UK

Henry Kissinger hailed as an ‘artist among diplomats’ following death at 100

Henry Kissinger arrives for a service of thanksgiving for the life of Lord Carrington in 2019 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Henry Kissinger arrives for a service of thanksgiving for the life of Lord Carrington in 2019 (Stefan Rousseau/PA) Henry Kissinger arrives for a service of thanksgiving for the life of Lord Carrington in 2019 (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger has been described as “one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs” following his death at the age of 100.

Mr Kissinger, who served under former presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, died at his home in Connecticut, his consultancy firm said.

The diplomat played a key role in foreign policy in the United States during the Cold War and broke down barriers with China, although he drew criticism from those who accused him of disregard for human rights.

Former US president George W Bush said he had “long admired” Mr Kissinger and was grateful for his “service and advice” but mostly for his friendship, and that both he and his wife Laura would miss “wisdom, his charm and his humour”.

“America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger,” Mr Bush said in a statement issued through his foundation.

“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.”

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair said he was “in awe” of Mr Kissinger.

“There is no-one like Henry Kissinger,” he said.

“From the first time I met him as a new Labour Party opposition leader in 1994, struggling to form views on foreign policy, to the last occasion when I visited him in New York and, later, he spoke at my institute’s annual gathering, I was in awe of him.

“The range of his knowledge, the insights which would tumble out of him effortlessly, the lucidity, the mastery of the English language which made him a joy to listen to on any subject, and above all the ability to take all the different elements of the most complex diplomatic challenge and weave from them something astonishing in its coherence and completeness, and, most unusual of all, leading to an answer and not just an analysis: no-one could do that like Henry.

“If it is possible for diplomacy, at its highest level, to be a form of art, Henry was an artist.”

Sir Tony, whose own legacy is partly defined by the Iraq war, added: “Of course, like anyone who has confronted the most difficult problems of international politics, he was criticised at times, even denounced.

Baroness Thatcher funeral
Baroness Thatcher funeral Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attends the funeral service of Baroness Thatcher at St Paul’s Cathedral, central London (Christopher Furlong/PA)

“But I believe he was always motivated not from a coarse ‘realpolitik’; but from a genuine love of the free world and the need to protect it.”

Security minister Tom Tugendhat said Mr Kissinger was “incredibly generous” and a “really good friend”.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell described him as “a titan among America’s most consequential statesmen” while Mike Johnson, the new speaker of the House of Representative, said the former secretary of state’s “contributions to US foreign policy and global diplomacy are immeasurable”.

Mr Kissinger was born in southern Germany in 1923 before he fled Nazi Germany to the US in 1938.

In 1969, he was appointed as national security adviser in the US before serving as the secretary of state under Mr Nixon and Mr Ford.

He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his work on negotiating a ceasefire agreement in Vietnam but the selection proved controversial, with two members of the Nobel committee resigning.

Mr Kissinger was dogged by critics at home and abroad who argued he should be called to account for his policies on south-east Asia and support of repressive regimes in Latin America.

Mr Kissinger wrote 21 books on national security and was a regular consultant to American presidents of both political parties and foreign leaders after he finished government service in 1977. He turned 100 in May.

Mr Kissinger held meetings with senior officials in China in July and Xie Feng, the Chinese ambassador to the US, described Dr Kissinger’s death as “a tremendous loss for both our countries and the world”.

He said on X: “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.”

The daughters of former president Richard Nixon, who appointed Mr Kissinger as national security adviser in 1969 and secretary of state four years later, said the two men had enjoyed “a partnership that produced a generation of peace for our nation”.

Mr Kissinger made numerous visits to the UK.

He dined with Diana, Princess of Wales and had breakfast with Margaret Thatcher.

He spoke highly of both women – describing the late princess as someone who “desperately wanted to make a difference in this world”, and praising Mrs Thatcher as “one of the great figures of modern times”.

As secretary of state he had a breakfast meeting with then Opposition leader Mrs Thatcher at Claridge’s Hotel.

Henry Kissinger with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995
Henry Kissinger with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995 Henry Kissinger with Diana, Princess of Wales in 1995 (John Stillwell/PA)

Years later, after she was forced out of office by an internal Conservative Party coup, having served as Britain’s first female prime minister, Mr Kissinger lamented her treatment, saying her fall from power was “worse than a death in the family”.

Mr Kissinger attended the funerals of both Diana in 1997 and Lady Thatcher in 2013.

Despite being well into his 90s, in 2019 he attended a service of thanksgiving in London for the life and work of former foreign secretary Lord Carrington, arriving in a wheelchair.

A visit to London some years previously had sparked protests by anti-war demonstrators.

A huge puppet figure of him was erected outside the Royal Albert Hall by the Get Kissinger Group, which planned to hold a mock trial accusing him of being a war criminal because of his involvement in events in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

In a speech during that visit in 2002, he admitted it was “quite possible” mistakes were made in administrations in which he served.

But he told an audience of British business leaders at the Institute of Directors’ annual convention that the issue was whether courts were the right place to determine what had happened.