Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that Ukraine should give up territory to seal an end to the Russo-Ukrainian war in an address to Western leaders. Ukrainian leader then gave a “polite” response to the former secretary, declining his suggestion.

Speaking through video link, the 98-year-old Kissinger cautioned the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that failing to restart peace talks with Moscow and the further isolation of the Kremlin would bring severe long-term repercussions to the stability of Europe.

“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.

A “status quo ante” refers to bringing back a scenario wherein Russia formally occupied Crimea and informally held control over Ukraine’s eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky outlined his conditions for Ukraine to enter peace negotiations earlier this month. One condition was the restoration of pre-invasion borders.

Then Vice President and now President Biden and Dr. Henry Kissinger during th 45th Munich Security Conference 2009 (Kai Mörk, CC BY 3.0 DE , via Wikimedia Commons). Source:,_08.30_-_11.00_Uhr-Moerk_015_Biden_Kissinger.jpg
Then-Vice President and now President Biden and Dr. Henry Kissinger during the 45th Munich Security Conference 2009 (Kai MörkCC BY 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons)

Kissinger reminded the forum that Russia has been a crucial part of the power balance in Europe for the last 400 years. He noted that the leader of the West should neither lose sight of maintaining a long-term relationship with Moscow nor risk incentivizing Russia to enter a permanent alliance with China.

“I hope the Ukrainians will match the heroism they have shown with wisdom,” the veteran statesman said, who was State Secretary for the Nixon and Ford administrations. Kissinger was also the architect of the US rapprochement with China during the Cold War for the purposes of preventing Russia and China from forming a more formal military alliance that would threaten Asia.

News of Kissinger’s suggestion soon caught wind, and criticism against the former secretary soon followed. Russian political activist and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov said that Kissinger’s take on the conflict is not just “immoral” but has been “proved wrong over and over.”

“Conceding to great power spheres like Putin and Xi Jinping want isn’t sustainable because dictators inevitably need conflict. This isn’t the Cold War,” Kasparov wrote on Twitter.