Henry Kissinger, one of the most influential and controversial US diplomats of the 20th century, died Wednesday at age 100, his firm said.
Kissinger, who served as secretary of state and national security adviser under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, remained a prominent voice on foreign policy issues long after leaving government in 1977.
“I work about 15 hours a day,” he told CBS News weeks before he turned 100, saying with confidence that world leaders like China’s Xi Jinping or Russia’s Vladimir Putin would likely take his calls.
He was known for his practice of “realpolitik” — engaging with the world based on practical objectives rather than moral ideals — and was credited with the secret diplomacy that helped thaw U.S. relations with China.
But he was also accused of alleged war crimes for the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam War, backing Pakistan’s genocide in Bangladesh, and green-lighting the Argentine dictatorship’s “dirty war” against dissidents.
In 1976, when right-wing military leaders seized power in Argentina, Kissinger told them, “If there are things that have to be done, you should do them quickly.” Human rights abuses were rampant; tens of thousands of people were tortured, assassinated or “disappeared.”
Henry Kissinger and the invasion of Cyprus
He is also accused of his policy of appeasement to Turkey that led to the invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
“There is no American reason why the Turks should not have one-third of Cyprus,” Kissinger counseled President Gerald Ford, who had assumed the presidency just days before.
“The Turkish tactics are right—grab what they want and then negotiate on the basis of possession,” he added. Kissinger privately greenlighted the land grab in conversations with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.
After leaving government in 1977, Kissinger remained a prominent presence in foreign policy circles for decades. Even into his late 90s, he continued publicly weighing in on global events, consulting for business clients and privately advising American presidents.
“I’ve had the honor that I have been able to do sometimes little, and sometimes more important, things for 10 presidents, starting with Kennedy,” Kissinger said in a 2012 interview with CBS News. “I had a very friendly relationship with Bush 43. He invited me quite frequently to talk with him.”
More recently, he shared foreign policy advice with then-President Trump, who praised Kissinger’s “immense talent” at a White House meeting in 2017.
If a president were to ask him to talk with Putin amid the war in Ukraine, Kissinger, on the cusp of 100 years old, said he’d “be inclined to do it.”