Henry Kissinger: Ukraine Should Give Up Territory to Russia to Reach Peace

Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger has said Ukraine should accept giving up part of its territory to reach a peace deal with Russia, and end the now three-month-long war immediately.

Talking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Monday, 98-year-old Kissinger said that failing to restart negotiations with Russia and continuing to antagonize Moscow could have disastrous consequences for Europe's stability in the long term.

"Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome," he said.

"Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante. Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself."

Henry Kissinger
Former United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger attends the ceremony for the Henry A. Kissinger Prize on January 21, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Talking at Davos, Kissinger said Ukraine should accept giving up territory to reach a peace agreement with Russia. Adam Berry/Getty Images

Kissinger, who served under the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford in the 1970s, warned against dragging on the war, and pressed for negotiations.

The former secretary of state said Russia has been an essential part of Europe for 400 years, acting as balancing power in critical times for the continent. Kissinger said Western countries should remember the importance of Russia in Europe and not get swept up "in the mood of the moment."

Russia has declared it is open to the possibility of restarting peace talks if Ukraine makes the first step, as announced by Russian deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko on Monday.

"We will be ready to return as soon as Ukraine shows a constructive position and provides at least a reaction to the proposals submitted to it," Rudenko said, talking to reporters in Moscow. He did not specify what this constructive position would be for Ukraine.

But, Ukraine has appeared to be increasingly uncompromising over reaching a peace agreement that sees Kyiv giving up part of its territory to Moscow.

Addressing Davos in a video speech, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia's President Vladimir Putin is not interested in talks, or anything that people attending the forum are discussing.

Zelensky said Putin is only interested in "brute force."

"This year, the words 'turning point' are more than a rhetorical talking point," Zelensky said. "This year is really the year when it is decided whether brute force will rule the world."

"If so, the powerful are not interested in our thoughts and there is no further use for meeting in Davos. Brute force seeks nothing but the subjugation of those who it seeks to subdue, and it does not talk, it kills, as Russia does in Ukraine just as we speak today."

Moscow delegates have been prohibited from joining the forum in Davos this year over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Over the past week, other Ukrainian officials have made strong statements against the possibility of reaching a peace agreement that involves ceding any territory to Russia.

On May 21, Zelensky's advisor Mykhailo Podolyak ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire that saw Kyiv forced to cede any of its territories to Moscow, saying that such a resolution to the war would only give Russia a position of advantage for another bigger war in the future.

"The war will not stop [after any concessions], it will just be put on pause for some time," Podolyak told Reuters in an interview.

"After a while, with renewed intensity, the Russians will build up their weapons, manpower and work on their mistakes, modernize a little, fire many generals... And they'll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale."

One day after Podolyak's comment, head of Zelensky's office Andriy Yermak said the war will not end without "the complete restoration of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty."

Zelenksy is expected to call for Western countries to renew their support to Ukraine and offer Kyiv more military and economic backing to launch a counteroffensive against Russia.