Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft

Special Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
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Revered by many and loathed by some, Kissinger came to personify American power at its peak, casting the long shadow of Pax Americana across the world and becoming synonymous with Cold War America. (AFP/Getty Images)
Special Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
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Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger attending an award ceremony honoring his diplomatic career in Washington, D.C., on May 9, 2016. (AFP file)
Special Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
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US State Secretary Henry Kissinger with Saudi Arabia's King Faisal (R) in Riyadh in 1973. On the left is then Prince Salman, now the King of Saudi Arabia. (AN archive)
Special Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
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US President Jimmy Carter (R) consults with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on August 15, 1977 at the White House on Middle East peace proposals. (AFP)
Special Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
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Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meets with French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac (R) at the hotel Matignon on March 26, 1986 in Paris. (AFP)
Special Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
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US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger walks in the street in Paris on February 19, 1975. (AFP)
Special Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger participating together in "Conversations on Diplomacy, Moderated by Charlie Rose," at the Department of State in Washington on April 20, 2011. (AFP)
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Updated 27 May 2023

Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft

Why Henry Kissinger’s career is a masterclass in diplomacy and statecraft
  • Centennial turns spotlight on the imprint of the German refugee turned America’s chief diplomat on the post-war world war
  • The architect of Pax Americana under Nixon continues to wield influence as an informal adviser to the global great and good

LONDON: Anwar Sadat, Mao Zedong, Richard Nixon, and King Faisal are some of the leaders who defined the 20th century. What their stories and legacies have in common is the impact of the efforts of one diminutive but nevertheless immensely consequential figure: Henry Kissinger. German, American, soldier, intelligence officer, Harvard academic, statesman and businessman rolled into one, this geopolitical oracle turns 100 on May 27.

Revered by many and loathed by some, Kissinger came to personify American power at its peak, casting the long shadow of Pax Americana across the world, at times advocating US values and, at other times, snuffing out revolutionary movements and propping up military juntas.

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with meeting with Saudi Arabia's King Faisal in 1973 in Riyadh. (AFP)

Any article would struggle to summarize such a long and eventful life. Born five years after the abdication of Germany’s last emperor, Kissinger’s own archive material is estimated to consist of 30 tons of documents.

Though he became synonymous with Cold War America, the instantly recognizable Bavarian traces to his gravelly voice gave away his origins. Born to German-Jewish parents on the outskirts of Nuremberg, the young Kissinger displayed an audacity that would later come to embody his swagger on the international stage, as he defied local Nazis to attend football matches and rebelled at their restrictions.

His real mettle, however, began to show when, as a refugee in America in the 1930s, he attended school at night and worked in a shaving-brush factory during the day.

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meeting with China's Chairman Mao Zedong in Beijing on February 17, 1973. (AFP file)

Continuing to work through his senior studies, Kissinger saw his education cut short by the onset of the Second World War. Seeing action at the Battle of the Bulge, his wartime service culminated with the administration and denazification of liberated German sectors under his control.

Kissinger’s enthusiasm for his adopted country was to grow; he later recalled that the experience made the uprooted young man “feel like an American.”

Kissinger’s career is often looked at in detail following his appointment as the US national security adviser in 1969. However, his post-war years as an academic laid the foundation for his later association with, and application, of realpolitik.

US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in Cairo in May 1974. (AFP)

Kissinger’s worldview, or weltanschauung, has been typified by sound bites such as “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.” This particular understanding of the world through the prism of empires and great power politics is founded in a 19th century understanding of the world.

It is therefore unsurprising that his Harvard doctoral dissertation was titled “Peace, Legitimacy and the Equilibrium (A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Metternich).”

This academic study of the period between 1815 and 1914 is known as the Concert of Europe, when the Great Powers sought to maintain a certain balance of power and supported world peace. Notable for figures like Otto von Bismarck whose political philosophy is frequently inseparable from his own, it is this period that Kissinger sought to mirror, replacing the historical role of Great Britain with the unparalleled superpower of 20th century America.

Henry Kissinger and US President Richard Nixon in 1973. (AFP)

As Kissinger became known to power brokers in Washington, his move toward a political career was inevitable. Unlike his peers, his solid academic foundation furnished him with an ability to act as in-house counsel on the political challenges of the day.

If the jet engine came to symbolize US military and cultural dominance in the post-war era, Kissinger employed international travel to the same effect to overhaul American diplomacy. His appointment to secretary of state in 1973 was in many ways merely the formal ratification of an increasingly international role he had been playing.

That year saw Kissinger at the forefront of efforts at shuttle diplomacy to reshape the world to advance American interests. Having already paved the way for the groundbreaking 1972 summit between Nixon, Zhou Enlai and Chairman Mao, Kissinger brought China in from the cold, leading to the formalization of relations between the two countries, and crucially brokered an anti-Soviet entente between the two powers.

As US President Richard Nixon (2nd left) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Henry Kissinger (3rd left) deals with other Israeli officials in Washington on November 1, 1973. (AFP)

As the world looked on following the Yom Kippur War, Kissinger, directly following his involvement in a coup in Chile the previous month, shuttled between Arab capitals while also organizing an unprecedented airlift of weapons to Israel, tipping the regional balance of power to the point that Israel has never faced an Arab invasion since.

With the year culminating in a pact to end the Vietnam war, Kissinger’s hyper-diplomacy was recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize, his international activities becoming a blueprint for American diplomacy to his peers and a stain on his career in the eyes of his detractors.


You can’t make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria.

Accept everything about yourself — I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end — no apologies, no regrets.

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.

The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.

Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Kissinger is often viewed as having been the unsentimental dispenser of American power in the developing world. Though he succeeded in pursuing its interests, his zero-sum worldview — of a vast global jigsaw puzzle consisting of pieces that needed to be moved to fit America’s emergence as the world’s supreme power — did cause controversy.

Having once stated that “I am not interested in, nor do I know anything about, the southern portion of the world” and “What happens in the south is of no importance,” it is now clear that a certain ignorance of the wider world underpinned the more decisive political and military interventions which he supported to extend America’s reach.

Demonstrators gather at the Place des Nations in Geneva on September 10, 2010 to protest against the presence of former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and his alleged role in the 1973 military coup in Chile. (AFP)

His involvement in the Chilean coup, Bangladesh, Pakistan, East Timor and the bombing of Cambodia continue to be subjects of great debate, summarized in the 2001 treatise by Christopher Hitchens, “The Trial of Henry Kissinger.”

Speaking later in life, Kissinger would argue that the bombing of Cambodia was essential to stopping raids into South Vietnam. Truth be told, the focus on the subsequent widespread US bombing of Khmer Rouge is a lot less controversial now compared with the crimes of the Cambodian regime’s own genocide in the 1970s.

Nevertheless, Kissinger’s intercontinental politicking was true to the Bismarckian mold from which he emerged, faintly masked by his use of the first German chancellor’s famous maxim, “politics is the art of the possible.”

African National Congress President Nelson Mandela (R) greets former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger upon his arrival for their meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, on April 13, 1994. (AFP)

When all is said and done, it is still remarkable that Kissinger, a man who retired 50 years ago, has remained politically relevant. Leading Kissinger Associates, he has continued to have remarkable influence and reach, as the global great and good’s consigliere par excellence.

Kissinger’s long political goodbye has given him the opportunity to have the final say on many of the important moments of his career, a luxury not enjoyed by his late peers. His relevance, however, persists, his advocacy of coexistence with China and detente with Russia making his expertise much sought after amid efforts by one to disrupt America and by the other to altogether displace it.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) welcomes former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during their meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on June 06, 2006. (AFP)

However, the constant rebalancing of global power is not where Kissinger’s principal interests lie today. He has spent the last decade warning about the rise of artificial intelligence, which threatens to rewrite the diplomatic rulebook, especially for a man who was born at a time when armies still deployed cavalry.

Warning most recently in a book on the issue last year that the AI arms race is a “totally new problem” “with as yet no plausible theories on how states can prevail,” the centenarian continues to turn heads.

There is no doubt that Kissinger, for his many faults, remains a public figure who shaped an era. He is, however, an infinitely more complete character than the scheming master of realpolitik that his critics make him out to be.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger meeting with US President Donald Trump (R) at the White House in Washington on October 10, 2017. (AFP)

This career of immense achievement and relentless controversy was made possible by a talent who was as brilliantly educated as he was discreet, both qualities that are sadly missing from present-day political life.

It is not unlikely that as just Kissinger plotted the extension of American dominance, as a student of imperial history he also expected to observe its decline. But it is unclear whether this is attributable to the speed with which this has taken place or how long Kissinger has lived. In any case, he probably has the answer.


Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator, and an adviser to private clients between London and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid


Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal
Updated 9 sec ago

Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative grassroots in UK angered by MP’s suspension over Islamophobia scandal
  • ‘The government are now owned by fear of Islamic rule’: Conservative Democratic Organisation member
  • Ex-Home Secretary Suella Braverman ‘the only person who can remove the threat of Islam from our country’

LONDON: UK Conservative Party supporters at the grassroots level have expressed anger over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s suspension of an MP embroiled in an Islamophobia row, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Lee Anderson was suspended last week after claiming in a TV interview that Islamists had “got control” of Sadiq Khan, London’s first Muslim mayor.

Sunak’s decision to sack Anderson has divided the Conservative base, with some supporters labeling the leader “weak and feeble,” and a “snake.”

Leaked WhatsApp messages seen by The Guardian from members of the Conservative Democratic Organisation, a faction on the right of the party launched in 2022, show the extent of anger at Anderson’s sacking.

One member said it was “time for the snake of a PM to go,” while another said Sunak “should never have been” in the leadership position.

Other members appear to support Anderson’s comments, with one saying: “The government are now owned by fear of Islamic rule.”

Controversial former Home Secretary Suella Braverman is also discussed in the WhatsApp conversations after she claimed last week that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now.”

One CDO member said: “She is saying the exact same thing as Lee Anderson, just in less colorful language, and importantly in print.

“I am beginning to believe that Suella is the only person who has shown the mettle who can turn the party and remove the threat of Islam from our country.”

Their message was liked by 10 group members on the messaging platform.

In a sign of further rifts within the Conservative Party, the CDO group members shared an online petition calling for Anderson’s reinstatement, which had gathered more than 5,000 signatures overnight.

Members also warned that the party leadership’s decision to sack the MP would threaten its electoral chances.

One member said: “There goes Lee’s voters — wonder what happens when it dawns on them that they actually need voters to keep themselves in power.”

A number of Conservative MPs have said they support Anderson’s reinstatement if he apologizes for his comments.

MP Jonathan Gullis told Times Radio: “I hope that we will see him return to that party sooner rather than later but of course he has to, I think, make that apology to Mayor Khan.”

Another Conservative MP said: “He wants to come back. We want him back.”

But Anderson has so far remained firm in standing by his remarks, describing them as “born out of sheer frustration at what is happening to our beautiful capital city.”

In a statement, he said: “If you are wrong, apologising is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. But when you think you are right, you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness.”

Despite making the decision to sack Anderson, Sunak has avoided describing the MP’s comments as Islamophobic, saying: “I’ve been very clear that what he said was wrong, it was unacceptable and that’s why we suspended (him).”

Khan said Sunak’s refusal to describe the claims as Islamophobic is “a tacit endorsement of anti-Muslim hatred and can only lead to the conclusion that anti-Muslim bigotry and racism are not taken seriously.”

Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row

Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row
Updated 11 min 7 sec ago

Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row

Conservative MP’s ‘no-go zone’ claim escalates UK’s Islamophobia row
  • Areas of London, Birmingham enforced by Muslims ‘abusing their religion’: Paul Scully
  • Comments condemned by Labour, Conservative figures representing those areas

LONDON: Claims by a former Conservative minister in the UK that Muslim “no-go” zones exist in major British cities have escalated an Islamophobia row within the ruling party.

MP Paul Scully, who previously ran to be his party’s candidate for London mayor, made the claims as the Conservatives were engaged in a fresh row over Islamophobia.

In an interview with the BBC, Scully referenced areas of east London and Birmingham as containing “no-go areas” enforced by local Muslims “abusing their religion,” the Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

“If you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to … because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying,” he said. “That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.”

Scully was responding to the recent sacking of MP Lee Anderson, who had claimed that Islamists had “got control” of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Sully’s comments were condemned by Labour and Conservative figures representing the areas referenced by him.

Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said “those in Westminster” should “stop the nonsense slurs.”

He added: “The idea that Birmingham has a ‘no-go’ zone is news to me, and I suspect the good people of Sparkhill.”

Labour’ Jess Phillips said: “As one of the MPs for Sparkhill, I am expecting an apology for this utter drivel. My kids hang out in Sparkhill day and night, never had a moment’s worry.

“I go there weekly and live literally a five-minute walk from there and used to live there myself.”

Scully also claimed that the Conservative Party did not have a problem with Islamophobia.

Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel

Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel
Updated 21 min 17 sec ago

Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel

Indonesia calls for end to military support, weapons sales to Israel
  • Jakarta issues call at UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
  • Transfer of weapons to Israel would likely be used to violate international law, UN experts say

JAKARTA: Indonesia, the current president of the UN Conference on Disarmament, has called for an end to military support and weapons sales to Israel.

The Conference on Disarmament, consisting of 65 member states including permanent members of the UN Security Council, was established in 1979 and is the world’s only multilateral forum for disarmament negotiations.

Indonesia holds the rotating presidency for a four-week term until March 15 and is leading the high-level segment of the conference in Geneva this week. During the ministerial-level meeting, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi called for a stop to arms shipments to Israel.

“At the end of my statement, I conveyed condemnation of Israel’s plan to use nuclear weapons to threaten the residents of Gaza. I also urged a stop to weapons shipment to Israel to prevent more fatalities,” Marsudi said in a video briefing on Tuesday.

She also attended a side event on Palestine during her time in Geneva, where she highlighted Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza and the fight against double standards within the international community.

“With the current situation in Gaza and Palestine, I asked if we will remain silent. Ideally, the answer should be no … In closing, I conveyed how we need to remain united, we must continue to work together to fight against the injustice that has gone on for so long against the nation of Palestine.”

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October, with about 1.9 million people displaced in the besieged enclave where intense Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea have continued for the last four months.

UN experts called on Feb. 23 for an immediate end to arms exports to Israel, saying that “given the facts or past patterns of behavior,” any weapons or ammunition transferred there would be used to violate international law.

“Such transfers are prohibited even if the exporting State does not intend the arms to be used in violation of the law — or does not know with certainty that they would be used in such a way — as long as there is a clear risk,” the UN experts said.

“The need for an arms embargo on Israel is heightened by the International Court of Justice’s ruling on 26 January 2024 that there is a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza and the continuing serious harm to civilians since then,” the experts said. “All States must not be complicit in international crimes through arms transfers. They must do their part to urgently end the unrelenting humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

India names four astronauts for first human space flight

India names four astronauts for first human space flight
Updated 27 February 2024

India names four astronauts for first human space flight

India names four astronauts for first human space flight
  • Uncrewed test flights into space scheduled for 2024-25
  • Astronauts are Indian Air Force pilots who underwent training in Russia

NEW DELHI: India announced on Tuesday the names of four astronauts who will take part in the Gaganyaan mission — the country’s first human space flight program.

Having become the fourth nation ever to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon in August last year, India aims to put an astronaut on the lunar surface by 2040.

The Indian Space Research Organization, the state-run agency spearheading the program, aims to launch the mission in 2024-2025.

The astronauts — Indian Air Force pilots Gp. Capt. P. Balakrishnan Nair, Gp. Capt. Ajit Krishnan, Gp. Capt. Angad Pratap and Wg. Cdr. S. Shukla — were introduced to the public by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

“They are not just four names or four human beings, they are the four powers that are going to take the aspirations of 1.4 billion Indians to space. An Indian is going to space, after 40 years. This time, the time is ours, the countdown is ours and the rocket is also ours,” he said.

“We are witnessing another historic journey at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre.”

Modi was referring to Rakesh Sharma — the only Indian citizen to travel in space, who flew aboard Soyuz T-11 on April 3, 1984, as part of the Soviet Interkosmos program.

Like Sharma, the four astronauts have also undergone training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Zvezdnyi Gorodok near Moscow.

The Gaganyaan mission, estimated to cost over $1 billion, began in 2006 with the aim of developing the technology needed to launch crewed orbital spacecraft into low Earth orbit.

The first crewed flight is expected after three uncrewed ones this and next year. Two or three of the astronauts will be launched to an orbit of 400 km for three days and brought back to Earth — landing in Indian sea waters.

If the mission is successful, India will become the fourth nation to conduct independent human spaceflight after Russia, the US and China.

Before it sends an astronaut to the moon, India’s space agency also intends to start a space station program.

“By 2035, India will have its own space station in space that will help us study the unknown expanses of space,” Modi said.

“This is the beginning of a new era, where India is continuously expanding its space in the global order and this is clearly visible in our space program.”

The Gaganyaan mission adds to India’s status as an emerging space superpower, building on a historic success in August 2023, when it landed the moon rover Chandrayaan-3 on the lunar surface, becoming the first country to land near the lunar south pole and the fourth to land on the moon — after the US, Russia, and China.

Weeks after the soft-landing, India launched the Aditya-L1 spacecraft, which in January reached Lagrange point — 1.5 million km from the Earth — where it can orbit the sun at the same rate as the Earth and observe the photosphere and chromosphere to study solar wind particles and magnetic fields.

To date, the US is the only other country to have explored the sun with the Parker Solar Probe launched in 2021.

NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine

NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine
Updated 27 February 2024

NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine

NATO chief: Alliance has no plans to send troops to Ukraine
  • NATO as an alliance provides Ukraine only non-lethal aid and support
  • The idea of putting boots on the ground has so far been taboo

BRUSSELS: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military alliance has no plans to send combat troops into Ukraine amid reports that some Western countries may be considering putting boots on the ground in the war-ravaged country.
Stoltenberg said that “NATO allies are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine. We have done that since 2014 and stepped up after the full-scale invasion. But there are no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine.”
Ahead of a trip to Paris on Monday, where top officials from over 20 countries discussed options to increase help for Ukraine, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico said that some are weighing whether to strike bilateral deals to send troops to Ukraine to help it fend off the Russian invasion.
Fico said that his government is not planning to propose to send Slovak soldiers, but did not provide details about what countries might be considering such deals, or what the troops would do in Ukraine.
Parliament speaker Peter Pellegrini also said that Slovakia won’t deploy troops there.
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala also declined to comment, but he underlined that “the Czech Republic certainly doesn’t want to send its soldiers to Ukraine.”
Prime Minister Donald Tusk also said on Tuesday that “Poland does not plan to send its troops to Ukraine.”
While ruling out NATO military action, Stoltenberg said “that this is a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine, blatantly violating international law. According to international law, Ukraine of course has the right to self-defense, and we have the right to support them in upholding that right.”
NATO as an alliance provides Ukraine only non-lethal aid and support like medical supplies, uniforms and winter equipment, but some members send weapons and ammunition bilaterally or in groups. Any decision for the organization to send troops would require unanimous support from all member countries.
The idea of putting boots on the ground has so far been taboo, particularly as NATO seeks to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia. However, Ukraine’s backers have gradually provided more hi-tech and long-range weapons since Russia invaded two years ago.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that sending Western troops on the ground in Ukraine should not be “ruled out” in the future, as Russia’s full-scale invasion grinds into a third year.
“We will do everything needed so Russia cannot win the war,” the French leader said after hosting the gathering in Paris. While he underlined that “there’s no consensus today” to send a combined force, he also said that “nothing can be ruled out.”
The conference was held just after France, Germany and the UK each signed 10-year bilateral security agreements with Ukraine in a signal of long-term backing as Kyiv works to shore up Western support.
European nations are worried that the US will dial back support, as aid for Kyiv is held up in Congress. They also have concerns that former President Donald Trump might return to the White House and change the course of US policy on the continent.
Several European countries, including France, expressed support Monday for an initiative launched by the Czech Republic to buy shells for Ukraine outside the European Union, participants at the meeting said.
Macron said that a new coalition will be launched to deliver medium and long-range missiles. France announced last month the delivery of 40 additional long-range Scalp cruise missiles.
In an interview last week, Stoltenberg did not oppose the idea that Ukraine be allowed to use Western weapons to strike targets in Russia. Some countries have placed restrictions on the use of materiel they provide, asking that it be used only inside Ukraine.
“It’s for each and every ally to decide whether there are some caveats on what they deliver,” Stoltenberg told Radio Free Europe. But, he said, Ukraine’s right to self-defense “includes also striking legitimate military targets, Russian military targets, outside Ukraine.”
Also Monday, Sweden cleared its final hurdle to becoming a NATO member.