By Nick Stamatakis

The purpose of this article is not to do justice to the biography of an absolute colossus of foreign policy, Henry Kissinger, who also lived a whole life of 100 years, active until the last moment.  Our purpose is more straightforward: to present some colorful and memorable instances about Kissinger that will highlight his life and character and his connection to us, Hellenes.

The Jewish-American Head of State Dept. who spoke “Broken” English.

In the late 1980s, a few years after I arrived in the U.S., I had the rare opportunity to attend a fantastic evening conference at the Center of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College, titled “The Jewish, Armenian and Greek Diaspora: A Comparison”, or something like that (I ask our friends at the Center to dig their archives and let me know…)  The auditorium was full of attendees (about 400-500 people) as Harry Psomiades, the late founder of the Center, introduced the speakers: The Greek Ambassador to DC, Georgios Papoulias, an Armenian diplomat whose name I do not recall, and Abba Eban, the Jewish diplomat, foreign minister, philosopher, orator, who was a giant of education and spoke ten languages (link here for his bio). The Greek and Armenian speakers made short but unimpressive speeches.  Then Abba Eban came to the podium, and it was a spectacle to see. It was one of these moments that you would pray for the time to stop so you can listen to this man of wisdom forever… An amazing orator, he had all of us glued to his words.

The 1974 DC meeting between Nixon and Golda Meir: Abba Eban (left), Kissinger and Golda Meir.

Abba Eban, who had served as the Foreign Minister of Israel from 1966 to 1974 described an episode during a 1974 official visit to DC where Nixon and Kissinger met their counterparts, Golda Meir and Abba Eban. Nixon turns to Golda Meir and asks her playfully: “Isn’t it funny that we both have Jewish foreign Ministers?”  Without hesitating a second, Golda Meir responded: “Yes, but mine speaks better English!!” You can imagine the reaction from the crowded auditorium – especially when the focus was on the role of the Diaspora… Kissinger was born and grew up in Germany. He arrived in America when he was 15 or 16 in 1938.  His Harvard education could not erase a very heavy accent in his spoken English and the occasional syntactical and grammatical flaws…

His biggest success: The secret trip to China in 1971

It was a masterpiece of his diplomatic vision – unlike what we see recently from the uneducated fools who run the US government, especially the State Department.  A few things to remember: 1) Kissinger did not know much about China but had the right vision that allying with China would isolate Russia and bring the Cold War to a successful end.  2) Pakistan was used as an intermediate that the US and China trusted, and the Pakistanis helped with the initial contacts.  3) Kissinger used all kinds of trickery to achieve absolute secrecy regarding the time and the details of the trip… When he finally met Zhou Enlai and they together established the foundations for a US-China cooperation the story read more like a novel than a diplomatic effort.  (YOU CAN ENJOY A VERSION OF THE “NOVEL” BY LINKING HERE)

Henry Kissinger and Zhou Enlai, 9 July 1971, during the secret trip

Kissinger, the Yom Kippur War, the Greek Junta, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus

A remarkable piece of historical evidence was published in 2011 by the newspaper “To Vima” and Mrs. Fotini Tomai, with her extensive experience as an archivist of the Greek Foreign Ministry (Link to this unique document here).  In it, the Greek Ambassador to Cairo during the September 1973 Yom Kippur War, Mr. Antonis Korantis, explains that a few days after the war broke (initiated by Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian President) “the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and a powerful man of the regime, Ismail Fahmi and he begged me to intervene in Athens to find a Greek shipowner to provide oil tankers for the transport of liquid fuel from Benghazi to Alexandria, as it was impossible, due to the events of the war, to supply the latter from the Port Suez refineries. Athens accepted the Egyptian request, and (in very difficult conditions) – Egypt was fully refueled with oil. I am not going to mention the name of the shipowner who disposed of the oil tankers for obvious reasons. However, his action did, in a way, save Egypt, which the government at the time acknowledged, as far as I can tell.”…

At the same time, the transitional Papadopoulos-Markesinis government in Athens, which was preparing the road back to democracy, accepted Sadat’s request and closed the Greek air space to US planes that were carrying military supplies to Israel. A couple of months later, in early November, in a meeting of the NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels, “and when leaving the meeting room, the American Foreign Minister Mr. Henry Kissinger approached his Greek counterpart Mr Xanthopulos-Palamas and, waving his thumb threateningly, said in a loud voice: “What you did with the American planes you will pay very dearly”.

Two weeks later, we had the Athens Polytechnic events, behind which were the American intelligence services. The transitional Spiro Markesinis government fell, and the second junta led by Ioannidis who ended up being tricked by the CIA Station Chief in Athens, the late Gust Avrakotos, to incite a coup against Makarios in Nicosia, which led to the Turkish invasion.  Kissinger was guided by the British who were always more knowledgeable than the Americans in European affairs.  But he was involved in the details of the Turkish invasion.

Kissinger: I know history, and I know that Macedonia is Greek

Kissinger had expressed the statement above several times. But the best recorded occasion was when Ambassador Mallias met with Henry Kissinger.

“Meeting with Kissinger. I had informed him that it was exclusively about the Macedonian question fifteen days before the NATO Summit in Bucharest. We had left no stone unturned in the difficult effort to promote our positions to President Bush, his advisers, and the deputy Secy of State Condoleezza Rice.

Kissinger, since 1992, has publicly intervened to support Greece’s position and legal status on the name issue. I explained the critical moments and the collision course in Bucharest with the Bush policy. I urged him to intervene publicly again and present his views on the name to the White House.

I gave him a ten-line note. He read it. He replied: “Greece is right on the name. There is no sense that Greece should be wronged in order to join NATO with a country with minimal potential to contribute to the alliance. I will call Steve Hadley,” he said, then President Bush’s National Security Advisor. I asked him if he would like to make a statement to the authoritative correspondent of the APE. He agreed. But he didn’t follow up. He had a permanent intolerance to be “exposed” to a Greek media outlet.”

 

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