Henry Kissinger is one of the most well-known figures in U.S. foreign policy. Recently he delved into geopolitics once again, citing an appeasement strategy to satisfy the Kremlin in order to “save” Ukraine. These comments have drawn outrage in not just Kyiv, but much of the world. This is not the first time in history Kissinger has cited appeasement and a willingness to leave a smaller country out to dry against a neighboring country with imperialistic ambitions. These misguided foreign policy takes extend back to the 1960s.
Henry Kissinger is best known for serving as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under then President Richard Nixon and continuing in the latter role under President Gerald Ford. The Nixon years would be some of the most controversial in American foreign policy up until the 2000s. Becoming one of the most influential federal service officers, Kissinger’s foreign policy views shaped US geopolitical policies for decades to come. Many of his foreign policy decisions often came with controversial decisions that resulted in millions of people suffering. One such move involves the ‘One China’ policy approach during the Cold War.
In July 1971, Henry Kissinger made a then-secret diplomatic mission to the People’s Republic of China. Looking to take advantage of the Sino-Soviet Split, his purpose was to open up a second front against the USSR. With intentions of opening up the PRC to the western world and democracy, these policies had a domino effect felt to this day. Despite guarantees to the Republic of China (Taiwan) that the United States wouldn’t abandon them or make policy concessions to Mao Zedong, the opposite happened. In his second visit in October of that year, Kissinger stated that the PRC should have a key role at the United Nations, leading to the gradual isolation of Taiwan. Then US ambassador George W Bush stated it was best for the U.S. to recognize ‘two China’s’ but was scoffed at by Kissinger. Largely due to the U.S. having effectively disavowed Taiwan as the legitimate government of China, they were ultimately voted off their UN Security Council seat, which was then taken over by the CCP. Subsequently, due in large part to the One China policy, many nations would recognize only the PRC, effectively abandoning millions of people in Taiwan.
Vietnam War & Indochina
Kissinger’s role in the Vietnam War under the Nixon administration saw the U.S. expand the war into Cambodia and Laos after promising the general public of a drawdown. Kissinger, just like in China, would keep his diplomatic activities with the Vietcong secret from the American public. In some ways, Kissinger eclipsed Nixon with regard to American war strategies in the extremely brutal war. Despite being instrumental in ordering the bombings of Cambodia and Laos, which were carpeted with incendiary bombs and Napalm, Kissinger would untimely be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was so controversial, two committee members walked out in protest.
General Yahya Khan led a brutal military dictatorship in Pakistan and held extremely prejudice views of Bengalis and Hindus. His regime was supported by the Nixon administration, which naturally backed anyone who stood opposite a Soviet-friendly state; that state being India. In the early 1970s, India and the Soviet Union shared a treaty of friendship, largely to counter the growing relationship between Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China. Kissinger is alleged to hold a racist view of Indians, once stating “the Indians are bastards.” He would later state regret at the comments and that his personal views didn’t coincide with US foreign policy, but during the Bangladeshi genocide, the US did little to curb the Pakistani military. The US Navy, as requested by Kissinger, sent Task Force 74 to the Bay of Bengal to intimidate the Indian army and prevent it from intervening in widespread massacres; New Delhi eventually called the U.S. bluff and helped Bangladesh gain full independence.
Turkish Invasion of Cyprus
Arguably the most damaging foreign policy move under Kissinger happened in Cyprus. Richard Nixon had given Kissinger special status with regard to the Cyprus issue, as the president faced imminent impeachment. Ethnic tensions had reached an all-time high on the island between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot militias, with civilians being massacred on both sides. The Turkish Cypriots had leaned towards taksim with the Republic of Turkey. The Greek Cypriots were pro union (enosis) with the Hellenic Kingdom of Greece, with the EOKA-B militia leading the way. There was also the issue of British military bases on Cyprus, as the locals were demanding the British to leave, refusing to let their island become an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” of British colonialism.
Amidst a growing threat of Turkish military invasion, as the Greek military junta and EOKA-B had removed the president from power, the U.S. decided to take a side with disastrous effects. A day before Turkey fully invaded Cyprus, Kissinger told President Gerald Ford that the U.S. should fully back Turkey, even if it meant leaving a fellow NATO member, Greece, out to dry. Despite the U.S. firmly backing the military dictatorship of Greece, there was a growing believe that Cyprus was drifting toward the Soviet Union, as former President Archbishop Makarios was friendly toward Moscow. Kissinger even had prior knowledge of plans to dispose Makarios but withheld the information. If Cyprus was successful at expelling the remaining two British bases, NATO would no longer have a presence on the isle and that was a risk Kissinger was not willing to take. Kissinger would move to arm Turkish forces under Operation Attila to secure a Turkish presence on the isle. The “intervention” by Ankara soon turned into a humanitarian catastrophe. Over 200,000 Cypriots were displaced and 1,500 POWs and civilians were taken into mainland Turkey, never to be seen again. Mass graves to this day are still being found from the invasion. There were protests in the UK and US openly condemning Kissinger’s policies for the disaster that engulfed Cyprus.
There are other examples from Kissinger’s political career that cast a shadow over US geopolitics, such as the backing of the brutal Indonesian regime against East Timor, the support of brutal dictators in Latin America, being indecisive on ethnic tensions in Lebanon, and his part in expanding the Arab-Israeli conflict. As amazing of a life story Mr. Kissinger has, one can argue that history will not be kind to the decisions he has made to secure U.S. hegemony with complete disregard to millions of people, some of which continue to suffer to this day. Thus, the best way to ‘save’ Ukraine is to ignore Kissinger’s advice.
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