by James Billot
Wednesday, 18
January 2023
News
07:30

Henry Kissinger: Why I changed my mind about Ukraine

The statesman believes the country should now join NATO
by James Billot

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger argued on Tuesday that Ukrainian membership of NATO would be “appropriate” after peace has been secured.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum via Zoom, the 99-year-old said that although he was against Ukraine joining NATO before the invasion, it was now a desired outcome. “Before this war I was opposed to the membership of Ukraine in NATO because I feared it would start exactly the process we are seeing now,” he said. But now, “the idea of a neutral Ukraine in these conditions is no longer meaningful.”


Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email

Already registered? Sign in


Ukrainian neutrality was a key demand by Russia during the negotiations that took place in March last year. The 15-point draft included Kyiv renouncing its ambitions to join NATO and agreeing not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for protection from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey. 

The negotiations broke down, with both sides’ positions hardening shortly after. The Kremlin now says Kyiv must acknowledge Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s four southern and eastern regions. Meanwhile, Kyiv demands that every Russian soldier must leave its territory, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014. Kyiv applied to join NATO after Moscow announced the later annexations in September.

That this proposal has come from Kissinger, an ardent realist and long-time critic of Ukraine joining NATO, is significant. In September he told the Council on Foreign Relations that such a move would be “not wise” because it would lead to further escalation in the conflict. Last month, he called for a cease-fire under which Russia would withdraw to the front lines demarcated before the February invasion, but Crimea would be the subject of “negotiation.” He alluded to NATO membership for Ukraine, saying the two should be “linked”, but his comments today were the most explicit yet. Full quote below:

Before this war I was opposed to membership of Ukraine in NATO because I feared it would start exactly the process we are seeing now. Now that the process has reached this level, the idea of a neutral Ukraine in these conditions is no longer meaningful. And at the end of the process that I described, it ought to be guaranteed by NATO in whatever forms NATO can develop, but I believe Ukrainian membership in NATO would be an appropriate outcome.
- Henry Kissinger

Join the discussion


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
47 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
17 days ago

It’s an interesting question. Would Ukraine give up the areas that were effectively under Russian control a year ago (Crimea, eastern Donbas) in exchange for NATO membership?
Despite the rhetoric coming from them about liberating every inch (which they have to say during a war) realistically they know that western support isn’t going to be infinite and they’d likely struggle without it. I think many would grudgingly accept it but others with more insight than me could no doubt confirm or reject it.
Putin would get to claim a victory in Russia for liberating the areas he basically controlled anyway, and the rest of Ukraine could be confident he could never invade again.

Peter B
Peter B
16 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

That might be the best outcome now. Likely involves some population transfers to make it stable in the long term. Getting something stable is probably more important than trying to get something perfect.

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

An outcome I would have gladly supported a year ago.
But you’ll never convince Ukrainians now. They’ve lost too much, and are out for revenge.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
16 days ago
Reply to  martin logan

Maybe, but it does seem to be the only realistic outcome. It would need Putin to stop bombing civilians, as that merely feeds the thirst for revenge.

martin logan
martin logan
14 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Unlikely, sadly.
That’s really the only significant damage he can inflict. HIs minions on Russian media praise it every day.
Remember, these are “UkroN*z”s.”

Adam Spytkowski
Adam Spytkowski
14 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Oh how easy it comes for you to partition someone else’s land and chip away at someone else’s territories… Zbigniew Brzezinski forecasted the possible future of Ukraine quite precisely. His 13 years old interviews can be easily found even on Youtube. But Kissinger isn’t Brzezinski and Kissinger’s knowledge of Ukraine isn’t even a portion of Timothy Snyder’s wide knowledge…. And btw the internet causes village idiots to form entire villages made up only of village idiots who have no idea they are village idiots, that’s why everybody feels entitled to have an “opinion”

Last edited 14 days ago by Adam Spytkowski
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
17 days ago

Super suspicious of this sudden change of heart. This comment is disingenuous:

“Before this war I was opposed to the membership of Ukraine in NATO because I feared it would start exactly the process we are seeing now,” he said. But now, “the idea of a neutral Ukraine in these conditions is no longer meaningful.”

If NATO explicitly rejected Ukrainian membership, Russia still might have invaded. However, we cannot possibly know that because NATO never did reject its membership.

harry storm
harry storm
17 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Or accept it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
17 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Why is it suspicious? The man has changed his opinion as events have unfolded, it’s something most people do every day.
If he now believes (as I do) that a neutral Ukraine will never be safe from Russian aggression or interference why wouldn’t he suggest they be able to join NATO?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
17 days ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Fair question. Maybe I’m wrong. I just don’t think anything has really changed. Russia doesn’t want NATO at its doorstep. I understand that. Just to be clear, I’m not giving Putin a free pass for invading the Ukraine.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
17 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He probably doesn’t, but in my opinion he’s made it more likely to happen. If he’s shown he won’t abide by treaties signed in the past to respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territories then what other options are there for Ukraine to prevent the same thing happening in the future?

Edit Szegedi
Edit Szegedi
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

But why should any country accept Russia at its doorstep?

Chris Keating
Chris Keating
16 days ago
Reply to  Edit Szegedi

You don’t get to pick your neighbours. They are going to be there whether you like them or not

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
16 days ago
Reply to  Edit Szegedi

Err……geography?

Geoff Price
Geoff Price
16 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Err… that’s the point, why NATO is on Russia’s doorstep and their fear of it is not a justification for invasion.

Peter B
Peter B
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

A specious argument. NATO is already on Russia’s doorstep – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Norway … and now Finland.
Giving up the Kaliningrad colony (only held since 1945) would be a more constructive way for Russia to limit its border with NATO.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

But NATO is on Russia’s doorstep e.g. the Baltics and has been for some time

j watson
j watson
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

‘When the facts change I change my mind…’ – I’m sure you’re aware of that famous saying.
In addition for there to be peace Ukraine will need to compromise but have security guarantees. Only NATO can provide that. Nobody seriously will trust Putin’s word. Realpolitik is what Kissinger is famous for and this a pretty clear continuation of that theme.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
16 days ago
Reply to  j watson

The same NATO that guaranteed not to expand “one inch east” in 1991?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
16 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

The same Putin that told Blair he wouldn’t oppose any former Soviet nation joining NATO, as has been revealed in recently declassified documents?

martin logan
martin logan
14 days ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

That “NATO” doesn’t exist.
And neither does the agreement nor the Soviet Union to which it was supposedly made.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I don’t think it’s really a change of heart.
Pre-war – don’t let them into NATO because it’ll provoke a war.
Now that there’s a war – OK, wait until peace breaks out and we’ll let whatever’s left of Ukraine join NATO afterwards.

Pretty consistent approach to different situations if you ask me.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
16 days ago
Reply to  Tom Watson

Agreed. Sort of like if the greens showed me that humans can stop a volcano from erupting, plug a solar flare on the sun or halt an earthquake, I would then change my mind about human ability to impact global climate.

Gordon Buckman
Gordon Buckman
16 days ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

My sentiments entirely…

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago

This war has never been about NATO.
In 2014, Ukraine wanted to join THE EU–not NATO. Even Yanukovich wanted it. But Putin was in Cloud Coocooland during his Olympics in Sochi, and nixxed a deal that would have made Ukrainians more prosperous.
He wanted Ukraine in his abortive Eurasian Economic Union. It was always a non-starter, however, and now every former Soviet state (except Belarus) supports Ukraine.
So the only way Putin can resurrect that dead entity is through conquest of Ukraine–and whatever else he can grab.
Putin knows that if Ukraine, the Baltics, or the rest of eastern Europe ever became full-fledged members of the EU, Russia becomes just another minor power, like Kazakhstan or Georgia.

Last edited 16 days ago by Martin Logan
B Emery
B Emery
17 days ago

It was only a matter of time I think.
A few days ago Ukraine said they are already ‘de facto’ members.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-64255249.amp

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
16 days ago
Reply to  B Emery

If they were members, NATO would be obligated to send in troops.

B Emery
B Emery
16 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Indeed. I think it will go that way now potentially. That was a quite a statement from Ukraine. They are pushing for nato intervention now I think. Here comes the escalation.
Hope I’m wrong.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
17 days ago

Henry Kissinger, I’ve been missing ya…

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
16 days ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

We’ve got Henry to thank for the emergence of a hostile, aggressive, technology-stealing China.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
16 days ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

Do you honestly believe that one German American man led to China’s emergence into the 1.4 billion person force they are today? Come now.

Gregory Prang
Gregory Prang
15 days ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

No. Two men. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
17 days ago

Henry and his stupid ideas are the reason our world is so messed up, we’ve even got him to thank for inflicting Klaus Schwab on us.
shame he couldn’t find a nice care home to go rest up in.

Dog Eared
Dog Eared
17 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

I thought he nailed it to be honest.

Isabel Ward
Isabel Ward
16 days ago
Reply to  Dog Eared

I think what he said and hi reasoning on this matter are correct. However, he is a bit late in changing his mind. Also other things he has said about this war I would not agree with.

stephen archer
stephen archer
17 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

He may be in his twilight years but I’m guessing that his insight and experience in world affairs is orders of magnitude greater than yours. His reasoning in this case seems fairly sound and logical. After a potential peace agreement which Russia will probably immediately break Ukraine will continue to be threatened and attacked both by Russian military and sympathisers within Ukraine. Aside from the breakdown and implosion of the Russian federation which can have drastic and unforeseeable consequences the inclusion in Nato could be the only security guarantee of substance. It probably wouldn’t get to that stage if things turn nuclear but if you’re Ukrainian it’s probably a desirable outcome. The tone of your comment is lacking in intellect.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
17 days ago
Reply to  stephen archer

‘twilight years’ – he’s about 100 years old so must be past that stage .. maybe ‘early morning years’

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
16 days ago
Reply to  stephen archer

If only his experience had a better track record I might think that was a worthwhile point.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
17 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

You get my downvote just for being abusive. And if I could I’d give you two because he’s also right.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
17 days ago

I’d give you zero points for being so predictable, as long as the USA can put their ‘Fuze’ nuclear missiles near Moscow its irrelevant if they’re in NATO or not, only I can’t see any other conventional NATO army fighting as well as Ukraine.
Anyway America will prove me right by not waiting for Sweden or Finland to sign away their safety and independence’s and just put them there. I’m not surprised that you and the majority of our countrymen put Americas ambition above your own way of life but why must you be so triggered!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
17 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Andrews

NATO never deployed any offensive battalions or weapons in the eastern bloc countries at Russias behest until Russia annexed Crimea. Blaming NATO for Russian aggression is a cop out in my opinion

Ess Arr
Ess Arr
16 days ago

Ole Henry allegedly gets paid a retainer of $20 million a year from the Chinese Government, how much then, from the Russians? Who can trust an opinion which is bought and paid for?

Winston Adam
Winston Adam
15 days ago

Kissinger the war criminal is the last person who should be giving advice on this situation.
My fellow Americans, please read the following letter from 50 foreign policy experts sent to the American government in 1997, where they outline the dangers of expanding NATO. Their warning was ignored which has led to the disaster in Ukraine today.
https://www.armscontrol.org/act/1997-06/arms-control-today/opposition-nato-expansion

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
14 days ago

The War Criminal is just taking orders.

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
17 days ago

Anyone remember the old Ottoman proverb (Orwell made it popularized)

””Always trust a snake before a G****. Always trust a G**** before a ***. Always trust a *** before an A*******. But never, ever trust an A*******!”
Ok, Ok, bad taste – with all the Genociding of the two groups – (must take in historical context – Turkish and all) – But I would replace A******* with a H Kissinger.

The man was Army Intelligence in WWII, then CIA, then FBI, then was neck deep in secret dealings, and openly, with Vietnam, USSR, CCP, Iraq War, Iran, Afghanistan……and EVERY war since WWII, even this one in Ukraine. (where he was pro 2014 annexing) And look how those turned out.

The man is 110% double dealing. If he says something then you know he is trying to manipulate the situation – as he only talks when trying to manipulate – he is notoriously schtum otherwise…haha.

If Kissinger says Ukraine needs to join NATO – he is up to something, and it may, or may not, have anything to do with if Ukraine should join NATO – it is very suspect that he would say ‘what he believes’ – There is NO history of him ever having done that, ever – So lets assume he wants some outcome, and this is the means he is using to promote that.

Well he is Davos, he is CCP, he is Globalist Elite, he is WEF, he is a behind the scenes puppeteer pulling strings on Global weirdness –

So if Kissinger says that – it means he wants something – and thinks this will further that – but in no way means he believes Ukraine should join NATO – just that he wants something – and almost always something not good, and saying this advances his goal. So – no telling……The ‘Magic 8 Ball’ is more trustable than Kissinger, so Unherd needs to ask it what it thinks and do an article on that. It will be random, so not up to no good……

martin logan
martin logan
16 days ago

Ad hominem arguments don’t address what he said. Consider what he actually says.
As Montaigne asked: “can’t I say a thief has a good leg?”
Otherwise, looks like Russia loses a million plus before this is over.

Richard Barrett
Richard Barrett
17 days ago

The one and only time the disgusting Henry Kissinger made a valid point seemed too good to be true, and so it has turned out. Once again, he is a man with views that are 100% utterly and completely wrong on every issue.