The conflict with Russia must end in two months or it will spiral out of control, the realpolitik veteran warned Henry Kissinger speaks at the World Economic Forum. Screenshot from the official online stream

There is a small window of opportunity to wind down the armed conflict in Ukraine and find a peace settlement, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger has told a gathering of Western elites in Davos, Switzerland. Beyond that, Russia may break from Europe for good and become a permanent ally of China, he said on Monday during a speech at the World Economic Forum.

“Negotiations on peace need to begin in the next two months or so, [before the war] creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome,” the 98-year-old veteran diplomat said of the crisis. The outcome will determine Europe’s relationships with Russia and Ukraine alike, he said. “Ideally, the dividing line should return to the status quo ante,” he said.

“I believe pursuing the war beyond that point would turn it not into a war about the freedom of Ukraine, which had been undertaken with great cohesion by NATO, but into a war against Russia itself,” he added.

Kissinger is a prominent practitioner of the realpolitik approach to international relations – which puts the practical interests of nations before their ideological stances. He recalled that, eight years ago, when the Ukrainian crisis was launched with an armed coup in Kiev, he advocated for Ukraine to become a neutral state and a “bridge between Russia and Europe rather than… a frontline of groupings within Europe.”

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UK PM scuttled Kiev-Moscow peace talks – Ukrainian media

Kiev instead pursued membership of NATO as a strategic goal, paving the way for the current hostilities. The opportunity that he promoted then no longer exists, Kissinger said, but “it could still be conceived as an ultimate objective.”

European nations should keep in mind the bigger picture and remember that “Russia has for 400 years been an essential part of Europe,” the diplomat said. He warned that the continent should be careful “so that Russia is not driven into a permanent alliance with China.”

Kissinger addressed the escalating confrontation between China and the US, saying the two nations now perceive each other as the only viable strategic competitor on the world stage. He said an arms race between the two countries was a particularly worrisome scenario for the entire world.

“A conflict with modern technology conducted in the absence of any preceding arms control negotiations, so that there are no established criteria of limitations, will be a catastrophe for humankind,” he said. (RT)