Henry Kissinger : The eminence grise on his new book about leadership, how the Internet has made it more difficult, and what he actually thinks about Ukraine.

.- How do you think history will judge the leadership of Volodymyir Zelensky?

Zelensky is doing a heroic and extraordinary job in leading a country that normally would not elect somebody of his background as leader.

He has made Ukraine a moral cause in a period of great transition. It remains to be seen whether he can institutionalize what he had started.

.- At Davos, you suggested Ukraine might think about ceding some land.

I never said that. What I said is that the best diving line for a cease-fire is the status quo-ante; that is, one should not pursue the war from the territories that were Ukrainian when the war started into territories that had been tolerated or accepted as part of Russia at that time.

I warned against turning the war for the freedom of Ukraine into a war about the future of Russia.

.- You're quite gloomy about the effect of the internet on leadership. Why is that?

The manipulation of the Internet requires such special skills and can evoke such reactions that the ability to affect the immediate impact of stories or events can become the preoccupation of leaders, rather than a view of a more distant future.

And the impact is not just of the internet but of technology. Some of the greatest ideas of history, of philosophy, or literature, came out of the anguish of struggling for understanding, and might never have been reached if there was a helpful assistance who gave an immediately relevant solution.

.- At 98, do you feel hopeful about the world?

I've had the opportunity to participate in many things that, from where I sat, were attempts to improve the world.

This possibility now exists in an even wider-sense. That is a positive aspect. But I'm concerned that my children's generation doesn't make progress in understanding [ the promise and threat of technology ], this could become a world of great violence and division.

So there is an opportunity and also a danger, and both are relatively unique.

In this book I tried to show how it was done by some people in different times. It's not a cookbook; it's supposed to inspire some reflection.

.- If you had to pick just one, which leader from your book do you think America needs now?

The country needs somebody like Charles de Gaulle who recalls it to its essence, even if the definition of that essence is romanticized. He declared as his objective not victory but a regeneration of a lost faith in itself.

.- You include Richard Nixon in a book of inspired leaders. Are you trying to retilt history in his favor?

Not in the sense that I set out to find a way to retell history. In the field of foreign policy, in which I knew him best, he took over a difficult and declining situation and tried to show a way out; some of his policies in the Middle East and on China set a pattern that lasted for over a generation.

The World Students Society thanks author Belinda Luscombe.


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