LONDON – Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on Tuesday warned of Russia's simmering alienation from its western neighbors but said he believed that President Vladimir Putin will ultimately work toward cooperative relationships with countries on its borders.
During his diplomatic career, the 94-year-old senior statesman supported a policy of detente with the Soviet Union, opened relations with China and helped negotiate the Paris Peace Accords, which helped end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He was also involved in negotiating with Syria to stop the fighting that emerged from the 1973 war between Egypt and Israel.
Speaking at the Margaret Thatcher Conference on Security in London, Kissinger predicted ongoing friction with Russia over Ukraine and Syria. Russia, which has backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, on Tuesday dismissed U.S. claims that Assad was preparing for a chemical weapons attack. The United States has offered no evidence to support the claim.
"Russia has evolved to what amounts to a definition of absolute security (and) absolute insecurity for some of its neighbors," Kissinger said during the keynote address, adding that Putin's view of international politics is reminiscent of 1930's European nationalist authoritarianism. "Russia wants to be accepted by Europe and transcend it simultaneously."
Kissinger also warned that with political chaos enveloping Britain and the United States, Russia, India and China could gain a foothold in creating a new world order. He also said that without strategic thought, two scenarios could unfold in U.S.-China relations: repeated confrontation or co-evolution born out of a "conscious need to avoid conflict."
While Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, his career has been marked by numerous controversies, including his involvement in U.S. bombing campaigns in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, support for Pakistan's military dictatorship in the 1970s against what is now Bangladesh and U.S. involvement in the 1973 coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende.