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Kissinger v. Allende, A South American Lesson For What's At Stake In Ukraine

The cold arrogance of Henry Kissinger extends from Santiago de Chile half a century ago, where he helped orchestrate the violent overthrow of the leftist President Salvador Allende to his view today on Russia's would-be "sphere of influence."

Photo of Henry Kissinger

Henry Kissinger is still making his realpolitik views be heard around the world

Jay Godwin/Planet Pix via ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince


BOGOTÁ — More than 50 years ago, there was a tense meeting in Washington between Chile's then Foreign Minister, Gabriel Valdés, and President Richard Nixon's National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. Valdés, of the Christian Democratic party, had been imprudent enough to tell President Nixon a couple of things to his face: that Latin American states found it very hard to do business with the United States given the enormous economic disparity; and secondly that for every dollar of American aid sent southwards, South America was sending $3.8 back to the United States.

Nixon was furious (as if a servant had been impertinent), and asked Kissinger to set the Chilean diplomat straight, which he did, the next day.

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Kissinger told Valdés that it was "strange" coming to Washington to speak of Latin America, when it had so little importance. "Nothing important can come from the South," he is reported to have said (in Seymour Hersh's The Price of Power). "History has never been produced in the South."

The axis of history, said Kissinger, began in Moscow, and moved through Bonn and Washington toward Tokyo, and Valdés was simply wasting his time.

Valdés recalls telling Kissinger he knew "nothing of the South," to which the German-born U.S. diplomat said, "No, and I don't care."

Valdés then called him a "German Wagnerian" and "very arrogant."

Salvador Allende

Photo of Salvador Allende

Allende at the United Nations in December 1972

Keystone Press Agency/ZUMA

Disdain for the South

But barely a year after the conversation (in 1970) Kissinger found that important things did come out of the South — indeed the very southern tip of the world, in Chile — when he was surprised and upset to find a would-be radical socialist, Salvador Allende, winning national elections to become its new president.

On Nixon's orders (as numerous declassified papers have since shown), he did everything to impede Allende's swearing-in, including ordering the kidnapping of the general defending Chile's constitutional order, (the army chief) René Schneider. It was a clumsy move that ended in Schneider's killing instead.

Allende duly took office, which did not stop Kissinger striving firstly to discredit him, then to back the military coup of September 11, 1973. The takeover and bombardment of the presidential palace happened exactly 50 years ago, heralding a bloody dictatorship of 15 years.

It matters little whether they are democracies.

Fast-forward to the present, soon after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Wagnerian horde invaded Ukraine, Kissinger, now almost 100 years old and heartless as ever, declared at the Davos summit what he called a "valid geopolitical" posture: that Ukraine is inside Russia's sphere of influence and, alongside the Baltic states, in a zone of strategic importance to it.

It's just what you would expect to hear from one of the brains behind Allende's overthrow. Ukraine too is the "South" — the southern neighbor of Russia — and why not, much the same as the "cotton-picking" South of the United States!

For Kissinger these are inferior countries that must stay put in the wake of the North. It matters little whether or not they are democracies. The important thing is not to disrupt the peace and order of the North: of Russia, China and the United States.

Those who justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine share Kissinger's disdain for the South. Nevermind the wishes of "lesser" nations to govern themselves in line with democratic rules and the wishes of their majorities. They must always look North, as evidently nothing happens in the South.

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Photograph of Police and emergency services working at the site of a shooting in Jerusalem that saw two gunmen kill three people at a bus station in the Israeli capital.

Police and emergency services are working at the site of a shooting in Jerusalem that saw two gunmen kill three people at a bus station in the Israeli capital.

Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

👋 ନମସ୍କାର*

Welcome to Thursday, where Hamas claims responsibility for a shooting that killed three people in Jerusalem just hours after Israel extended a ceasefire in Gaza, Henry Kissinger dies at age 100, and Singapore gets some company at the top of the world’s most expensive cities. Meanwhile, Turin-based daily La Stampa’s correspondent at the Israel-Gaza border describes conditions amid the fragile ceasefire.

[*Namaskār - Odia, India]

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