Kissinger on Trump: the long view

The FT‘s Edward Luce took Henry Kissinger out to lunch. Fascinating interview (behind a paywall) in the weekend edition of the paper. Luce tried manfully to get the old growler to talk about Trump — without much success. But there are two gems in his report.

One was Kissinger’s view on how the world looks to Putin. He embarks, reports Luce,

on a disquisition about Russia’s “almost mystical” tolerance for suffering. His key point is that the west wrongly assumed in the years before Putin annexed Crimea that Russia would accept the west’s rules-based order. Nato misread Russia’s deep-seated craving for respect. “The mistake Nato has made is to think that there is a sort of historic evolution that will march across Eurasia and not to understand that somewhere on that march it will encounter something very different to a Westphalian entity. And for Russia this is a challenge to its identity.”

So, asks Luce, “do you mean that we provoked Putin?” To which Kissinger replies “I do not think Putin is a character like Hitler. He comes out of Dostoyevsky”.

The second gem comes when — eventually — Luce manages to coax something about Trump out of his enigmatic guest.

“I think Trump may be one of those figures in history who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretences. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he knows this, or that he is considering any great alternative. It could just be an accident.”