a) path for the ravages of the Khmer Rouge,” Sophal Ear, a scholar at Arizona State University who studies Cambodia’s political economy, wrote on The Conversation.

“The cluster bombs dropped on Cambodia under Kissinger’s watch continue to destroy the lives of any man, woman or child who happens across them,” Sophal Ear wrote.

World leaders recognise Kissinger’s diplomacy

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu called Kissinger’s death the “end of an era” and recognised him as a friend and scholar.

“Dr Kissinger’s departure marks the end of an era, one in which his formidable intellect and diplomatic prowess shaped not only the course of American foreign policy but also had a profound impact on the global stage,” Mr Netanyahu said.

Mr Netanyahu praised Kissinger’s intelligence, contributions to international relations and “extraordinary capabilities.”

“As we bid farewell to this giant of a man, I extend my deepest condolences to his family, friends, and admirers around the world. His legacy will continue to inspire and guide future generations of leaders and diplomats. May his memory be a blessing,” he added.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union Commission, recognised Kissinger’s impact on American politics in a statement posted on X.

“His influence and legacy will continue to reverberate well into the 21st century,” Ms von der Leyen said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Nancy Kissinger, the window of Kissinger, his condolences in a telegram, according to Reuters.

“The name of Henry Kissinger is inextricably linked with a pragmatic foreign policy line, which at one time made it possible to achieve detente in international tensions and reach the most important Soviet-American agreements that contributed to the strengthening of global security,” Mr Putin said.

“I had the opportunity to personally communicate with this deep, extraordinary man many times, and I will undoubtedly retain the fondest memory of him.”

US politicians condemn and praise Kissinger

Lawmakers in the US shared different perspectives while reflecting on Kissinger’s life.

Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly called on people to reassess Kissinger’s legacy, saying he “unleashed some of the worst violence of the last fifty years in Chile, Cambodia, Iran and Vietnam.”

Ohio Senator JD Vance said although Kissinger “did more than a few things” he did not like, he praised his ability to “see an enemy’s perspective.”

“He was the kind of statesman who could see an enemy’s perspective even if he didn’t share it, and didn’t use every diplomatic disagreement to make some childish moral argument,” Mr Vance wrote.

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice recalled her first encounter with Kissinger, saying he became a “trusted advisor, a confidant, and most of all, a very dear friend,” to her.

Chilean Ambassador questions Kissinger’s morality

Juan Gabriel Valdes, the Chilean Ambassador to the US marked Kissinger’s death by questioning his morality.

In a translated post on X, Mr Valdes wrote: “A man whose historical brilliance never managed to hide his deep moral misery has died. K.”

Declassified documents revealed that Kissinger had played a role in the US’s attempt to interrupt the 1973 inauguration of Chilean president Salvador Allende.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in