Appeared in Bulgarian at A-specto, translated by Valentina Tzoneva exclusively for SouthFront
Die Zeit interviews former US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger about Trump’s victory, his fears and his own expectations. The world’s biggest political leaders ask Kissinger for advice on foreign policy, although he is no longer actively engaged in politics. Donald Trump also met with him at “Trump Tower”, which is only ten minutes away from the office of the former US Secretary of State.
Mr. Kissinger, last week you met with Donald Trump. What did you talk about?
I never speak in detail about my conversations with presidents. I will not do it now. What I can say is that we discussed international politics.
Many Republicans distanced themselves from Trump; do you want to help him?
When Trump asks me questions and I have something to say, then I answer. At least, when I feel that I can influence in a given situation. I will neither get a title nor will I accept a state position.
Who did you vote for?
Why must I tell you? While Hillary Clinton is my personal acquaintance, I was not particularly enthusiastic regarding both candidates.
And do you like the result of the election?
The important thing is that we now have a result and should extract the most positive out of it, of course, on the basis of values in which we believe.
You sound very cautious, many people are afraid of Trump.
I think the fear for physical security is irrelevant. But of course, we must be concerned about the future of our country and that of the western world. We, in America, must understand that you cannot continually offend the social values of the middle class without being punished for it. Nobody knows this better than Germany.
Is the American democracy more stable than the one of Weimar?
Trump did something historic. He turned the American system around. After so many people voted contrary to what all the media recommended and incidentally, many Republicans, it is clear that something unusual is taking place. A democracy cannot exist if advantages to all political opponents on the scene are not allowed. If it is only for this, just to destroy the other side, to debase and ridicule it, this means that democracy has failed. We need a consensus on how we talk to each other.
At present, this country is far from consensus.
Yes, it is.
How can this be corrected?
Leaders must treat each other with more restraint and last but not least – seriously.
Let’s talk about foreign policy. Many Europeans fear the future relationship between Putin and Trump as a new line of relations in the world.
I do not think that there is a strategic relationship between the two of them. I think that the following happened: Putin praised Trump and Trump thanked him in his own way. We must not fall into hysteria but wait and see the policy of Trump on Russia. The election battle is over.
What does the choice of Trump mean for the role of America in the world?
This choice could establish a balance between our foreign policy and the attitudes in the country. There is an obvious discrepancy between public perception of US foreign policy and the elite’s perception of it. I think the figure of the new president is an opportunity to combine these two things. He has that possibility and it is up to him how he will use it.
So far, no one has a clear picture of the foreign policy agenda of Trump. Would you help us?
No, but I guess in the first six months he will outline the problems and establish relations with other world leaders. Trump’s management must answer three questions: What issues are so important that America can solve and if it must, on its own? What problems are of universal significance and America can solve only with its allies? And from what problems do we need to stay away? After all, we cannot sort out everything. This will be a new experience for America.
To which of the three categories does Syria belong?
The question of the unresolved problem in Syria is the question of how to create a legitimate state structure in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society that does not have its own national identity. By ‘legitimate’ I mean a state that is backed by enough people and does not want to tear up the majority of the people through violence.
In other words, it is not necessary to be a democracy?
And not necessarily a dictatorship.
To which category does Syria belong?
There is no way that America alone can solve the conflict in Syria.
Trump has said that he wants to shoot down the terrorist organization, Islamic State, by land and air. He also announced that he would rather be an isolationist. Apart from that, he supports Putin, the most important ally of the Syrian government. Syrian leader, Bashar Al-Assad, should be happy about the election of Trump most of all.
Campaigning is not management. You correctly described the trends we read about during the election campaign of Trump. I find it useless. What does shooting Islamic State by land and air mean? I think that Trump should primarily become well informed, firstly about the details, and then about his strategy. But we have to give him time to do so.
This might take a long time.
It has already begun. Each ambassador in Washington has requested a meeting with Trump, many state leaders too. I think he can meet the most important ones of them before being forced to act on an event. US foreign policy over the past nine months was in limbo. Important decisions were postponed because of the presidential campaign. At the latest, at the beginning of the new year, international activities will accelerate. World leaders have no choice but to take the path of any development of a situation, if not, chaos will continue to grow.
Can the Russian-American relations, one of the largest lines of conflict in international politics, become friendlier and even reach cooperation?
I do not like to talk about foreign policy from the perspective of psychiatry. Ultimately, friendship plays no role. In foreign policy everyone acts to his national interest.
Actually, wasn’t Trump’s campaigning founded precisely on his personality and emotions? Many believe that he is unable to define the national interest. Don’t you think that with him the world is faced with a completely new type of player in foreign policy; a player for whom it will be more important to get along with someone than to pursue any national interests?
I cannot exclude it, but it would have brought great difficulties for him.
Is the fear of Trump premature?
I cannot say that those who are worried are wrong. Maybe they are right. But my recommendation that I have shared many times is to wait and see. Europe should seek dialogue with Trump and be open.
What would you advise Angela Merkel?
Merkel and Trump, as well as employees on a working level, the administrations should very quickly be able to pull together and decide what we want to achieve together. What do we want to prevent? Currently, Germany is facing a historical dilemma. Germany has never in its history had truly effective multilateralism. In the empire it felt besieged; at the times of Versailles discriminated; under Hitler, it was dominant; and after the war – guilty. Germany has never had an effective partnership. But now Germany has left this nightmare and the shackles behind. And there is not a more suitable person to handle that freedom than Angela Merkel who was raised in East Germany and survived communism.
Should Germany take on the international role of a leader?
My generation got used to the dominance of America and Germany at the same time was seeking protection from a great ally. It was a comfortable configuration, but it will change. Besides, Germany should do more and the federal government needs to define what that means more specifically. You cannot be a leading nation if you say that you’re the only one. Becoming a leading nation happens when you do something that unites those around you. Germany must find its role and this will be a process of self-education. Germany must ask now: What do we want for the world? America also has to ask this question.
When Merkel congratulated Trump on the phone, why did she not tell him that she would love to see him next July at Hamburg, at the G-20 summit? This means that she had not invited him to Berlin, which is quite common and popular.
We should not exaggerate the importance of the first phone calls. In most cases, they are made for domestic political reasons. All that can be read in this conversation is that the Germans are so worried about Trump that Merkel did not honor him with an invitation to Berlin. I personally would be very surprised and disappointed if at the G-20 summit in Hamburg there was no meeting between Merkel and Trump, respectively with their foreign advisers.
You met with Trump last week, and during the election campaign he was invited to visit you at home. How well do you know each other?
The reasons for these meetings are too complex to explain them in an interview. We are both fans of the ‘New York Yankees’. I have met him in the VIP box at the stadium several times. We have always had brief conversations for a few minutes and I cannot say more. For the other two meetings, I do not want to say anything. You know, my point is this: I came to the US as a refugee and I know how important this country can be. I experienced how America, with great enthusiasm, started five wars without knowing how to finish them. And I know what war does to people. I want reconciliation, also here in the US. I want people to come together, not to be involved in a civil war.
Source: Die Zeit