Nikita Chernyshenko's Blog

Kissinger’s Mystery

May 22, 2017
What advice could a 93-year-old political guru give to President Trump on his dealings with Russia?During his presidential campaign Donald Trump often highlighted the necessity of repairing relations with Russia presumably ruined by the outgoing Obama administration. However, this task has appeared to be a hard nut to crack. In Washington controversy over alleged Russian meddling in the US elections continues to be on the rise. Trump’s recent firing of FBI Director Comey aroused suspicion that the Director had refused to stop investigation into Trump’s team suspected connections with Russian authorities. Amid an internal crisis Donald Trump can’t simply go to Moscow, shake hands with Putin, and press another “perezagruzka” button. He needs to choose subtler a course. That’s why Trump visibly prefers to deal with Moscow indirectly. On 10th of May US President held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The same day Donald Trump received another visitor: Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. One can easily deduce that it was no coincidence. Still, what advice can “America’s most controversial statesman” – according to historian Greg Grandin – give to so far the least popular President in the American history?REUTERS/Kevin LamarqueHenry Kissinger never was a “classical” politician. On the contrary, he raised to prominence in the field rather distant from the messy world of US politics – the academy. Graduated in 1950 from Harvard, Kissinger decided to concentrate on studying international relations. In 1955 he was recruited by the Council on Foreign Relations to head a study group exploring the impact of nuclear weapons on international relations. His work resulted in the book “Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy”. The book won universal critical acclaim despite the fact that Kissinger virtually broke through the confines of the conventional “nuclear thinking” by arguing in favor of “limited nuclear war”. In fact he called for unleashing nuclear war lest the Soviets try to win control over strategically important regions. A decade later Kissinger threw away his own idea pressing for massive military build-up involving all NATO countries. In 1960s he tended to believe that conventional military forces were enough to thwart the Soviet encroachments on the European peoples. Reading through dozens of pages written by Kissinger in 1950s and 1960s one can easily get an impression that Kissinger wasn’t a friend of the Russians. Before he took office Kissinger had believed that he fathomed the nature of the Soviet regime. Perceiving the Soviet Union as a “revolutionary power” (a term coined in Kissinger’s PhD thesis focusing on the Napoleonic wars) Kissinger feared that the Kremlin was seeking world domination (a suspicion apparently as old as Henry Kissinger himself). In the 1970s Kissinger performed sort of an U-turn proposing his famous “triangular diplomacy” aimed at balancing the Soviet Union and China against each other to secure US predominant position in the world affairs. For decades Henry Kissinger has enjoyed a reputation of cold-blooded realist with a Machiavellian tinge. In his major books as well as in the numerous articles (Kissinger’s always been a rather prolific writer) Kissinger used to uphold the notion that power was the only thing actually mattered. He never went soft neither on Russia nor on any other country that dared to challenge American supremacy. However, Kissinger valued goal over ideology. What Kissinger could have advised Trump that day? We’ll never know that for sure. Nevertheless, we are able to make guesses. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the latest visit to Moscow rightly pointed out that the US – Russia relations hit a low point. With the ongoing investigation of alleged Russia’s involvement in the presidential election any attempt to restore cooperation between the Kremlin and the White House would seem reckless. In 1970s Nixon and Kissinger faced similar stalemate: direct confrontation with the Soviets proved fruitless while the Chinese remained hostile. In that case Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor chose to think outside the box. Kissinger orchestrated the secret Nixon’s trip to China in 1972. It was a bold move, no doubt, because since the Communist takeover in 1949 United States had refused to acknowledge the new government openly demonstrating the sympathy for the Taiwan exiles.Donald Trump and Henry Kissinger met on 10th of May. Less than a fortnight later President Trump left for Saudi Arabia seeking to restore relations with America’s chief Muslim ally which were seriously damaged by the controversial immigration ban affected citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries. In the highly anticipated speech Trump praised Muslim countries struggling with the extremists and mildly urged them to continue the fight against terrorism (the adjective Islamic was reasonably dropped). We will see if this apparently Kissinger-style move proves equally successful in comparison with the diplomatic opening of China in 1972.
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