Henry Kissinger: ‘We are now living in a totally new era’ | FT

I'm here at the kennedy center where i've just spoken to dr henry kissinger about the war in ukraine the prospects of it going nuclear how that compares with the cold war which of course is his era how china is viewing the situation between nato and russia and the prospect of a divided world between china and russia on the one side and the west on.

The other are we in a new cold war with china at the time that that we opened to china russia was the printable enemy but our relations with china were about as bad as they could be because we had fought the korean war against them our.

View in opening to china was that it was unwise when you have two enemies that you treat them exactly alike and that you should at least provide an opportunity.

For whatever differences might appear between them or for whatever the international situation might produce of different attitudes to provide a possibility for that and so this is why in a tortured way we.

Approached china what produced the opening was the tension that had developed autonomously between russia and china and which had an expression in border imported its issues which we were so convinced that the chinese were they more ideologically.

Committed that we at first thought the incidents had been started by the chinese but that was not true that the russians wanted to teach china a legend but that russia could not brezhnev could not conceive that china and the united states could.

Get together and mao despite all his ideological hostility to us mouth was ready to to begin conversations it's not imprintable.

It is an alliance which is against western interests is now established um but it does not look to me as if this is an intrinsically permanent relationship.

It is geographically demographically eighty percent of the russian population lives in the european part much of the asian part of russia much of the most of siberia was acquired.

Recently as history is measured in the second half of the 19th century i take it from your answer just now that it would be in america's geopolitical interests to at least encourage more distance between russia and china and you touched.

Um on the great siberian the great uh empty space north of very densely populated china i think you could also have mentioned the belt and road initiative coming right through russia's near abroad there are neuralgias there with russia being a.

Little brother that are available to exploit or is that wrong i think the geopolitical situation globally will undergo significant changes after the ukraine war is over and it is.

Not natural for china and russia to have identical interests on all foreseeable problems i don't think we can generate possible disagreements but i think circumstances uh.

The after the ukraine war russia will have to reassess its relationship to europe at the minimum and its general attitude towards nato and so will america and especially europe.

Have to do when the lessons of this period thinking and so i think it is unwise to take a adversarial position.

To two adversaries in a way that drives them together and once we take aboard this principle in our relationships with europe and in our internal discussions i think.

History will provide opportunities in which we can apply the differential approach that doesn't mean that either of them will become intimate friends of the west it only means that on specific issues.

As they believe openly option that a different approach it's we are prepared to explore uh differences in approach.

In terms of our own relationship without discussing in the abstract what their relationship with each other would be because that will be determined by their own interests and by their own domestic situation but in view of general strategy.

In the period ahead of us we should not lump russia and china together as an integral element so i i mean i take it teasing out from your remarks that the biden administration's framing of its gram geopolitical.

Challenge as being democracy versus autocracy i'm i'm picking up an implicit hint that you think that's the wrong framing i am not in agreement with stating an adversarial position as the basic element of the relationship.

But of course we have to be conscious of the differences about ideology and of interpretation that exists but we should use this consciousness to apply it in our own analysis of the importance of issues as they arise rather than making it the principal.

Issue of confrontation unless we are prepared to make regime changes the principal goals of our foreign policy which i think given the evolution of technology and the enormous destructiveness of weapons that now exist.

May be imposed on us by the hostility of others but we should avoid generating it with our own attitude okay let's get into the specifics of today now you made your name of course in the 50s um studying nuclear theory and and strategy and then as national security advisor.

And secretary of state in the 1970s you have probably more experience than any person alive of how to manage a standoff between two nuclear-armed superpowers you had a couple of defcon three or two moments i can't remember which defcon.

Level they were but one was when the soviets wanted to send peacekeeping troops into the sinai desert let's not get into that but today's nuclear language which is coming thick and fast um from putin from people around putin where do you put that in the context of all the dangers we went through cuba.

Missile crisis near accidents in 1983 etc where do you put today's nuclear language uh in terms of the threat we we might be facing today now in a technology where the rapidity of its change.

The subtlety of the inventions can produce levels of catastrophe that were not even imaginable in the period that i'm talking that i was talking about and the strange aspect of the present situation is that.

The weapons are multiplying on both sides and their sophistication is increasing literally with every year and their range and automaticity and almost any other noun you want to attach.

To them but there's almost no discussion that's internationally about what would happen if the weapons actually became used so my appeal in general in my discussions on which whatever side you are in these discussions.

Is to understand that we are now living in a totally new era that we have gotten away as cultures up to now with neglecting that aspect but it but as its technology is spread.

Around the world as it does inherently diplomacy and war will need a different content and that will be a challenge for the immediate future now you've met correct me if i'm wrong.

But ballpark you've met vladimir putin 20 25 times um the russian military nuclear doctrine is that um they will respond with nuclear weapons or consider the use of nuclear weapons if they feel that the regime is under existential threat that its existence but of course the word.

Existential is in the eye of the beholder uh where do you think putin's red line is in this situation i have met putin as a student of international affairs about once a year for a period of maybe 15 years.

For purely academic and strategic discussions to try to learn its thinking and impart whatever thinking i had if he as as the as the conversation developed um i thought he was.

It's basic convictions were a kind of mystic faith in russian history as he conceived it and that he felt offended in that sense not by anything we did particularly at.

First but simply by this huge gap that opened up in between in between europe and uh the east when the security lines were moved from the elbow towards some at first undefined future.

And so he as i understood him was offended and threatened and felt russia was threatened by the absorption of this whole area into into nato.

This does not excuse and i would not have predicted an attack of the magnitude of taking over a recognized country with which all kinds of non-military agreements.

Existed he miscalculated the situation he faced internationally and he obviously miscalculated his russia's capabilities to sustain such a major enterprise and.

When the time for settlement comes all parties will need to take that into into consideration that we are not going back to the previous relationship but to a position for russia.

That will be different as a result of this and not because we demand it because they have produced it you say that putin miscalculated i mean arguably massively miscalculated in his expectations of the military conquest of ukraine and the.

Reception he would get from ukrainians a lot of the nuclear theory and strategic theory you worked on assumes people have good information and that they can act rationally on that good information do you think he's now recalibrating having miscalculated do you think he's getting good.

Information and if he isn't what further miscalculations should we be preparing for in all these crises one has to try to understand what the inner red line is for the opposite number and.

If we had met six months ago well i first as i said wouldn't have thought that he would start a war of that scale in europe or anywhere so the obvious question is the first of all.

And how long will this escalation continue and how much scope does he have for further escalation or has he reached the limit of his capabilities and he has to decide at what point.

Escalating the war will strain its society to a point that will limit its fitness to conduct international policy as a great power in the future i have no judgment when he will come to.

That point the second level is when that point is reached really escalate by moving into categories or weapons that in 70 years of their existence have never been used.

Weapons in which nuclear countries accepted defeat from non-nuclear countries like both russia and we in afghanistan without resorting to weapons which in a purely technical sense could have ended the conflict so if that line is crossed.

That will be an extraordinarily significant event because we have not thought through globally what the next dividing lines would be and we have to think of how to react where it would happen.

But one thing we could not do in my opinion it's just accepted because that would open a new method of blackmail i mean you've met xi jinping many times too and his predecessors you you know china well um what lessons is china drawing from this.

Any chinese leader now all chinese leaders would be reflecting how to avoid getting into the situation into which putin got himself and how to be in a position where in any crisis that might arrange it they.

Would not have the major part of the world turned against them and the key decision america and china will have to make down the road not in any one month is your first question uh is the relationship so adversarial.

That there is no hope of composing even parts of it and therefore must every issue be dealt with in terms of relative position and therefore it's the best hope of.

Restraint the selfish range of leaders on both sides thank you very much for joining us and for making the effort to come down here today and i'm sure everyone else will join me in appreciation of your.

Henry Kissinger: ‘We are now living in a totally new era’ | FT

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