Henry Kissinger in talks with Putin

Last week Henry Kissinger led a delegation of US political big-hitters on an extremely low-profile mission to Russia. Kissinger and his team met with Vladimir Putin and an equally matched Russian delegation – led by former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov – to discuss some of the more pressing issues in US-Russia relations.

Make no mistake about it – this was a serious, high level meeting.  Just take a look at this list of delegates:

Henry KissingerIn attendence with Kissinger were: Former Secretary of State George Schultz, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, former Special Representative for Arms Control, Nonproliferation and Disarmament Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr., former Senator Sam Nunn and Chevron Chairman and Chief Executive Officer David O’Reilly.

Yevgeny PrimakovWith Primakov were: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, former Ambassador to Washington Yuly Vorontsov, Deputy Board Chairman of UES Russia Leonid Drachevsky, UC Rusal Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Livshits and former Soviet Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mikhail Moiseyev.

You’d think that a meeting like this would be widely reported, especially as it comes slap bang in the middle of an international spat between Russia and the UK which is gaining massive media attention. 

But the meeting has been virtually ignored by the world’s media. 

A quick search of Google News for “Kissinger” and “Putin” brings up a measly 45 news stories.  One in the Guardian, another in the Moscow Times, and that’s about it.

I know that the participants in the meeting didn’t necessarily want to draw attention to themselves, but in today’s media obsessed (and Russia obsessed) age – how on earth did they get away with that??

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39 Responses

  1. Lavrov’s presence is significant given his role as Russia’s current foreign minister.

    As per the above description, note that the American side didn’t seem to be represented by any active high profile foreign policy official.

    How much clout do these retired diplomats have in the present? A case in point: what sort of influence does Kissinger have with present day American foreign policy decision makers?

    During the Bosnian Civil War of the last decade, Kissinger suggested that Bosnia be partitioned. At the time, those comments of his carried little weight. Then as now, there’s a firm American/Western foreign policy resolve to maintain Bosnia.

    Retired to semi-retired diplomats going against current policies don’t often influence change. Shortly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in late 1979, George Kennan stated that the American response went too far. If anything, he was ridiculed despite making some valid points.

  2. Aleks says:

    Then again Mike, semi/retired diplomats provide deniability and have the added advantages that as they are not active politically, it takes the ‘edge’ off such meetings, provides useful feedback (regardless of whether this is actually acted upon), provides ‘information’ i.e. to know better what the other side is thinking and hopefully avoiding any unnecessary damaging spats (not talking politically here much, but $$$ – which is far more important, but much less sexy in news terms), and of course; the ‘retired’ can say stuff publicly that no active politician/civil servant can… And of course (I almost forgot), to make indecent proposals/left-field suggestions, i.e. MD v. Kosovo etc. and other things that would/could show active politicians as what they really are (not the image that they try to project through compliant media).

    As for all the Media furore about Russia/Litvinenko/etc., I liken it to the same madness that has ‘taken over the world’ with the Harry Potter phenomenon (or is that ‘Garry Potter’ in Russia?).

  3. kyle keeton says:

    Kissinger back in my era would have been an earth shattering person. Truthfully I did not know he was even still alive. I was shocked.

    I feel that if anyone can do some good he can.
    Glad he is still alive.

    Kyle Keeton

  4. There’s a downside to Kissinger as well Kyle. At times, he has played on the Russia is an inherent threat to the West mantra. Many in America still don’t forgive his manner during the Vietnam War.

    Aleks, what about the two examples I gave related to Kissinger and Kennan? You’re right about how retired out of office types can feel freer to speak their minds. My point relates to the clout such a position has with those influentially active.

  5. Kolya says:

    Too bad that Kennan, as respected as he was, didn’t have much influence in the last 40 years of his long life. Actually, even when at his zenith Kennan never even approached the influence of Kissinger. This does not mean that now Kissinger’s advice (whether good or bad) will be followed, but it will be considered more closely than if he were Kennan.

  6. Just what are Kissinger’s current views of Russia and Putin?

    In relation to those currently stated views, is there a clearly detailed in writing chronology of what he has said about Russia over the past 15 years?

    As for Kissinger’s views being given clout, note the Bosnia example stated at the near start of this thread.

  7. Tim Newman says:

    Then again Mike, semi/retired diplomats provide deniability and have the added advantages that as they are not active politically, it takes the ‘edge’ off such meetings, provides useful feedback…

    This is true for sure, although this might not always be a good thing. Retired politicians who still have some clout sometimes take advantage of the fact that they are no longer accountable, not expected to deliver, and free from the perils of re-election requirements to pronounce views and recommend actions which they’d never dare utter were they still in a position of responsibility.

    Jimmy Carter is probably the best example of this, who having failed to achieve anything during his time in power sees fit to make sweeping recommendations on how to fix the Middle East now that he is not actually responsible for anything other than maintaining his own book sales. To a lesser extent, Nelson Mandela sometimes uses the political capital he (deservedly) earned as a politician to sound off like a crank on issues about which he knows precious little.

    So whereas I agree that using retired politicians for meetings can be an advantage for the reasons you state, the lack of official accountability can be a double edged sword and participants would have to be chosen carefully (which I’m sure they are).

  8. A fair enough point, which is why the actual input should be dealt with as opposed to the person’s “status”.

  9. Aleks says:

    I don’t really see it as being about ‘influence’ (effulence maybe!), but ‘information’. A nice cosy chat sharing the congac with the enemy is more likely to provide useful information as opposed to banging on about kremlin sponsored hits… Kissinger et al are willing acolytes. They’re not doing it for love (at least I don’t think so), possibly ego or maybe they just can’t say ‘no’.

    The problem with this obsession of collecting information is exactly what happens with it. The prime example is the whole Iraq/WMD debate where the CIA was subverted and information ‘cherry picked’ (not that this is particularly new, but the world really has changed since 1989 and there (appears to be) substantially many more (willing) whistleblowers, leaks by ‘unhappy’ officials etc….

    There’s nothing like the threat of nuclear annihilation to keep mouths shut.

    Just like the dark days in the Northern Ireland conflict, there were always ‘back channels’ open. These are political saftey valves, much in the same way that the Cuban Missile Crisis lead to a direct hotline between Washington and Moscow, or the India-Pak nuclear tests lead to something similar.

    Once you have these channels, no-one seriously suggest terminating them permanently.

    In 30 years time, it’s my bet that we’ll discover that Washington and Iran we’re having informal chats throughout the 1990s and the first decade of the twentieth century…

    As for the ‘Status’, it’s my guess that gives it a ‘nice’ media spin. What if it were just some boring, little heard of bureaucrat? Kissinger was chosen to give the message to the citizen ‘DON’T PANIC!’. I think the Media understand that.

  10. It shouldn’t be about status alone. Kissinger isn’t always the best option. He’s also treated with kid gloves.

    Not so long ago on Charlie Rose (it was around the time of the last World Cup), Kissinger stated that Russia isn’t good at sports that require spontaneous thinking like football. He said that they’re better at sports like gymnastics, which (as he stated) deal more with predetermined moves in advance of the actual act.

    I’m not misrepresenting what he said. Charlie Rose didn’t challenge him on the obvious.

    Russians are good at any number of team sports and other sports requiring what Kissinger claimed.

    He should be given carte blanche because he’s Kissinger?

  11. Tim Newman says:

    Aleks,

    That all makes pretty good sense.

  12. Knowing that he is most famous for the negotiations that won the Nobel Peace Prize for himself and South Vietnam for Communism, I have long wondered something: has Kissinger’s diplomacy ever been successful? For our side, I mean.

  13. MichaelE says:

    Tim Newman said:

    “Jimmy Carter is probably the best example of this, who having failed to achieve anything during his time in power sees fit to make sweeping recommendations on how to fix the Middle East now that he is not actually responsible for anything other than maintaining his own book sales.”

    This statement is really mind-boggling–especially so since you specifically point to the Middle East. I would suggest that Carter, who brokered one of the most important Middle East peace initiatives of our time, may be justified in believing that he might be able to help.

  14. R Chavez says:

    Did anyone notice that the CEO of Chevron was part of the group? In case, you wondered, now you know the real purpose of the trip. Henry K will not move a muscle without someone putting money in his paws.

    Regarding Vietnam – half the names on the Wall are the result of Kessinger and Nixon betraying this country by wreaking LBJ’s peace plan. The blood of over 20,000 Americans and millions of people in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam are on his hands. Also don’t forget his role in overthrowing the democratically elected government of Chile and the murders that followed.

    See Hitchens’ book “The Trial of Henry Kissenger”. My only complaint is that Hitchens is too easy on Henry the snake.

  15. Miranda says:

    War criminal! Kissinger’s up to no good and we all know it…

  16. Josh says:

    All i’ve got to say is the term “scaler weaponry”..

    Look it up.. .read it and weap… Russia is using scaler weapons on the USA and the “west”..

    If you don’t know what scaler weapons are.. then too bad for you.

  17. DickeyFuller says:

    When the USSR fell of its own weight, the US was exceedingly unwise to not go to great lengths to allow that once-great power to save face.

    But, macho to the end, we had to win in the power-one-up-manship game.

    Now, with its newly found natural resource wealth, Russia has been ‘bitch-slapping’ the United States on the world stage.

    The United States is suffering from a massive self-inflicted loss of power and prestige and, in the international power one-up-manship game, most of the world is delighting our fall.

    Only a utter moron like Bush could have created this disaster.

    ~

  18. Respondon says:

    I think the US side can give Putin good advice– how he can achieve his overall goals, which are perfectly legitimate (restoration of Russia’s prestige, power, and prosperity), without resort to measures and statements which only harm his reputation in the West and which aren’t even necessary to his goals. Kissinger is definitely a guy who can credibly tell a leader with authoritarian tendencies, “look, this isn’t worth the candle.”

  19. Bor komorowski says:

    Hopeless Henery Kissinger was washed up with the Russians years ago for many good reasons –that Bush had to send him shows a Bush policy desperation that was engendered by Henery and his Neocons- Kissinger’s speciality is solving crises he creates–Bor Komorowski

  20. Bill Wade says:

    regarding Kissinger, here’s an interesting article:

    http://www.takimag.com/site/article/the_kissinger_connection/

  21. Reinhard Scheer says:

    Too bad no one notified Interpol to arrest Kissinger, when he left the USA for Russia, or has his convicted war criminal status from the Hague been changed?

  22. BobN says:

    “Secret negotiations”? Nah, just a chance to exchange tips on governing.

  23. Jack says:

    This looks like just another effort by the US Kosher Klub to get pushy with Russia(Putin)using the the US prestige to get what they want. A collection of US NeoCONS, and cons they are led by the hofjueden Kissinger, with former KGB head Pinchas Finkelstein, otherwise known as Yugeny Primakov, and now working for Chertof at the Homeland Security plant.

    Does anybody believe that this cadre of clowns are acting in the best interest of the USA ? I’m bending over with hilarious laughter !

    Jack

    The new prime minister of Russia, Yevgeny Primakov, chosen by Berezovsky and the other Jewish oligarchs, has been praised by the New York Times as a tough, experienced bureaucrat: just the sort to straighten out Russia’s economic problems. What the New York Times has not said is that “Primakov” is not the name he was born with. His family name actually is Finkelstein, and his Jewish parents called him “Pinchas” — Pinchas Finkelstein. prime minister of Russia. Amazing, isn’t it? — “A Confluence of Crises,” Transcription of Complete American Dissident Voices Broadcast of September 19, 1998, by William Pierce

  24. nellieh says:

    What does a souless se in the eyes of another souless person? Is there anything Kissinger has done that has helped the Country?

  25. Kissinger isn’t a neocon. He’s a Bismarckian/Machiavellian tactician, reflecting a view of the world which contrasts from the somewhat idealistic foreign policy perspective of the neocons.That Kissinger might’ve some agreement with the neocons doesn’t make him one.

    On the former Yugoslavia and former USSR, the neocons and George Soros funded neoliberals seem to be in general agreement. On other issues like Iraq, their views differ with each other.

    Primkaov has his good points. IMO, he’s being relied on a bit too heavily when it comes to providing Russian foreign policy perspectives.

    One’s ethno/religious background isn’t related to this subject.

  26. Jack says:

    Michael Averko gets a C- for dancing around my question:

    “Does anybody believe that this cadre of clowns is acting on the best interest of the US ?”

    You have another chance to improve your score.

    As for your “One’s ethno/religious background isn’t related to this subject.”

    Oh, how refreshing to hear this. And what planet are you residing ?

    Jack

  27. Hank says:

    I have listened to interviews of Kissinger over the past year, and he frankly sounds a bit out of touch with reality. His leading a U.S. delegation, even if it is not a formal mission, worries me. Who speaks for our country these days? Why doesn’t our Secretary fo State deal with someone as important as Putin? And why is there an oil company executive in the group? I suspect that these people are up to no good; some day we’ll find out who is getting screwed and who is getting sold out.

  28. bob king says:

    Kissinger???? paris negotiations kissinger?? kissinger???, the tough guy that picks up his marbles and goes home when nobody will play his game by his rules???….I’ve got to quit thinking our government has learned anything from history and our failures. it’s time to dig fallout shelters again folks…cause kissinger will have putin so pissed off, no tellin what he’ll do..either build a new fallout shelter or find out where bush’s is…join his ass there.

  29. Jack:

    The record here shows that you brought up the Jewish background of some in a way suggesting that it substantively relates to the meeting.

    I did in fact post comments noting Kissinger’s less than stellar performance and how others view him.

    I’ll redirect a question of yours back to you: Wha planet are you residing?

  30. Tim Newman says:

    One’s ethno/religious background isn’t related to this subject.

    I never thought I’d ever say this, but Mike Averko is bang on with this. Conspiracy theories regarding world events being controlled by a shadowy cabal of Jews should be treated with nothing but contempt.

  31. Paging Ethan Burger.

    He deserves that one Andy and then some.

  32. GER O'BRIEN says:

    Tim,

    I never thought I’d say it either, but Mike is dead right about Henry Kissinger -if anything Mike is being too kind on the guy – and I’m quite suprised at the fact that he’s even being used by the US goverment these days. What about Paris, Cambodia? This guy was a monster, drenched in blood. And Mike’s description ‘Machiavellian’ is spot on.

  33. Aleks says:

    One a side note, for all the ‘Dove’ status that Carter is afforded, he killed the B1-A program (an expensive and obsolete boondoggle that it was) and heavily invested in many new generation ICBMs which the Soviets certainly didn’t miss. As Michael Caine said ‘Not a lot of people know that’…

    Ger, I agree with you and Mike, and that is exactly why Kissinger is ‘appropriate’. Kissinger is exactly the kind of guy the Russians (understand and can)get on with! Old Skool…

  34. On Primakov and his Jewish background (since it was inappropriately raised), he has been known as an “Arabist”. For that matter, a number of Israelis and non-Israeli Jews feel that Kissinger has been biased against Israel.

    Having a Machiavellian/Bismarckian view of history and politics isn’t in itself wrong. One can subscribe to that stance, while being in disagreement with Kissinger. Much like how socialists or any other school of thinking can have disagreements from within.

    The nice thing about a sound Machiavellian/Bismarckian view of the world is that it overrides the bogus idealistic bullshit used as a smoke screen. A case in point being those who use human rights as a propaganda tool by highlighting abuses in countries whose foreign policy runs contrary to what some like, while simultaneously being soft with human rights abusers whose foreign policy isn’t seen as so disagreeable.

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