Henry Kissinger, the most famous diplomat of the 20th century, died this Wednesday at the age of 100 leaving a legacy as legendary as it is questioned.
The one who was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to US Presidents Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and Gerald Ford (1974-1977) He had been away from the political front line for decades, but remained active in public opinion until a few months ago.
At the end of 2023, before turning 100 years old, Kissinger gave what would become his last interview to the British magazine The Economist.
On that occasion, the journalists had the opportunity to talk with the diplomat for more than eight hours in which Kissinger expanded on the war between Russia and Ukraine, his concerns about his country’s relations with China and the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Last July, he also visited China after turning 100 to meet with the country’s president and high-ranking officials.
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What he said in his last interview
Kissinger received The Economist in his office on the 33rd floor of an Art Deco building in midtown Manhattan in April. The former Secretary of State in the administrations of Republican Richard Nixon and his successor, Gerald Ford, was at that time working on two books, one on AI and the other on large international alliances.
On that occasion he compared the current rivalry of the alliances with the situation prior to the First World War, “where neither party has much room for political concession and where any disturbance of the balance can have catastrophic consequences.”
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Henry Kissinger has died aged 100. Earlier this year The Economist spoke to him for over eight hours about how to prevent the contest between China and America from descending into war. These were his solutions https://t.co/mCLNCbQIgC ⬇️
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) November 30, 2023
The former Secretary of State, perhaps the man who knew the most about relations between the United States and China and who promoted rapprochement between both powers in the 1970s, He was alarmed by the increasingly intense competition between Washington and Beijing for technological and economic preeminence.
“The two biggest dangers to peace right now are the two of us (the United States and China). In the sense that we have the ability to destroy humanity,” he said.
“We are on the path towards confrontation between great powers. And what worries me most is that both sides have convinced themselves that the other represents a strategic danger. And it is a strategic danger in a world in which the decisions of each can determine the probability of conflict,” he stated on that occasion.
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In his opinion, the fate of humanity depends on whether the two giants (the US and China) can get along. And he believed that The rapid progress of artificial intelligence (AI) in particular would leave Washington and Beijing “only five to ten years to find a way to reach an agreement.”
From the North American point of view, he considered that there is a misinterpretation of Chinese aspirations: “They say that China wants to dominate the world… But the answer is that what they (China) want is to be powerful,” Kissinger had analyzed. “They are not advancing towards world domination in a Hitlerian sense.”
Regarding the risks of AI, Kissinger had expressed his concern especially about the consequences that AI could have in the rivalry between Beijing and Washington.
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We are at the beginning of a capacity where machines could impose a global plague or other pandemics
“They are two types of powers between which, historically, a military confrontation would have been inevitable. But this is not a normal circumstance, due to mutually assured destruction and artificial intelligence. “We are at the beginning of a capability where machines could impose a global plague or other pandemics, not just nuclear, but any field of human destruction.”
For this reason, he had warned: “Circumstances demand responsible leaders, who at least try to avoid conflict.”
Who was Henry Kissinger?
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923 in Fürth (Germany) into a Jewish family who came to New York fleeing Nazism when he was still a teenager.
Kissinger was the architect of the détente policy towards the Soviet Union that changed the course of the Cold War. the architect of the normalization of relations between the United States and China and a key figure in stopping nuclear proliferation.
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He received the Nobel Peace Prize along with his Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Thuo for their secret negotiations to end the Vietnam War, although unlike Kissinger, the Vietnamese returned the award because his country remained in conflict after the Paris Accords.
Kissinger will also be remembered for his support of dictatorships such as those in Argentina between 1976 and 1983 and the last years of Francisco Franco’s regime. in Spain (ended with the death of the leader in 1975), his role in Operation Condor to repress left-wing Latin American opponents or his support for the coup d’état against Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973.
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