Henry Kissinger, US diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner, dies aged 100

George W Bush leads tributes to former Secretary of State who left lifelong mark on American foreign policy

Mr Kissinger, pictured in 2011, served under two US presidents
Mr Kissinger, pictured in 2011, served under two US presidents Credit: DAVID HOWELLS

Henry Kissinger, the diplomatic powerhouse whose service under two presidents left a lifelong mark on US foreign policy, has died at the age of 100.

The diplomat, best known for his time as Secretary of State to Richard Nixon, continued to be closely involved in global foreign policy past his hundredth birthday – visiting Xi Jinping in Beijing in July this year.

“Dr. Henry Kissinger, a respected American scholar and statesman, died today at his home in Connecticut,” his consultancy Kissinger Associates said in a statement on Wednesday.

Although his foreign policy decisions and their association with the doctrine of “realism” were controversial, he survived the resignation of Mr Nixon in 1974 and continued to offer advice in that post to his successor, Gerald Ford.

Mr Kissinger with Chairman Mao, Gerald Ford and Ford's daughter Susan in Beijing in 1975 Credit: REUTERS
At a charity dinner with Princess Diana in New York in 1995 Credit: PA

His 1973 Peace Prize - awarded jointly to North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho, who would decline it - was one of the most controversial ever. Two members of the Nobel committee resigned over the selection and questions arose about the US secret bombing of Cambodia.

Serving first as National Security Adviser to the Nixon administration, Mr Kissinger was closely associated with the US policy of “Vietnamisation” in the 1970s, as the burden of the war transferred from American troops to Southern Vietnamese forces.

He was given the role of Secretary of State in 1973, serving for one year before becoming an informal adviser to presidents on foreign policy and running his own geopolitical consulting firm in New York City from 1982.

Mr Kissinger after being appointed Secretary of State by Nixon in 1973. He was the first naturalised US citizen to hold the role Credit: GETTY IMAGES
With Ted Heath in 1974 Credit: HULTON ARCHIVE

His influence in government waned under the next Republican president, Ronald Reagan, and he moved to international speaking events, private work and writing more than a dozen books.

He was invited to the White House to speak with every president - apart from Joe Biden - after Mr Ford and celebrated his 100th birthday in May.

George W Bush, one of the first to pay tribute to Mr Kissinger on Wednesday night, said he and his wife Laura would “miss his 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,” he said.

In Washington with Margaret Thatcher in 1975 Credit: AP
Mr Kissinger with Sir Alec Douglas Home, Britain's foreign secretary, in 1973 Credit: GETTY IMAGES

“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.

“When he later became Secretary of State, his appointment as a former refugee said as much about his greatness as it did America’s greatness. He worked in the administrations of two presidents and counselled many more. I am grateful for that service and advice, but I am most grateful for his friendship.”

On Thursday morning, Dame Karen Pierce, UK Ambassador to the US, issued a statement saying she was “very sad” to hear of Mr Kissinger’s passing. 

Although influential, Mr Kissinger’s legacy was controversial and he invited criticism from opponents of his policy on Vietnam, the bombing of Cambodia and the invasion of Timor-Leste in 1975.

In the India-Pakistan War of 1971, Mr Nixon and Mr Kissinger were heavily criticised for tilting toward Pakistan.

Mr Kissinger was heard calling the Indians “bastards” - a remark he later said he regretted.

Anthony Bourdain, the late food critic, once said: “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.”

Anti-Kissinger protesters in 1992 outside the Royal Albert Hall, where he was giving a speech Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Christopher Hitchens, the British polemicist, dedicated an entire book to his legacy entitled The Trial of Henry Kissinger.

Nonetheless, the German-born Jewish refugee’s efforts led to the diplomatic opening of China, landmark US-Soviet arms control talks, expanded ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.

After the 9/11 attacks, president Bush picked Mr Kissinger to head an investigative committee.

The outcry from Democrats, who saw a conflict of interest with many of his consulting firm’s clients, forced him to step down from the post.

‘There will never be another like him’

Jim Jordan, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said: “Henry Kissinger saw combat during the Battle of the Bulge and served our country as a top diplomat for years. President Trump said he was a man of ‘immense talent, experience, and knowledge’. There will never be another like him.”

Mitt Romney, the outgoing Utah senator, said Mr Kissinger was a “great one,” adding: “Fortunate indeed is America for his lifetime of diplomacy, wisdom, and love of freedom.”

Cindy McCain, the wife of the late senator John McCain, said: “The McCain family will miss his wit, charm, and intelligence terribly.”

Winston Lord, a former US ambassador to China who served as Mr Kissinger’s special assistant, said his former boss was a “tireless advocate for peace”. He added: “America has lost a towering champion for the national interest.”