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The legend Kissinger saw a turning point

The 99-year-old guru of geopolitics put on the mass of ideas for a peace process

The patriarch of American diplomacy, 99-year-old Henry Kissinger, came up with a proposal to negotiate a peace plan to end the war in Ukraine.

His article in The Spectator, entitled “How to avoid another world war” caused high-level reactions around the world.

“The First World War was a kind of cultural suicide that destroyed the rise of Europe. The leaders of Europe were sleepwalking – as the historian Christopher Clarke has put it – into a conflict that none of them would have entered if they could see the end of the war in 1918 . Over the past decades, they expressed their rivalry with each other, creating two types of alliance whose strategies were linked to their respective mobilization schedules. As a result, in 1914, the assassination of the Austrian crown prince in Sarajevo, Bosnia by a Serbian nationalist became the cause for an escalation in war that begins as Germany executes its comprehensive plan to defeat France by attacking neutral Belgium at the other end of Europe.

The nations of Europe, ill-acquainted with how technology had improved military power, proceeded to wreak unprecedented havoc on each other. In August 1916, after two years of war and millions of casualties, the major powers of the West (Britain, France and Germany) began to explore the prospects of ending the carnage.

Because no possible compromise could justify the sacrifices already made, and because no one wanted to appear weak, the various leaders hesitated to initiate a formal peace process. Therefore, they sought American mediation. Research by Colonel Edward House, President Woodrow Wilson’s personal envoy, revealed that a peace based on a modified status quo was achievable. However, Wilson, though eager to mediate, delayed until after the presidential election in November. By then the British offensive at the Somme and the German at Verdun had resulted in another two million casualties.

In the words of Philip Zelikov’s book, diplomacy has become the road less traveled. The war continued for two more years and claimed millions more victims, irreparably damaging the established equilibrium in Europe. Germany and Russia came under revolutionary pressure; the Austro-Hungarian state disappeared from the map. The blood of France was drained to the last drop. Britain sacrificed a significant part of its young generation and its economic capabilities for the necessary victory. The punitive Treaty of Versailles that ended the war proved far more fragile than the structure it replaced.

Is the world at a similar turning point in Ukraine today, as winter forces a pause in large-scale military operations there? I have repeatedly expressed my support for joint military efforts to end Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. But the time is approaching to build on the strategic changes that have already taken place and integrate them into a new structure for achieving negotiated peace.

Ukraine has become a major country in Central Europe for the first time in modern history. Aided by its allies and inspired by its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine has hampered Russian conventional forces that have loomed over Europe since World War II. And the international system – including China – opposes the threat from Russia, the use of its nuclear weapons.

This process cast doubt on the original questions related to Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Ukraine acquired one of the largest and most effective ground armies in Europe, equipped by America and its allies. However, the peace process should connect Ukraine with NATO. The neutrality alternative no longer makes sense, especially after Finland and Sweden joined NATO. That is why I recommended in May that a cease-fire line be established along the borders that existed at the beginning of the war. Thus, Russia would give up its conquests, but not the territories it occupied almost a decade ago, including Crimea. These territories could be subject to negotiations after the ceasefire.

If the pre-war dividing line between Ukraine and Russia could not be reached through military action or through negotiations, then the principle of self-determination could be resorted to.

Referendums on self-determination under international control could be implemented, especially in restive territories that have repeatedly passed from one hand to another over the centuries.

The goal of the peace process would have two key elements: to assert the freedom of Ukraine and to define a new international structure, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Ultimately, Russia must find a place in this order.

Some prefer an outcome where Russia is crippled by the war. I do not agree. For all its propensity for violence, Russia has made a decisive contribution to world equilibrium and the balance of power for more than half a millennium. Its historical role should not be downplayed. Russia’s military failures have not removed the global reach of its nuclear weapons, which allow it to threaten to escalate in Ukraine. Even if this potential is diminished, Russia’s collapse or the destruction of its ability to conduct strategic policy could turn its territory, spanning 11 time zones, into a contested vacuum. Rival societies may begin to resolve their disputes through violence. It is possible that others will try to extend their claims by applying force. All these dangers would be exacerbated by the presence of thousands of nuclear weapons, which make Russia one of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.

As world leaders seek to end a war in which two nuclear powers are squabbling over a conventionally armed state, they should reflect on the impact of that conflict and on long-term AI strategy. Autonomous weapons already exist, capable of identifying, assessing and detecting self-perceived threats and thus capable of waging their own war.

Once the line in this realm is crossed and high technology becomes the standard weapon—and computers become the chief executors of strategy—the world will find itself in a state for which no concept has yet been established. How can leaders exercise control when computers themselves give strategic instructions at scale in a way that inherently limits and threatens human input? How can civilization be preserved amid such a maelstrom of conflicting information, perceptions, and destructive capabilities?

There is no theory for this yet, and efforts on this topic are yet to develop—perhaps because meaningful negotiations could reveal new discoveries that are themselves a risk for the future. Bridging the gap between advanced technologies and the concept of strategies to control them, or even understanding their overall implications, is as important an issue today as climate change, requiring leaders with both technological and the story.

The pursuit of peace and order has two components that are sometimes seen as contradictory: the pursuit of elements of security and the demand for acts of reconciliation. If we cannot achieve both, we will be able to achieve neither. The path of diplomacy can seem complicated and frustrating. But progress requires both vision and the courage to follow it.”

Kyiv: He it’s not yet understood nothing

The Ukrainian government reacted violently to the proposal of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and defined it as “an attempt to appease the aggressor”.

“Mr. Kissinger has not yet understood anything… neither the nature of this war nor its impact on the world order,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to the Ukrainian president, said in Telegram. “The recipe that the former secretary of state calls for, but is afraid to say out loud, is simple: appease the aggressor by sacrificing parts of Ukraine with guarantees of non-aggression against the rest of Eastern Europe,” he added.

“Kissinger is a respected statesman and political scientist. At the same time, everyone understands that he is already the patriarch of the American political elite,” said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian Council on International Relations, in an interview with the private Russian TV station RTVI. However, according to Kortunov, at this moment one can hardly talk about the option proposed by Kissinger – it would require too many concessions from both sides.

CIA director William Burns said in an interview with the American television station PBS that negotiations for a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine are not imminent and that he does not see a “serious attitude on the part of the Russians” to the possible initiation of such consultations.

Earlier, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that, according to the White House, the moment to start peace talks on Ukraine has not yet come.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the war in Ukraine may take a long time, but will “end at the negotiating table”. Any decision must guarantee “the victory of Ukraine as a sovereign, independent state”, Stoltenberg stressed.

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