The head of Russian diplomacy, Sergey Lavrov, must have paid special attention to the conversation with Henry Kissinger on Tuesday, during the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The next day, at a press conference in Moscow, he brusquely rejected everything proposed by the 99-year-old Nobel laureate and former US Secretary of State as a peace plan for the crisis in Ukraine.
Lavrov did not mention Kissinger and his ideas about ending Russian aggression against Ukraine and achieving long-term peace, but he made it absolutely clear that Kissinger's and Moscow's plans do not belong to the same dimension.
Henry Kissinger, in a conversation with his former (from 50 years ago) student, Harvard professor Graham Allison, reiterated his ideas on how to end the Russian-Ukrainian conflict to the audience in Davos via video link on Tuesday.
With the initial remark that he felt the need to specify further what he had previously published about Ukraine, the former head of State Department repeated the concept he presented last May, also at the World Economic Forum, and a month ago in an article for the Spectator.
He felt the need to explain because he was under heavy attack from Western politicians and experts for his ideas, and because he advocates giving Russia the opportunity to remain part of the European political and economic area.
“We now hope that the courage of the period and the heroism of the period will be matched by a vision of a process which uses time as a step towards a strengthening of Europe and an opening to Russia, if it meets the required conditions to participate as a member in these European processes”, he said.
Two paths of Kissinger's plan
Kissinger's concept of a solution to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has two axes. First, for peace talks, it is necessary to establish a truce based on the situation before the start of the conflict. This practically means leaving Crimea and the eastern regions of Ukraine in Russian hands.
The second axis is Kissinger's regard for post-war Russia, which he wants to provide with “the opportunity to one day rejoin the international system”. “It was important to avoid an escalation of conflict between Russia and the West as a result of it feeling the war had become against Russia itself”, said Kissinger.
He is aware of the criticism he received in the West because of his "lenient" attitude towards Russia and its aggression, and that is probably why he was explicit in Davos when he said that Ukraine should become a member of NATO. It is the only major shift in Kissinger's previous attitude towards resolving the war in Ukraine.
Regardless of his attempt to balance his previous position, Kissinger will certainly be criticised in the West in the coming days, where the majority is determined that Russia should be defeated in Ukraine.
But for Kissinger's peace construction, the biggest problems lie not in the West, but in Moscow.
For Moscow, Hitler and the West are the same
Only a day after Kissinger's speech in Davos, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov confirmed that for Moscow, any ideas about a settlement with Ukraine, and particularly with the West, are out of the question.
An experienced Russian diplomat signalled equality between Europe, the US and NATO on the one hand, and Napoleon and Hitler on the other.
“Just like Hitler wanted a Final solution to the Jewish question, now… they (US, NATO, EU) unequivocally say that Russia must suffer a strategic defeat”, Lavrov said.
Kissinger's peace plan for Ukraine is logical and feasible in the realpolitik laboratory, where he is guru. Even if it were to be taken more seriously in the West as a blueprint for a future peace strategy, it simply has no chance of coming to life.
Lavrov made this clear on behalf of the Kremlin only a day later, continuing even more directly to treat the West as a mortal enemy and someone with whom there simply cannot be any agreement.
For Lavrov, Putin and others in the Kremlin, the bloc on whose side Kissinger is speaking for, is the enemy that has, as Lavrov said, ”the exact same goal: goal of the Final Solution to the Russian question”.
Russia has crossed the limit up to which an agreement was possible
Kissinger's peace plan has only a few points of contact with the policies of Western governments regarding Ukraine. For example, supplying Ukraine with weapons and all other support in resisting aggression, including its membership of NATO, as one of the consequences of the war.
It even has "quiet" support in observing Russia (Putin's or not) as an entity with which there will be cooperation sometime in the future. This is particularly the case with some Europeans who do not want to completely break business and political ties with Moscow, hoping for total normalisation after the war.
But, on the other hand, Kissinger's ideas do not have a single point of contact with Moscow's attitude towards Ukraine, and towards the West, and that makes them definitely unusable.
During the invasion of Ukraine, Russia crossed the line where Kissinger's plan might have been possible. It does not see its future in any kind of cooperation with the West, because it considers it an enemy that wants to destroy it.
In addition to everything else, this excludes Russia as a party with which a peace agreement could be feasible according to Kissinger’s plan. Therefore, the ideas of the great master of peace agreements are not possible because there is no interested party for their realisation.
Kissinger's fear that the alternative to his plan could be the dissolution of a huge country "with 11 time zones" and the owner of the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, is justified. But it is also more realistic and fair than achieving peace on the terms he offered.