Kissinger pleads for peace | The daily blog


WHEN HENRY KISSINGER, at the age of 98, feels pressured to weigh in on the Russian-Ukrainian war, we should probably listen. He is, after all, the man who, as US Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977, played the game of geopolitics more deftly than any of his successors in that post. He may be ruthless and amoral, but his mastery of the art of international diplomacy is unmatched.

And now he’s telling the world to end the Russian-Ukrainian war, now, while we still can. If we don’t, he warns, events could escalate beyond each actor’s ability to control them. Coming from the man who brought the world to the brink of full-scale nuclear war in 1973, this is sobering. What frightened this nonagenarian so much?

The most likely answer is “Oil”. This is something Kissinger knows well. It was US military support for Israel during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War that prompted the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to announce massive increases in the price of oil, and that leads the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia. , supported by its Arab allies, to impose an embargo on oil exports to the United States. No post-war action has had a greater impact on the fortunes of the West.

It was President Richard Nixon’s decision, prompted by Kissinger, to move the US nuclear strike force to ‘Defcon 3’ that persuaded the Soviet Union to leave the fighting to its Arab allies in Egypt and Syria. . When they failed to defeat the Israelis, it was the US Secretary of State’s “diplomatic shuttle” between the opposing parties that secured the lasting ceasefire agreement of October 25, 1973. .

What Kissinger learned in 1973 is that it is absolutely imperative to end as quickly as possible any military conflict in which nuclear-armed nations are directly or indirectly involved. The longer such a conflict lasts, the more likely something will happen that will bring the military forces of the nuclear-armed antagonists into direct contact with each other – setting the stage for an almost unstoppable escalation towards an exchange. large-scale nuclear.

Guided by the United States, NATO members have so far limited themselves to providing the Ukrainians with defensive military equipment, making the Russian Federation understand that the Western alliance would not intervene directly in the conflict. What so clearly alarmed Kissinger, however, was the apparent lack of diplomatic urgency on the part of the United States to bring about a cessation of hostilities. This explains his very public articulation of the concessions he would demand from Ukraine to secure a lasting peace settlement.

Essentially, Kissinger’s peace plan calls for a restoration of the status quo ante – that is, Russia retains Crimea, Donets and Lugansk. With typical ruthlessness, he advises the United States to use its strategic influence with Ukraine to ensure compliance. Always “realistic”, he understands that the war can only be ended by the United States and the Russian Federation. The fact that the Biden administration does not seem to fully grasp this reality, letting the war drag on for three destructive months, is what has brought him back into the international spotlight.

Kissinger is also keenly aware of the impact that soaring energy prices will have on energy-poor Western countries. The energy crisis triggered by the Yom Kippur war fundamentally disrupted the post-war economic and social order, triggering the destabilizing combination of rising inflation and rising unemployment. The parallels with the current world situation will not have escaped Kissinger.

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Nor will he forget the potential for disaster inherent in the blockade by the Russian Federation of the Ukrainian port of Odessa. More than 400 million people depend on grain from Russia and Ukraine for their daily bread. The destabilizing impact of an international energy crisis, coupled with an international food crisis, only strengthens his case for an end to hostilities as soon as possible.

Kissinger’s familiarity with leaders in the Arab world will also cause him to worry about their most likely response to U.S. demands for price increases on output from OPEC states. Sensitive to the price of gasoline at the American pump, American politicians are looking for ways to force the major oil exporters to comply with their demands – or risk seeing their American assets confiscated. Kissinger’s intimate knowledge of how the world’s wealthiest states conduct their affairs will have alerted him to the extreme danger of such threats. Looking at the steady decline in the fortunes of Wall Street in recent days, he might well detect the orderly exit of Arab money from the US market. It certainly doesn’t make sense for oil lords to leave assets in place for the US government to seize.

But, if the Saudis and their allies are cashing in quietly, it immediately raises the crucial question of where they should put their newly liquidated wealth. There are only a handful of serious candidates for such large-scale investment: China, Russia and India. Such a destabilizing shift in the weight of the financial world would alter the balance of the world economy as fundamentally as the crisis fifty years ago.

More than anyone, Kissinger understands the precariousness of the global strategic position. If OPEC moves away from the United States and towards the Eurasian powers, then Russia’s continuation of the war in Ukraine can be prolonged more or less indefinitely. Certainly, OPEC money will allow President Vladimir Putin to snap his fingers on American and European sanctions. The Russian-Ukrainian war will become a simple test to see which combination of forces can hold out the longest – the Eastern one or the Western one?

Bled dry by soaring energy prices, and with the price of bread, butter, cooking oil and meat soaring beyond the reach of all but the most richer, the economies of the West will begin to cry out. (Just as the Chilean economy cried out when Kissinger crushed it in the months before the US-backed military coup against its socialist government in September 1973.) Joyous Western unity, inspired by Ukraine’s fearless resistance to the invading Russian army will begin to unravel. NATO will fall into quarrels between its member states.

It is never safe for any power to bet the farm on Russia collapsing first. When it comes to enduring suffering, Russians have few equals. Secretary Kissinger knows it, even though President Joe Biden doesn’t.

It’s time to give peace a chance – before someone does something rash.

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