Henry Kissinger, the Nobel Prize-winning academic and American diplomat, died at the age of 100 on Wednesday.
The “enigmatic realist“, who fled Nazi Germany for the United States as a child, became a US secretary of state and a political celebrity.
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His work on the diplomatic opening of China to the US and landmark US-Soviet arms deals earned him respect. However, his role in the Vietnam War, his polarising policies in the United States’s bombing of Cambodia from 1969, and his support for anti-communist dictatorships, particularly in Latin America, made him a divisive figure.
The news of his death evoked polarised reactions from around the world.
Xie Feng, ambassador to the United States
“Deeply shocked and saddened to learn of Dr. Kissinger’s passing at 100 … It is a tremendous loss for both our countries and the world. The history will remember what the centenarian had contributed to China-US relations, and he will always remain alive in the hearts of the Chinese people as a most valued old friend.”
Wang Wenbin, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson
“[Kissinger] had long been concerned about and supported the development of China-US relations, visiting China more than a hundred times and making historic contributions to promote the normalisation of China-US relations.”
Charles Michel, European Council president
“I had the privilege to meet with Henry several times. A kind human and a brilliant mind who, over one hundred years, shaped the destinies of some of the most important events of the century.”
Emmanuel Macron, president
“Henry Kissinger was a giant of history. His century of ideas and of diplomacy had a lasting influence on his time and on our world.”
Olaf Scholz, chancellor
Scholz hailed Kissinger for his “commitment to the transatlantic friendship”.
“He always remained close to his German homeland. The world has lost a great diplomat.”
Henry Kissinger shaped American foreign policy like few others. His commitment to the transatlantic friendship between the USA and Germany was significant, and he always remained close to his German homeland. The world has lost a great diplomat. pic.twitter.com/waEQsq51yo
— Bundeskanzler Olaf Scholz (@Bundeskanzler) November 30, 2023
Vladimir Putin, president
Putin expressed his condolences over the death of Kissinger, saying in a telegram to Kissinger’s widow Nancy that he was a “wise and farsighted statesman”.
“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,” Putin said according to a statement released by the Kremlin.
“I had the opportunity to personally communicate with this deep, extraordinary man many times, and I will undoubtedly retain the fondest memory of him.”
Dmytro Kuleba, foreign minister
“The century of Henry Kissinger was no easy one, but its great challenges fit his great and curious mind.”
The century of Henry Kissinger was no easy one, but its great challenges fit his great and curious mind. He changed its pace and the face of diplomacy. Crisp in thoughts, prolific in writings. His intellectual legacy will continue to influence the understanding of diplomacy and… pic.twitter.com/NaMJXIUZB6
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) November 30, 2023
David Cameron, foreign secretary
Cameron said he was saddened to hear of Kissinger’s death, calling him a “great statesman”.
“He was a great statesman and a deeply respected diplomat who will be greatly missed on the world stage.
“Even at 100, his wisdom and thoughtfulness shone through.”
Most saddened to hear that Henry Kissinger has passed away.
Only a few months ago, we discussed issues as wide ranging as the war in Ukraine, the threat Iran presents and the fresh challenges posed by Russia and China.
Even at 100, his wisdom and thoughtfulness shone through.… pic.twitter.com/RnzYUBIVSv
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) November 30, 2023
George W Bush, former US president
“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.
“When he later became secretary of state, his appointment as a former refugee said as much about his greatness as it did America’s greatness.
“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.”
Martin Indyk, former US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, author of Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy
“Kissinger was a man of history, but he was also a student of history, and his knowledge of history, his deep understanding, particularly of European 19th-century history, informed his whole approach to the world.
“He was deeply skeptical of those who would aim to try to achieve a peaceful world. He was much more focused on establishing order because order was more reliable than peace…
“His was a very conservative approach, based on the need for a balance of power on the side of those who would maintain the order and against those who would seek to disrupt it.”
Mike Pompeo, former US secretary of state
“I will always be grateful for his gracious advice and help during my own time as Secretary. Always supportive and always informed, his wisdom made me better and more prepared after every one of our conversations.”
Henry Kissinger was a model of service and a great American.
From the day he came to the United States as a teenager fleeing Nazi Germany, Dr. Kissinger dedicated his life to serving this great country and keeping America safe.
He left an indelible mark on America's history… pic.twitter.com/nfm4PPvyHp
— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) November 30, 2023
Winston Lord, former US ambassador to China and Kissinger’s former special assistant at the National Security Council
“The world has lost a tireless advocate for peace. America has lost a towering champion for the national interest. I have lost a cherished friend and mentor.
“Henry blended the European sense of tragedy and the American immigrant’s sense of hope.
“During more than seven decades, he transformed America’s role in the world, held the nation together during a constitutional crisis, crafted visionary volumes, counseled world leaders, and enriched the national and international discourse.”
Criticism of Kissinger was especially strong on social media, where many posted celebratory videos in reaction to his death.
Rolling Stone magazine
“Henry Kissinger, war criminal beloved by America’s ruling class, finally dies.”
— Noah Shachtman (@NoahShachtman) November 30, 2023
Sophal Ear, scholar at Arizona State University
“Henry Kissinger’s bombing campaign likely killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians – and set (a) path for the ravages of the Khmer Rouge,” Ear wrote in 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.”