• | 1:00 pm

Former US diplomat and Nobel winner Henry Kissinger dies at 100

Kissinger helped chart the post-World War II world order and led the US through some of its most complicated foreign policy challenges

Former US diplomat and Nobel winner Henry Kissinger dies at 100
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

Former US presidential adviser, diplomat and Nobel winner Henry A. Kissinger has died at 100, a statement posted on his website said.

His consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, did not give a cause for the death.

Kissinger was the 56th US secretary of state who helped chart the post-World War II world order and led the US through some of its most complicated foreign policy challenges.

Among the most polarizing and influential diplomatic lives in US history, Kissinger was instrumental in opening China to the Western world and was the primary voice of détente with the Soviet Union that lowered tensions during the Cold War.

Kissinger made two secret trips to China in 1971, laying the groundwork for then president Richard Nixon’s visit to the republic the following year.

The Nixon administration’s pivot to China was largely driven by concerns over Soviet influence in the Indian subcontinent, especially as India strengthened its ties with the then USSR.

This strategic shift was initiated via Pakistan, with the US administration apprehensive that addressing the human rights violations in East Pakistan might jeopardize these diplomatic endeavors.

Former UN undersecretary general and Congress member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor posted on X (formerly Twitter): “The end of, by any definition, an extraordinary life. Henry Kissinger was indeed both a pivotal and a polarising figure, as this @BBC  obituary states. For a few years in New York, I knew him well enough to be on first-name terms with him. I was still amazed how “Henry”, the architect of the US tilt towards Pakistan in 1971, could morph with such insouciance into the most prominent advocate of closer US-India relations three decades later. It helps to live long enough so people don’t remember your earlier statements and actions!”

Beijing, on its part, hailed Kissinger as an “old friend”, while paying tribute to a diplomat central to establishing ties between Beijing and Washington.

When Kissinger visited Beijing in July this year, China rolled out the reddest of red carpets for him.  President Xi Jinping had publicly referred to Kissinger as “our friend”, noting that Kissinger’s 100th visit to China in his 100th year “give the visit special significance.”

Kissinger was born to a schoolteacher and a homemaker in Furth, Germany, in 1923, just as nationalism was beginning to sweep Germany.

As Jews, the Kissinger family found many activities were off-limits, including attending public soccer matches, a sport Kissinger loved, even if he did not excel in it. However, what he might have lacked in athletic ability, he compensated for with his academics.

In the US, Kissinger immersed himself in education at George Washington High. He later switched to evening classes to enable him to work during the day at a shaving brush company. His excellent academic performance and strong work ethic facilitated his admission into City College of New York, where he got tuition-free education. Initially aspiring to be an accountant, his experiences in the Army eventually steered his life in a new direction.

Despite his achievements in academia, Kissinger yearned to influence policy directly. He stepped into politics in 1960, becoming a key foreign policy advisor in Nelson Rockefeller’s presidential bids in 1960, 1964, and 1968. After Rockefeller failed to secure the Republican nomination in 1968, Kissinger initially hesitantly aligned with Richard Nixon’s campaign.

Once Nixon triumphed in the election, Kissinger was appointed assistant to the president for national security affairs, followed by his role as national security advisor. In these roles, and later as secretary of state, Kissinger skillfully navigated the US through several challenging national security dilemmas.

Kissinger is survived by his wife Nancy, his two grown children and five grandchildren.

More Top Stories: