At 94, you might think Henry Kissinger would be ready for retirement. In January, citing his advancing years, he told The Times: “I’m not looking for employment.”
Yet in the past few weeks, public sightings of his familiar, stooped figure have been multiplying across the globe as he flies from capital to capital, making speeches and meeting world leaders.
He arrived in Moscow on Thursday for perhaps his most significant intervention for decades.
The past decade has been an uneasy time for the Kissinger Doctrine and its robust view of American leadership and intervention in the world. The former secretary of state, responsible for breakthrough détentes and bloody crises alike, was no fan of President Obama’s retreat from global leadership.
Having advised every president since Richard Nixon, the closest he got to influence the Obama administration was his friendship with Hillary Clinton, whom he backed in the 2016 election. Early last year he dismissed the concerns of fretful friends that Donald Trump would emerge as the Republican candidate, or even win. Almost as soon as Mr. Trump had done so, the ultimate master of realpolitik turned on his heels and headed to Trump Tower in New York.
He didn’t wait for the president-elect to call before proposing a meeting. “When Kissinger calls, it doesn’t matter who you are, you answer,” a Gulf diplomat who has experienced the Kissinger charm offensive explained.
Dr. Kissinger visited Trump Tower several times during the transition, attracting only minimal attention among all the other comings and goings of celebrities and potential cabinet picks.
More notice was paid when he turned up in Beijing in December to meet President Xi, an encounter that paved the way for the Chinese leader’s trip to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. Any assumption that the intervention was a one-off event was dispelled on May 10, when reporters hoping to hear Mr. Trump’s justifications for firing James Comey were stunned to find him receiving Nixon’s former right-hand man. Moments earlier, Mr. Trump had met the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office, amid rumors of collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
Dr. Kissinger, it has since emerged, is seeking to play a similar role between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin as he did with Washington and Beijing. Yesterday he gave a speech in Moscow hours after meeting Mr. Putin, whom he has known for decades, calling for “a new stage in relations between Russia and the US”.
The event’s organizer, Alexander Dynkin, said the timing, a week before Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are to meet for the first time at the G20, was “not a coincidence”.
Moscow was merely the latest stop on a whirlwind global tour in which Dr. Kissinger has also challenged Mr. Trump’s thinking. In London this week he gave a speech warning that foreign policy conducted without underlying strategy would lead to global chaos; a warning to both Mr. Trump and Theresa May, whom he also visited.
A week earlier, in Berlin to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, he spoke out against American isolationism, noting that the country’s investment in post-war Europe had “built the foundations of the global order”.
Dr. Kissinger’s freelance diplomatic offensive is not universally welcomed. Some have questioned whether his links with China and Russia effectively make him a lobbyist for foreign governments. Dr. Kissinger, however, insists he is acting for no one but himself and his belief in the global order. “I am lucky that my profession has been also my hobby,” he said in January. “I don’t know what I would rather do.”
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