Veteran US statesman Henry Kissinger has urged the West to stop trying to inflict a crushing defeat on Russian forces in Ukraine, warning that it would have disastrous consequences for the long term stability of Europe.
The former US secretary of state and architect of the Cold War rapprochement between the US and China told a gathering in Davos that it would be fatal for the West to get swept up in the mood of the moment and forget the proper place of Russia in the European balance of power.
Dr Kissinger said the war must not be allowed to drag on for much longer, and came close to calling on the West to bully Ukraine into accepting negotiations on terms that fall very far short of its current war aims.
“Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante. Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself,” he said.
He told the World Economic Forum that Russia had been an essential part of Europe for 400 years and had been the guarantor of the European balance of power structure at critical times. European leaders should not lose sight of the longer term relationship, and nor should they risk pushing Russia into a permanent alliance with China.
“I hope the Ukrainians will match the heroism they have shown with wisdom,” he said, adding with his famous sense of realpolitik that the proper role for the country is to be a neutral buffer state rather than the frontier of Europe.
The comments came amid growing signs that the Western coalition against Vladimir Putin is fraying badly as the food and energy crisis deepens, and that sanctions may have reached their limits.
“We’re seeing the worst of Europe,” said German vice-chancellor Robert Habeck in an angry outburst in Davos, accusing Hungary and other recalcitrant states of paralysing attempts by the rest of the EU to craft a full-fledged oil embargo.