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16 June, 2024
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Kissinger and us

The top diplomat's impact on our history and diplomatic reflections

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

Henry Alfred Kissinger (1923-2023) undeniably stood as one of the leading figures in American foreign policy and diplomacy. An Ivy League graduate, a Republican, he served as a security adviser under Ford and Nixon (1969-1975) and as US Secretary of State (1973-1975). A staunch advocate of realpolitik, he, perhaps, implemented his version of the détente policy, influencing some of the most pivotal developments in the latter half of the 20th century. This period coincided with the height of the Cold War, essentially shaping American foreign policy in recent decades.

In Cyprus and Greece, Kissinger found himself amidst the tumultuous events following the rise of dictatorship, the tragic events of the coup and the Turkish invasion, and the climax of the Cyprus problem. Kyrenia and Nicosia were ablaze, and in the collective consciousness of Hellenism, Kissinger became inextricably linked to the Cyprus tragedy. He emerged as one of the most renowned diplomatic figures in American politics, associated, in the eyes of many Cypriots and Greeks, with the Turkish invasion—a man forever cursed. This anathema, it seems, is perceived as the main catalyst for all that has unfolded in the Cyprus problem since the 1950s.

Kissinger, undeniably, was a larger-than-life personality. He was associated with turbulent times, the imposition of harsh regimes in Cambodia and Latin America (Argentina, Chile), as well as with bold interventions of American diplomacy, such as the architecture of peace in the Middle East (Camp David Accords, 1979). Here, he played a key role in bringing about peace between Israel and Egypt. Additionally, his instrumental role in Washington's opening up to China, a country he visited at a relatively young age, showcased his diplomatic prowess.

However, Greek-language analysis, especially in the public sphere, has often struggled to comprehend Kissinger's way of thinking. Beyond his role as the head of American diplomacy, inherently focused on serving the interests of the United States, even at the peak of the Cold War, understanding his early thinking provides insight. His work "A Restored World: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822" (published in Greek by Papazisis) serves as an exemplary window into the thinking that guided him throughout his life. Penned in 1957, when Kissinger was just 34 years old, as part of his doctoral dissertation at Harvard (completed in 1954), his work places Europe and the Greek Revolution of 1821 in a global context, despite the seemingly "medieval" approach in which Kissinger integrates his realistic thinking.

Understanding Kissinger allows us not only to comprehend ourselves but also to learn from our mistakes. In the context of his death, amidst the era of Social Media where much criticism is written, it is crucial to uphold basic respect for the deceased—a timeless ideal of our people, even if opinions about him may be divided.

Twitter: @JohnPikpas

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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