Kissinger says Ukraine must give up land to Russia, warns West not to humiliate Putin

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Henry Kissinger
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaks during the Department of State 230th Anniversary Celebration at the Harry S. Truman Headquarters building July 29, 2019 in Washington, DC.
  • Henry Kissinger said Ukraine must be prepared to give up territory to Russia in peace talks.
  • He warned of the risk of escalation unless peace negotiations start in the next two months. 
  • Ukraine has angrily rejected the suggestion that it could give up territory.
  • For more stories, go to

Henry Kissinger said that Ukraine must concede territory to Russia to end the war, and warned the West that a humiliating defeat for Russia could result in wider destabilisation. 

The legendary American statesman, now 98, made the comments in a conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Monday, reported The Daily Telegraph.

Kissinger was the architect of the détente with China under the Nixon administration, and one of the world's foremost advocates of realpolitik, in which nations put morals and principles aside to achieve their aims.

"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," Kissinger said.

"Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself."

Status quo ante means "how things were before." Kissinger's comments imply that Ukraine should accept a peace deal to restore the situation on February 24, where Russia formally controlled the Crimea peninsula and informally controlled part of the Donetsk region in east Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have angrily opposed the idea that they should give up any territory.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said Ukraine would only accept Russia giving up all claims to land in Ukraine, and staging a total withdrawal.

Kissinger's comments echo a New York Times editorial last week, which argued that Ukraine should accept it would have to make territorial concessions for a peace deal.

The article prompted a rebuttal response from Mikhailo Podolyak, an advisor to Zelensky who was involved in the initial peace talks with Russia, which failed to produce any results.

In a post on Tuesday he mentioned that this idea was being discussed at Davos, though he did not specify where or name Kissinger.

Kissinger in his remarks said that Russia had been an essential part of Europe for 400 years, helping balance the power structure at crucial times, reported The Telegraph.

He argued that the West should not risk pushing Russia into closer alliance with China. 

"I hope the Ukrainians will match the heroism they have shown with wisdom," he said, adding that Ukraine's proper place was as a neutral buffer state, rather than a fully integrated part of Europe. 

In recent months, cracks have been showing in the western alliance against Russia's aggression, with isolationist Republican lawmakers in the US opposing a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, and Hungary stymieing European Union attempts to blockade Russian oil. As inflation creeps up, public opposition to the war may also increase.

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