Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State, has died at age 100 at his home in Connecticut.
A Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, he reached the pinnacle of Washington political life as foreign secretary and national security adviser under two Republican presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923 and fled to the United States with his family in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. He graduated from Harvard College in 1950 and earned his MA and PhD degrees in international relations from Harvard University in 1951 and 1954, respectively. He became a professor of government at Harvard and founded a magazine called Confluence.
He was known for his Realpolitik approach to foreign policy, which emphasized national interests and power over ideology and morality. As a proponent of that political and diplomatic approach, he played a key role in shaping U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
As Secretary of State, he was also a major force behind the 1973 ceasefire in the Vietnam War. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his efforts to bring it to an end, but he was also criticized for his involvement in controversial policies and events, such as the bombing of Cambodia, the coup in Chile, and the support for Pakistan during the Bangladesh War.
Under Kissinger, the US opened up relations to China, which is considered one of his biggest achievements. He also supported détente, an easing of the rivalry with the Soviets.
In his later years, Kissinger — along with William Perry, Sam Nunn, and George Shultz — advocated for the reduction of nuclear weapons, and in three Wall Street Journal articles proposed a program of urgent steps to that end. The four created the Nuclear Security Project to advance this cause.
Kissinger continued to be influential in global affairs–indeed, he became the icon of American diplomacy– writing books, giving lectures and advising presidents on various issues. He also faced some challenges, such as his failed attempts to end colonialism and minority rule in southern Africa, and his controversial involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
He turned 100 years old in May 2023, making him the only surviving member of Nixon’s cabinet.