Kissingers DiplomacyKissinger particularly criticizes the American view that the Soviet Union was an ideological rather than a geopolitical threat. As a result of this misperception, Kissinger argues, America's Cold War success was far more costly than it could have been. The tragedy of Vietnam, rather than the triumph of the fall of the Berlin Wall, dominates Kissinger's reflections on American policy during the Cold War. The moral of the story for Kissinger is that America must mend her ways, at least to a degree. As the bipolarity of the U.S.-Soviet conflict passes, a new set of international relations is emerging. Contrary to American expectations, nations are pursuing self-interest more frequently than high-minded principle. There is more evidence of competition than cooperation, exactly as the European diplomatic model would predict. Further, Kissinger argues, the decline of American power precludes the United States from dominating the world, just as our interdependence with that world precludes withdrawal. Other countries have grown into great power status, and their interests must be taken into account. Order in this new world must be based on some concept of equilibrium, a balance of power.
To summarize Kissinger's views very simply, there are two critical theaters where the balance of power should be applied.
- First, Europe. Here, Russia, despite its initial steps towards democracy, and a newly unified Germany are the powers that must be balanced. Put differently, the United States has an interest in seeing that unbridled Germany and Russia do not compete over the center of the Continent, as they did in the first half of this century. This requires the continuation of an American presence in Europe and the enlargement of NATO to the east.
- Second, Asia. Here, the United States must balance China and Japan, and help them coexist despite their suspicion of each other. In practical terms, to achieve these regional balances, Kissinger recommends a relatively tough line towards Moscow, and a relatively accommodating line towards Beijing.