Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has told CBS News that the conflict in Ukraine may be approaching a turning point, and that Chinese-brokered peace talks could begin by the end of 2023.
“Now that China has entered the negotiation, it will come to a head, I think by the end of the year,” the 99-year-old diplomat told CBS in an interview broadcast on Sunday (“Henry Kissinger on a potential artificial intelligence arms race”, May 7, 2023, ). By that time, he continued, “we will be talking about negotiating processes and even actual negotiations.”
With the release of its ‘Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis’ in February, China put itself forward as a potential mediator between Moscow and Kiev. The Chinese plan was rejected outright by the U.S. and EU, while Russian President Vladimir Putin described some of its 12 points as “in tune” with Moscow’s position, and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky welcomed only a handful of its points, but maintains that Kiev will not compromise with Russia in any way.
Zelensky’s refusal to negotiate with Putin’s government – the Ukrainian leader banned contact with the Kremlin in a decree last October – is just one stumbling block faced by China or any other potential middleman.
Russia considers the conflict in Ukraine a proxy war between itself and NATO, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that any negotiations would not be held “with Zelensky, who is a puppet in the hands of the West, but directly with his masters.”
Kissinger drew the ire of Kiev last year when he suggested that Ukraine should accept a return to the “status quo ante,” or relinquish its territorial claims to Crimea and grant autonomy to the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, in the name of peace. He has since suggested that these territories become the basis of negotiations after a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal.
Moscow has repeatedly said that it is open to talks with Kiev but only if Ukraine “recognizes the reality on the ground,” including the new status of the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye as parts of Russia. Otherwise, the Kremlin has stated, Russia will settle the conflict by military means.
Following are excerpts from the CBS News interview of Henry Kissinger:
That Henry Kissinger is still alive will come as news to some people. He is hard of hearing, blind in one eye, and has had multiple heart surgeries. Yet, he says, he works about 15 hours a day. And – incredibly – he remains relevant on a global scale.
Koppel asked, “If you had one of your aides here pick up the phone and call Beijing and say, ‘Dr. Kissinger would like to speak with President Xi,’ would he take your call?”
“There is a good chance that he would take my call, yes,” he replied.
And Russian President Vladimir Putin? “Probably, yes.”
“If a president were to come to you and say, ‘Henry, would you fly to Moscow and talk to Putin?’”
“I would be inclined to do it, yes,” Kissinger said. “But I would be an advisor, not an active person.”
“I was not thinking about reinstating you as Secretary of State,” Koppel laughed. “Of course, you would be an advisor.”
The interview said:
Kissinger believes that the current crisis in Ukraine may be approaching a turning point. “Now that China has entered the negotiation, it will come to a head, I think, by the end of the year,” he said. “We will be talking about negotiating processes and even actual negotiations.”
In 1971, on a secret mission, Kissinger set the stage for President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China the following year. Over the past 50 years, China has evolved to become a world power. Koppel asked, “As you look back now, is the world better off because of that opening? Or is it a more dangerous place now?”
“No, China’s reentry into the international system would have happened,” Kissinger replied. “You cannot exclude it from the international system.”
“So, we have a problem,” said Kissinger, “which is that it could evolve into a general war between two high-tech countries. That’s something that requires urgent attention.”
“But it is a dangerous period?”
“From that point of view, it is a very dangerous period.”
As secretary of state in 1973 and ’74, Kissinger fashioned a new style of diplomacy, sometimes spending weeks flying between capitals. “Shuttle diplomacy,” they called it. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was an early convert: “I like him as a man before everything. And then after that as a statesman. As a statesman, I admire him, really.”
Kissinger laid the groundwork for an uneasy peace between Egypt and Israel that has lasted now for almost 50 years.
By the summer of 1974, however, the American presidency itself was in crisis. The country was obsessed by Watergate, and Kissinger was determined (as he told a very much younger Ted Koppel), that he and U.S. foreign policy be seen as separate and apart.
Koppel: “Mr. Secretary, if you ever felt that foreign policy was being manipulated for the sake of domestic political reasons, what would you do?”
Kissinger: “I would resign, and I would say so publicly. Foreign policy has to reflect the continuing values of the American people, and it cannot be the subject of partisan policy.”
It would be Nixon who resigned. Kissinger stayed on as secretary of state.
What will history’s judgment be? Kissinger’s career has been one of extraordinary achievement, and relentless controversy. The bombing of Cambodia. The war in Vietnam. Argentina. Chile. Many of his critics were not even alive when the events they condemn occurred.
Koppel said: “There is no question, when you and President Nixon conceived of the bombing of Cambodia, you did it in order to interdict – ”
“Come on. We have been bombing with drones and all kinds of weapons every guerilla unit that we were opposing,” Kissinger said. “It has been the same in every administration that I have been part of.”
“The consequences in Cambodia were particularly ”
“Come on now.”
“No, no, no, were particularly – ”
Well beyond an age at which most people are unwilling or unable to learn about the latest technology, Kissinger became obsessed with the subject of artificial intelligence. He collaborated with two co-authors on a 2021 book, “The Age of AI and Our Human Future.”
Kiev’s Counteroffensive To Pave Way For Dialogue With Russia, Says Wall Street Journal
The Kiev regime’s ostensibly possible counteroffensive may “pave the way” for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine by the end of the year with China being one of the mediators, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday citing European officials.
According to the newspaper, key representatives from the U.S. National Security Council support the idea of holding the negotiations between Kiev and Moscow. That said, the U.S. Department of State and the CIA are skeptical of the idea and would like to see the result of the potential Ukrainian counteroffensive before taking any diplomatic steps.
Shift In Western Thinking
The Wall Street Journal also points out that this “shift in Western thinking” is occurring amid Western countries’ serious concern that they would not be able to maintain the necessary level of military aid to the Kiev regime in the future. That said, some Western states want to see whether China is capable of defusing the conflict which also indicates a change in the way the West sees Beijing’s role.
Media conjecture about a potential counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops has been rife for several months running, with various potential trigger dates being publicly mooted. Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry highlighted that such open speculation within Western countries about expectations for an upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive only serves to confirm these countries’ direct involvement in the conflict.
The Wall Street Journal report — U.S. and Allies Look at Potential China Role in Ending Ukraine War, May 7, 2023, (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-and-allies-look-at-potential-china-role-in-ending-ukraine-war-2d6cbb4d?st=h9m06jpbsfdt5ea&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink) – said:
Some U.S. and European officials said they believe that Ukraine’s planned spring offensive could pave the way for negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow by the end of the year, and that China could help bring Russia to the table.
The willingness to encourage negotiations and seek out a role for China in talks represents a shift in Western thinking, particularly in the U.S., which has been highly skeptical of any involvement for Beijing given China’s longstanding support for Moscow. Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly expressed cautious optimism recently that Beijing could help defuse the conflict.
The approach is based on the belief that neither side has the ability to continue fighting indefinitely, and that Beijing’s willingness to play a role in international peace talks should be tested, the officials said. Still, they remain uncertain about Russia’s willingness to negotiate a cease-fire under Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some European Countries Are Eager To See The Conflict End
The interest in negotiations brings Washington in closer alignment with some European countries, which are eager to see the conflict end, or at the very least moderate in intensity, and have been the most intent on discussing some resolution this year. The U.S., the U.K. and other countries have been publicly saying that Ukraine should be supported as long as it takes to defeat Russia.
The report said:
French President Emmanuel Macron has been the most explicit in pushing Ukraine to seek negotiations with the Kremlin after the spring offensive.
Two Opinions In The U.S.
The report said:
Key U.S. officials on the National Security Council are in favor of negotiations, according to European officials, while the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have been more skeptical, eager to see how the offensive goes before pitching for a diplomatic off-ramp.
An NSC spokesperson disputed European accounts that there is division within the administration. The State Department and the CIA did not respond to a request for comment.
Senior officials in Paris and Berlin who are familiar with their leaders’ discussions with President Biden say they expect the White House to attempt to facilitate talks following the Ukrainian offensive’s anticipated gains.
Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, will host Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Berlin this month. While Mr. Scholz would not pressure Mr. Zelensky into talks, Mr. Biden is expected to signal to the Ukrainian leader that cease-fire talks might be opportune in the coming months, European officials said.
Inability Of The Western Industrial Capacity
The report added:
The push to negotiate comes in the midst of concern on both sides of the Atlantic that the scale of support provided by allies to Ukraine for the coming push will be hard to match in the future if the war grinds into a stalemate. The supply of ammunition is a key problem because Western industrial capacity has proven unable to meet its own demands while supporting Ukraine, several officials and industry leaders said.
A number of senior officials across European governments expressed concern about the high attrition rates of troops and materiel in Ukraine, whose population is less than one-third of Russia’s.
The European push for negotiations is not a consensus. Poland, the Baltic states, other smaller nations, and some officials from the U.K. believe that Ukraine should be given the time it needs to make gains — even if the coming spring offensive does not reshape the battlefield.
Testifying May 4 on Capitol Hill, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said U.S. intelligence agencies assess that Mr. Putin has little interest in negotiating a definitive settlement of the conflict and is still assuming that the West’s will to support Ukraine will erode over time.
“We continue to assess that Putin most likely calculates that time works in his favor,” said Ms. Haines.
Paris And Berlin
The report said:
It could not be determined what any sort of negotiations would look like, but officials in Paris and Berlin said they are interested in a broadly framed cease-fire agreement that would potentially involve China among its guarantors.
In February, Mr. Macron offered in private to Mr. Zelensky to host a peace conference in Paris to negotiate a cease-fire when Kyiv decides the time is right. Mr. Zelensky said he would only participate if Mr. Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping attended.
“China will continue to promote negotiations for peace and make its own efforts for an early cease-fire and restoration of peace,” the Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement.
Mr. Macron and his officials, as well as other Europeans officials, have since prodded Beijing to play a constructive role in diplomacy. Those efforts culminated in Mr. Xi calling Mr. Zelensky in April for the first time since the war began.
“It is too early to be able to say anything, and we are now waiting for Xi’s representative to arrive in Kyiv,” said a senior member of the Ukrainian government.
Nonetheless, key European leaders are now confident that China is eager to remain involved in eventual cease-fire negotiations, several European officials said.
That sentiment was echoed by Mr. Blinken. “In principle, there is nothing wrong with that,” he said last week at a Washington Post forum. He added that if there are countries with significant influence “that are prepared to pursue a just and durable peace, we would welcome that. And it is certainly possible that China would have a role to play in that effort.” Mr. Blinken also said he was not sure that Beijing accepted the proposition that Moscow was the aggressor.
Until recently, a number of U.S. and European officials were saying that China’s open support for Russia since the war began made Beijing unpalatable as a negotiating partner for ending the war.
Kyiv welcomes any country that can play a constructive role in their pursuit of peace, but did not believe Beijing was crucial, Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, said recently.
Western leaders are now slowly moving toward a consensus that halting the conflict might be the best option, said Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council official responsible for Russian policy, now with the Brookings Institution.
“This seems to be where we are trending,” she said. “Freeze the conflict and stop the slaughter, because everybody would like this to stop.”
Despite mounting losses, Mr. Putin has shown no public sign of winding down the war or his objectives. Any durable arrangement will most likely involve Mr. Zelensky’s acceptance of occupation of Ukrainian territory by Russia, Ms. Hill said.
“Is it sufficient for Ukraine to have effectively given up territory and countless lives and to say, ‘OK, this is what we died for?’ ” Ms. Hill asked.
Ukraine Leaders Lower Hopes
A report by Political Wire — U.S. Sees China Role in Ending Ukraine War, May 7, 2023, https://politicalwire.com/2023/05/07/u-s-sees-china-role-in-ending-ukraine-war/ — cited Washington Post: “The Ukrainian military has spent nearly 15 months exceeding the world’s expectations. Now, senior leaders are trying to lower those hopes, fearing that the outcome of an imminent counteroffensive aimed at turning the tide of the war with Russia may not live up to the hype.”