Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in a video address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Tuesday that Ukraine joining NATO would be an “appropriate outcome” of the war, reversing his previous position that Kyiv shouldn’t join the Western military alliance.
“Before this war, I was opposed to membership of Ukraine in NATO because I feared that it would start exactly the process that we have seen now,” Kissinger said. “Now that this process has reached this level, the idea of a neutral Ukraine under these conditions is no longer meaningful.”
Kissinger’s comments reflect an article he wrote for The Spectator last month. In the piece, he didn’t explicitly say Ukraine should join NATO but argued that “a peace process should link Ukraine to NATO, however expressed.”
In The Spectator article, Kissinger called for negotiations to avoid another world war and suggested referendums could be held to settle disputes over some of the territory Russia has captured from Ukraine. But his opinion on the matter appears to have changed.
While he still called for talks with Moscow in his address on Tuesday, he said on Tuesday that the fighting should only end after Russia is pushed back to the pre-invasion lines. “I believe in dialogue with Russia while the war continues, an end of fighting when the prewar line is reached,” he said.
The chances of negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are slim as Ukrainian officials are demanding a complete withdrawal and for Moscow to face war crimes tribunals before talks can even happen. For their part, Russia says it’s open to talks but maintains that any deal must involve the territories it annexed joining the Russian Federation.
Kissinger said that the conflict should be kept “from becoming a war against Russia itself” due to Moscow’s large nuclear arsenal. He also said after the war, Russia should be given “an opportunity to rejoin the international system.”
The former secretary of state angered Ukrainian officials the last time he addressed the WEF back in May 2022. In those remarks, Kissinger suggested Ukraine should cede Crimea and the territory separatists controlled in the Donbas before Russia’s invasion.
While known as a hawk for his infamous role in leading the secret US bombing of Cambodia as President Nixon’s national security advisor, Kissinger has long called for a more friendly posture toward Russia since the end of the Cold War. In 2014, shortly after the US-backed ousting of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, Kissinger warned that if Ukraine were to “survive and thrive,” it must function as a “bridge” between Russia and the West.