Henry Kissinger, born on May 27, 1923, in Germany, was an influential American political scientist and diplomat who served as the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He was a key figure in shaping U.S. foreign policy from 1969 to 1976.
Kissinger’s significant contributions to politics and diplomacy include his role in the thawing of the Cold War through the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, his negotiation of the United States’ exit from the Vietnam War, and his involvement in diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in Vietnam.
Kissinger’s legacy is a polarizing subject, and he has written extensively on diplomatic history and international relations, with over a dozen books to his name.
Early life and career
Kissinger was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Germany in 1923.
His family fled Nazi persecution and immigrated to the United States in 1938.
Kissinger excelled academically and graduated from Harvard College in 1950 with a degree in history, summa cum laude.
He remained at Harvard to earn his graduate degrees, and in 1954, he joined the faculty of the Department of Government and the new Center for International Affairs.
While teaching at Harvard, Kissinger served as a consultant to the National Security Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rand Corporation, the State Department, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
He also served as Director of the Special Studies Project for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where he came into contact with the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller.
Kissinger became a foreign policy advisor to Governor Rockefeller, supporting the governor’s three campaigns for the presidency in 1960, 1964, and 1968.
After Nixon won the presidency in 1968, he appointed Kissinger as national security advisor in 1969.
Kissinger’s significant contributions to politics and diplomacy include his role in the thawing of the Cold War through the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, his negotiation of the United States’ exit from the Vietnam War and his involvement in diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.
Henry Kissinger’s net worth
At the time of his death, Kissinger has an estimated net worth of $50 million.
How did Henry Kissinger make his money?
Kissinger made his money through various income sources, including speaking engagements, book deals, TV appearances and real estate investments.
He was known to command a speaking fee of around $50,000 per engagement and had received significant book deals.
Additionally, Kissinger had a substantial real estate portfolio, including properties in the U.S. and investments in real estate in Europe and Asia.
According to a 1979 New York Times article, Kissinger was already earning $400,000 – $600,000 per year from speaking fees, book royalties and business consulting salaries.
His major sources of income also included his book contract with Little-Brown, which was reported to pay him more than $2 million.
Furthermore, Kissinger was a geopolitical consultant and had established an international geopolitical consulting firm, which had major multinational corporations as clients.
Philanthropy and contributions
Kissinger’s notable philanthropic activities and contributions have been a subject of debate and controversy.
While he is celebrated for his role in establishing peace between Israel and Egypt, which led to the Camp David Accords in 1978, and for his efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in Vietnam, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, he has also been the subject of criticism and allegations of war crimes.
Kissinger donated his Nobel Prize money to charity and has been involved in various policy groups and initiatives.
However, his legacy is marked by both admiration and condemnation, and his philanthropic activities are viewed in the context of his complex and controversial political career.
Books and publications
Kissinger is a prolific author, having written over a dozen books on international relations and diplomacy.
Some of his notable works include;
Diplomacy (1994) – This book is a comprehensive history of diplomacy, examining the evolution of the international system and the role of diplomacy in shaping it.
White House Years (1979) – This memoir covers Kissinger’s time as national security advisor and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
World Order (2014) – This book explores the concept of world order and the challenges facing the international system in the 21st century.
On China (2011) – This book examines the history of China and its relationship with the United States, as well as the challenges and opportunities presented by China’s rise as a global power.
The Age of AI: And Our Human Future (2021) – This book, co-authored with Eric Schmidt and Daniel Huttenlocher, explores the impact of artificial intelligence on society and the future of humanity.
Kissinger’s intellectual contributions to the field of international relations and diplomacy continue to be studied and debated by scholars and world leaders.
However, his legacy is also marked by controversy and criticism, with some accusing him of war crimes and supporting oppressive regimes.
Controversies and criticisms
Kissinger’s controversial legacy in international relations and diplomacy is marked by allegations of war crimes and criticisms of his policies.
Some of the controversies surrounding Kissinger include his role in expanding the Vietnam War into Cambodia, supporting coups in Chile and Cyprus, backing oppressive government actions in Iran and Pakistan, authorizing the secret carpet-bombing of Cambodia, and conducting covert negotiations to obtain the Paris Peace Accords.
Additionally, his support for friendly dictatorships that could help the U.S. balance Soviet power has been a point of criticism.
Despite these controversies, Kissinger’s supporters argue that his foreign policy projects promoted stability and were born of pragmatism in an effort to advance U.S. objectives.
His diplomatic achievements, such as organizing rapprochement between the United States and China and orchestrating détente with the Soviet Union, have been credited with shaping the post-war global landscape.
Kissinger served as the United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
He was appointed as National Security Advisor in 1969 and played a crucial role in shaping foreign policy.
His relationship with Nixon was unusually close, and together they conducted numerous “backchannel” negotiations, often excluding the State Department experts.
Kissinger’s influence continued during the turmoil of Watergate, and he was described as assuming a role akin to co-president to the discredited Nixon.
After Nixon’s resignation, Kissinger’s influence in the new presidential administration of Gerald R. Ford was diminished after he was replaced by Brent Scowcroft as National Security Advisor during the “Halloween Massacre” cabinet reshuffle.
Kissinger continued to serve as Secretary of State under Ford, making him the only person to have served as both Secretary of State and National Security Advisor at the same time.
His tenure was marked by significant foreign policy achievements, including the pursuit of detente with the Soviet Union and the establishment of relations with China.
However, his approach and policies were also the subject of criticism and controversy, particularly regarding the Vietnam War and his involvement in covert negotiations and backchannel diplomacy.
After leaving government service in 1977, Kissinger established a consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and commanded large fees as a speaker.
He continued to write newspaper columns, books, and give speeches, sharing his opinions on international relations and diplomacy.
In addition to his consulting work, he served on various presidential commissions and boards of directors for companies.
Kissinger’s influence endured beyond his time in office, as he continued to advise presidents and administrations from Carter through Trump, and developed relationships with prominent political figures.
His consulting firm, speaking engagements, and writing activities earned him millions, and he remained an influential figure in international relations and diplomacy until his passing in 2023.
Henry Kissinger’s legacy
Kissinger’s enduring impact on international relations and his legacy in the field of diplomacy are marked by both admiration and criticism.
He was a towering figure in American foreign policy and international relations for more than half a century, serving as national security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Kissinger’s major diplomatic achievements involved China, the Soviet Union, Vietnam and the Middle East.
He developed a policy of warmer U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, détente, which led to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) in 1969.
Kissinger’s approach to world affairs was marked by diplomacy with restraint, a conservative bent, and an emphasis on relations between countries more than on the politics within them.
His legacy is marked by both admiration and condemnation, and his philanthropic activities are viewed in the context of his complex and controversial political career.
Kissinger’s intellectual approach and legacy for the study of international affairs continue to be studied and debated by scholars and world leaders.