He was one of the great masters of international relations from 1968 to 1977. Henry Kissinger, sometimes nicknamed “Dear Henry,” died Wednesday, November 29 at the age of 100 at his home in Connecticut, a statement released by his consulting firm. This academic was the architect of American realpolitik and détente with the Soviet Union.

Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on May 27, 1923, in Fürth, southern Germany, into a Jewish family. Fleeing Nazism, the Kissingers settled in New York in 1938. His adolescence was difficult but he already excelled in his studies. During the war, he fought with courage, notably during the Battle of the Bulge (1944). At the end of the conflict, he was entrusted with the administration of Bavarian towns which he helped to denazify.

In 1947, back in the United States, he was admitted to Harvard University. His meeting with the Republican Nelson Rockefeller made his career take off. Thanks to him, he published, in 1957, a work on atomic weapons, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (“Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy”, untranslated) which enjoyed great bookstore success and gave him a strong reputation. He then became a well-known and appreciated personality and completed his doctorate in international relations.

Executor of Nixon’s diplomacy

But his political career did not take off until the end of the 1960s. In 1969, Richard Nixon, newly elected, appointed him advisor for security affairs, a position which he combined with that of Secretary of State from September 1973. Henry Kissinger becomes the sole executor of diplomacy for Richard Nixon, who has little confidence in professional diplomats. For Kissinger, the stability of the world, guaranteed by the balance between the two superpowers, the United States and the USSR, is vital. He is therefore constantly seeking compromise through negotiation, an art in which he excels.

Opposed to the Vietnam War, he supported it once in power to ensure the maintenance of American power in Asia. In 1973, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for reaching an agreement with Hanoi to end the conflict, which did not prevent South Vietnam from being crushed by the Vietminh in 1975.

A year before, he recorded two major successes. He organized Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972, sealing the rapprochement with Beijing. And he worked for an understanding with Moscow with the visit of the American president to the Russian capital in May 1972. He finally succeeded in defusing the conflict resulting from the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 thanks to the withdrawal of Egyptian and Israeli forces on along the Suez Canal.

Gray areas

Richard Nixon removed from power by the Watergate affair, “Dear Henry” remained in the White House under his successor, Gerald Ford, until the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter who took the presidency of the United States in January 1977. His diplomatic work is major under the two Republican presidents and Henry Kissinger managed to seduce with his brilliant mind and his charm, his sense of repartee and his sharp humor often hitting the mark like a modern Talleyrand. To explain his final trip to Moscow, he declared: “I would do anything for caviar! »

His desire to influence world affairs continued after these official positions. For four decades, in Washington and on all continents, he provided his geopolitical analyzes and strategic advice through multiple networks, combining official functions and private missions, multiplying conferences, books and press articles. In his seventeenth and final work published in 2014, The Order of the World (Fayard), the former Secretary of State warns against the extreme variations of mood in American foreign policy, an “ambivalent superpower”, oscillating between messianic impulses and isolationist retrenchment.

But Henry Kissinger also had his gray areas. Thus, in 1975, a commission of inquiry of the American Senate revealed his role in the fall of the Salvador Allende regime in favor of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile in 1973. He will nevertheless remain in history as that of a great architect of East-West “détente”.