Western press coverage missed the point of Kissinger’s support for NATO membership for Ukraine. Here’s what he told the Economist:
Henry Kissinger: To Putin, Ukraine membership in NATO was an obsession. So now I’m in the weird position that people say, ‘He’s changed his mind, now he’s in favor of full membership of Ukraine in NATO.’ And my reason for that is twofold. One, Russia is no longer the conventional threat that it used to be. So the challenges of Russia should be considered in a different context. And secondly, we have now armed Ukraine to a point where it will be the best-armed country and with the least strategically experienced leadership in Europe. If the war ends like it probably will, with Russia losing many of its gains, but retaining Sevastopol, we may have a dissatisfied Russia, but also a dissatisfied Ukraine—in other words, a balance of dissatisfaction.
So, for the safety of Europe, it is better to have Ukraine in NATO, where it cannot make national decisions on territorial claims.
The Economist: So your argument for having Ukraine in NATO is an argument for reducing the risks of Ukraine to Europe rather than an argument about the defense of Ukraine?
Henry Kissinger: We’ve proved now the capability to defend Ukraine. What the Europeans are now saying is, in my view, madly dangerous. Because the Europeans are saying: “We don’t want them in nato, because they’re too risky. And therefore, we’ll arm the hell out of them and give them the most advanced weapons.” And how can that possibly work? We shouldn’t end it in the wrong way. Assuming the outcome is the probable outcome, that would be somewhere along the line of the status quo ante that existed [prior to February 24, 2022]. The outcome should be one in which Ukraine remains protected by Europe and doesn’t become a solitary state just looking out for itself.