A Q&A with Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger is a former US secretary of State. He spoke with
Global Viewpoint Network editor Nathan Gardels about President
Obama's nuclear policies, how to deal with China, and the new
alliance of BRIC countries.
Nathan Gardels: You have said that you see President Obama as a
chess player setting up his moves on the world stage in the first
year and a half in office. How do you assess his moves of late on
the new START treaty, the Nuclear Posture Statement and the just-
completed nuclear security summit with world leaders?
Henry Kissinger: The START treaty is a significant step in
achieving a reset in the Russian-American relationship. It replaces
the first START treaty, which had lapsed in December. The announced
reductions are marginal in substance and achieved in part by
changing the counting rules. It is a useful step that deserves
I agree with the attempt of the Nuclear Posture Statement to
reduce reliance on nuclear weapons where we can safely do so. Some
of the assurances that were given to nonnuclear countries, however,
seem to me too explicit. Especially the statement that the US would
not respond to biological and chemical attacks with nuclear weapons.
That issue should be left ambiguous.
As for the recent summit of world leaders, controlling
fissionable material all over the world is crucial, especially as
the civilian use of nuclear energy spreads. Of these three
initiatives on the nuclear weapons front taken by Obama, this is the
most important subject. It will need continued attention to be
Gardels: One of the stumbling blocks the last time the US and the
then-Soviet Union discussed radical arms reductions at Reykjavik
during the Reagan administration was the issue of missile defense.
That is an issue this time as well, since the Russians oppose basing
a missile defense system in Europe aimed against Iran that could be
directed against them. And, apparently, they reserve the right to
withdraw from the START treaty if the missile-defense issue is not
George Shultz, Reagan's secretary of State, suggests that the US
propose sharing the missile-defense system with Russia, even basing
radar sites on their soil. Is this realistic? Is it a good idea?
Kissinger: I favor developing a joint missile defense with Russia
against Iran. But the US also needs missile defenses controlled by
the United States against strategic attack from other directions.
So, let's cooperate with Russia on Iran, but we cannot relinquish
missile defenses aimed at other threats - especially unauthorized
launches and accidental launches.
Gardels: When you made the opening to China with Richard Nixon,
the country was flat on its back in the waning days of the Cultural
Revolution. Since then, it has had double-digit growth for several
decades; it has a large emerging middle class, the world's fastest
trains, and vast currency reserves. It is the main holder of
American Treasury securities. As a result, one senses in China these
days an inner-civilizational confidence that borders on arrogance.
That has led China to assert itself strongly vis-a-vis the US on
Google, Tibet, Taiwan, and climate change, with more contradictory
signals on Iran sanctions and currency valuation. …