On the eve of next week’s inauguration, Dr. Henry Kissinger entertained an Atlantic Council audience with his strategic analysis of the challenges and opportunities facing the new administration.  Here are a few memorable quotes.

On the Atlantic alliance and transatlantic relations:

“In Europe, the national-state is giving up much of its sovereignty in favor of the European Union.  One result of that transformation is that the national dedication that created the great period of European sacrifice and political construction has not been as easy to translate to the European structure as the economic prerogatives of the state.  On the other hand, the national-state is no longer in the same position to conduct a global foreign policy as has been traditionally the case.  And this hiatus, in my view, explains some of the differences that have arisen between Europe and the United States in the past decade.”

On the shifting concentration of global power:

“[T]he center of gravity of international affairs is importantly shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Indian Oceans.”

On U.S. foreign policy formation:

“It is impossible as an American not to believe in the importance of democracy.  On top of that, it’s impossible for an immigrant like myself not to believe in the ideological importance of America.  But it is also impossible for a statesman not to consider the timeframe in which his objectives should be realized and can be realized.”

On the global financial crisis:

“I believe one fundamental reason for the crisis is that the political system of the world and the economic system of the world became totally out of phase with each other.”

“[T]here is no major country that believes it can benefit from this crisis.  No country is deliberately undermining the international system.”

On Russian relations:

“We face the question of whether it is possible to establish relationships along the western border of Russia in which Russia is neither dominant nor threatened.”

On the Iranian nuclear program:

“The danger of nuclear weapons in Iran, the imminence of that threat, the measures of diplomacy, and what do we do if diplomacy fails?  Those four questions need to be answered.  I personally believe that if proliferation is not stopped now, it will project us into a world that will become morally unmanageable, in which there will be too many countries with too many varied incentives.”

Some humorous moments:

“One of the reasons I have not sunk into the oblivion which usually befalls Secretaries of State is because I have very many very determined enemies.”

“Realists are people like myself, drudging along, obsessed with power, just waiting for another weapon to be developed that can be integrated into strategic planning.”

A closing note of optimism:

“But having stated these various issues [between the U.S. and Europe], I am absolutely–I’m actually of the belief that it is possible that we will enter an extraordinarily creative period.  I’m hopeful about Iraq.  I think we will not be able to avoid reassessing Afghanistan.  I believe that a dialogue with Russia will emerge, at the end of which we can decide whether we are facing an overwhelming threat or the difficulties of bringing a country undergoing its own trauma into the international system.”


James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.  Associate editor Peter Cassata contributed to this report. 


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