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)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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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)
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US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger walks in the street in Paris on February 19, 1975. (AFP)
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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

  • 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


Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI

Updated 09 June 2023

Biden, Sunak vow to stick together on Ukraine, deepen cooperation on clean energy transition, AI

  • The US and UK are the two biggest donors to the Ukraine war effort
  • Agreement to serve as framework on the development of emerging technologies, protecting technology deemed critical to national security

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Thursday reiterated their commitment to help Ukraine repel Russia’s ongoing invasion, while agreeing to step up cooperation on challenges their economies face with artificial intelligence, clean energy, and critical minerals.

The leaders said the “first of its kind” agreement— what they are calling the “Atlantic Declaration”— will serve as a framework for the two countries on the development of emerging technologies, protecting technology that is critical to national security and other economic security issues.
“We will put our values front and center,” Biden said as the two leaders started talks in the Oval Office. He later added at a joint news conference that the agreement will help both nations “adapt and upgrade our partnership to ensure our countries remain on the cutting edge of a rapidly changing world.”
As part of the declaration announced Thursday, the two sides will kick off negotiations on the use of minerals from the UK that are critical in the production of electric vehicles that are eligible for US tax credits. The administration has also opened talks with the European Union and forged a deal with Japan that allow certain critical raw materials for EVs to be treated as if they were sourced in the United States.
Allies have raised concerns about incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act favoring the North American auto industry. The legislation — one of Biden’s key policy victories — invests some $375 billion to transition the United States to cleaner cars and energy sources.
Biden and Sunak have already had four face-to-face meetings since Sunak became prime minister in October, but the talks in Washington offered the two leaders a chance for their most sustained interaction to date.
Sunak reflected on the significant conversations their respective predecessors have had over the years in the Oval Office and acknowledged that both he and Biden were facing their own daunting moment. The visit to Washington is Sunak’s first since becoming Britain’s prime minister in October.
“Our economies are seeing perhaps the biggest transformation since the Industrial Revolution as new technologies provide incredible opportunities, but also give our adversaries more tools,” Sunak said.
The 15-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine was high on the agenda. The US and UK are the two biggest donors to the Ukraine war effort and play a central role in a long-term effort announced last month to train, and eventually equip, Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets.
Biden reiterated confidence that Congress would continue to provide Ukraine funding as needed despite some hesitation among Republican leaders at the growing cost of the war for American taxpayers.
“The US and the UK have stood together to support Ukraine,” Biden said at the start of their meeting.

Sunak also made the case to Biden for UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace to succeed outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is set to end his term leading the 31-member alliance in September. Stoltenberg is slated to meet with Biden in Washington on Monday, and leaders from the alliance are set to gather in Lithuania on July 11-12 for their annual summit.
Asked if it was time for a UK leader for NATO, Biden said “it may be” but “that remains to be seen.”
“We’re going to have to get a consensus within NATO,” he said.
Biden also reflected that the two countries have worked through some of the toughest moments in modern history side-by-side, recalling the meetings that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt held in the White House.
“You know Prime Minister Churchill and Roosevelt met here a little over 70 years ago and they asserted that the strength of the partnership between Great Britain and the United States was strength of the free world,” Biden told Sunak. “I still think there’s truth to that assertion.”
Sunak is keen to make the UK a key player in artificial intelligence, and announced that his government will gather politicians, scientists and tech executives for a summit on AI safety in the fall.
He said it was vital to ensure that “paradigm-shifting new technologies” are harnessed for the good of humanity.
“No one country can do this alone,” Sunak said Wednesday. “This is going to take a global effort.”
Biden said the challenges that comes with the advancement of AI technology are “staggering.”
“It is a limitless capacity and possibility but we have to do it with great care,” said Biden, who added that he welcomed the UK’s leadership on the issue.
Sunak’s visit comes as US and British intelligence officials are still trying to sort out blame for the breaching of a major dam in southern Ukraine, which sent floodwaters gushing through towns and over farmland. Neither Washington nor London has officially accused Russia of blowing up the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam.
Sunak said Wednesday that UK intelligence services are still assessing the evidence, but “if it does prove to be intentional, it will represent a new low ... an appalling barbarism on Russia’s part.”
“Russia throughout this war has used as a deliberate active strategy to target civilian infrastructure,” he told broadcaster ITV in Washington.
The two sides looked to demonstrate that the US-UK relationship remains as strong as ever despite recent political and economic upheaval in the UK Sunak is one of three British prime ministers Biden has dealt with since taking office in 2021, and the administrations have had differences over Brexit and its impact on Northern Ireland.
Nonetheless, there’s a sense in the Biden administration that the US-UK relationship is back on more stable footing after the sometimes choppy tenure of Boris Johnson and the 45-day premiership of Liz Truss.
“I think there’s a sense of relief to some degree, not just in the White House, but throughout Washington, that the Sunak government has been very pragmatic and maintained the UK’s robust commitment to Ukraine and to increasing defense spending,” said Max Bergmann, director of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He added that with Sunak, there’s also been “somewhat of a return to pragmatism” on economic issues and relations with the European Union post-Brexit.
Sunak at the press conference sought to hammer home that the UK remains “as reliable an ally as ever.”
“I know some people have wondered what kind of partner Britain would be after we left the EU,” Sunak said. “I’d say judge us by our actions.”
Biden invited Sunak to stay at Blair House, the official presidential guest residence on Lafayette Square. Before the US government purchased Blair House in 1942, foreign leaders visiting the president often stayed at the White House.
In a lighter moment, the president began telling the story of how in the pre-Blair House days Churchill wandered toward the president’s family quarters in the wee hours to rouse the sleeping Roosevelt for conversation. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have cut off Churchill before he could make it to the president.
“Don’t worry,” Sunak interjected. “You won’t see me bothering you and the first lady.”

Trump charged over classified documents in 1st federal indictment of an ex-president

Updated 14 min 10 sec ago

Trump charged over classified documents in 1st federal indictment of an ex-president

  • The controversial former president said he was due in court Tuesday in Miami, calls it a "DARK DAY for the United States of America"
  • Trump has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges

MIAMI: Donald Trump said Thursday that he was indicted for mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, a remarkable development that makes him the first former president in US history to face criminal charges by the federal government that he once oversaw.
The indictment carries unmistakably grave legal consequences, including the possibility of prison if he’s convicted.
But it also has enormous political implications, potentially upending a Republican presidential primary that Trump had been dominating and testing anew the willingness of GOP voters and party leaders to stick with a now twice-indicted candidate who could face still more charges. And it sets the stage for a sensational trial centered on claims that a man once entrusted to safeguard the nation’s most closely guarded secrets willfully, and illegally, hoarded sensitive national security information.
The Justice Department did not immediately confirm the indictment publicly. But two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly said the indictment included seven criminal counts. One of those people said Trump’s lawyers were contacted by prosecutors shortly before he announced on his Truth Social platform that he had been indicted.
Within 20 minutes of his announcement, Trump began fundraising off it for his 2024 presidential campaign. He declared his innocence in a video and repeated his familiar refrain that the investigation is a “witch hunt.” He said he planned to be in court Tuesday afternoon in Miami, where a grand jury had been meeting to hear evidence as recently as this week.
The case adds to deepening legal jeopardy for Trump, who has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges. But among the various investigations he faces, legal experts — as well as Trump’s own aides — had long seen the Mar-a-Lago probe as the most perilous threat and the one most ripe for prosecution. Campaign aides had been bracing for the fallout since Trump’s attorneys were notified that he was the target of the investigation, assuming it was not a matter of if charges would be brought, but when.
Appearing Thursday night on CNN, Trump attorney James Trusty said the indictment includes charges of willful retention of national defense information — a crime under the Espionage Act, which polices the handling of government secrets — obstruction, false statements and conspiracy.
The case is a milestone for a Justice Department that had investigated Trump for years — as president and private citizen — but had never before charged him with a crime. The most notable investigation was an earlier special counsel probe into ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia, but prosecutors in that probe cited Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president. Once he left office, though, he lost that protection.
The inquiry took a major step forward last November when Attorney General Merrick Garland, a soft-spoken former federal judge who has long stated that no person should be regarded as above the law, appointed Jack Smith, a war crimes prosecutor with an aggressive, hard-charging reputation to lead both the documents probe as well as a separate investigation into efforts to subvert the 2020 election.
The indictment arises from a monthslong investigation into whether Trump broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, and whether he took steps to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the records.
Prosecutors have said that Trump took roughly 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including some 100 that were seized by the FBI last August in a search of the home that underscored the gravity of the Justice Department’s investigation. Trump has repeatedly insisted that he was entitled to keep the classified documents when he left the White House, and has also claimed without evidence that he had declassified them.
Court records unsealed last year showed federal investigators believed they had probable cause that multiple crimes had been committed, including the retention of national defense information, destruction of government records and obstruction.
Since then, the Justice Department has amassed additional evidence and secured grand jury testimony from people close to Trump, including his own lawyers. The statutes governing the handling of classified records and obstruction are felonies that could carry years in prison in the event of a conviction.
It remains unclear how much it will damage Trump’s standing given that his first indictment generated millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and didn’t weaken him in the polls. But no matter what, the indictment — and legal fight that follows — will throw Trump back into the spotlight, sucking attention away from the other candidates who are trying to build momentum in the race.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump opponent in the primary, condemned the indictment on Twitter, saying it represented “the weaponization of federal law enforcement.”
The former president has long sought to use his legal troubles to his political advantage, complaining on social media and at public events that the cases are being driven by Democratic prosecutors out to hurt his 2024 election campaign. He is likely to rely on that playbook again, reviving his longstanding claims that the Justice Department — which, during his presidency, investigated whether his 2016 campaign had colluded with Russia — is somehow weaponized against him.
Trump’s legal troubles extend beyond the New York indictment and classified documents case.
Smith is separately investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And the district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County is investigating Trump over alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election in that state.
Signs had mounted for weeks that an indictment was near, including a Monday meeting between Trump’s lawyers and Justice Department officials. His lawyers had also recently been notified that he was the target of the investigation, the clearest sign yet that an indictment was looming.
Though the bulk of the investigative work had been handled in Washington, with a grand jury meeting there for months, it recently emerged that prosecutors were presenting evidence before a separate panel in Florida, where many of the alleged acts of obstruction scrutinized by prosecutors took place.
The Justice Department has said Trump and his lawyers repeatedly resisted efforts by the National Archives and Records Administration to get the documents back. After months of back-and-forth, Trump representatives returned 15 boxes of records in January 2022, including about 184 documents that officials said had classified markings on them.
FBI and Justice Department investigators issued a subpoena in May 2022 for classified documents that remained in Trump’s possession. But after a Trump lawyer provided three dozen records and asserted that a diligent search of the property had been done, officials came to suspect even more documents remained.
The investigation had simmered quietly for months until last August, when FBI agents served a search warrant on Mar-a-Lago and removed 33 boxes containing classified records, including top-secret documents stashed in a storage room and desk drawer and commingled with personal belongings. Some records were so sensitive that investigators needed upgraded security clearances to review them, the Justice Department has said.
The investigation into Trump had appeared complicated — politically, if not legally — by the discovery of documents with classified markings in the Delaware home and former Washington office of President Joe Biden, as well as in the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence. The Justice Department recently informed Pence that he would not face charges, while a second special counsel continues to investigate Biden’s handling of classified documents.
But compared with Trump, there are key differences in the facts and legal issues surrounding Biden’s and Pence’s handling of documents, including that representatives for both men say the documents were voluntarily turned over to investigators as soon as they were found. In contrast, investigators quickly zeroed on whether Trump, who for four years as president expressed disdain for the FBI and Justice Department, had sought to obstruct the inquiry by refusing to turn over all the requested documents.

Blast kills 11 during funeral of deputy governor in northern Afghanistan

Updated 08 June 2023

Blast kills 11 during funeral of deputy governor in northern Afghanistan

  • Daesh claimed responsibility for a car bomb on Tuesday that killed Badakhshan’s deputy governor
  • Daesh claimed killing of governor of northern Balkh province in attack on his office in March

KABUL: An explosion took place inside a mosque in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least eleven people during the funeral of the Taliban’s provincial deputy governor who died in an attack earlier this week, officials said.

The Taliban-run Ministry of Interior said that over 30 people had also been injured in the blast in Badakhshan, a province in the far north of the country that shares borders with China and Tajikistan.

Daesh claimed responsibility for a car bomb on Tuesday that killed Badakhshan’s deputy governor.

The Taliban administration has been carrying out raids against members of Daesh, which had claimed several major attacks in urban centers.

The Daesh group has targeted Taliban administration officials, including claiming the killing of the governor of northern Balkh province in an attack on his office in March.

Before-and-after satellite images show profound toll of Ukraine dam collapse

Updated 08 June 2023

Before-and-after satellite images show profound toll of Ukraine dam collapse

  • Before the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River broke, farm fields appear green and crossed by peaceful streets and farm roads and dotted with trees
  • Afterward, only metal roofs and treetops poke above the murky water

KHERSON, Ukraine: Before-and-after images of the area downstream from a dam that collapsed Tuesday vividly show the extent of the devastation of a large, flooded swathe of southern Ukraine.
Before the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper River broke, farm fields appear green and crossed by peaceful streets and farm roads and dotted with trees. Afterward, only metal roofs and treetops poke above the murky water. Greenhouses and homes are almost entirely submerged.
The pre-collapse satellite photos were taken in May and early June. Photos of the same area taken after the dam collapsed clearly show how much of it has become unlivable. Brown water as high as people covers much of the territory captured in the images.
Paired with exclusive drone footage of the Ukrainian dam and surrounding villages occupied by Russia, the before-and-after satellite images illustrate the profound changes wrought by the disaster.
Ukraine has warned since last October that the hydroelectric dam was mined by Russian forces, and accused them of touching off an explosion that has turned the downstream areas into a waterlogged wasteland. Russia said Ukraine hit the dam with a missile. But while the AP footage clearly shows the extent of the damage to the region, it offered a limited snapshot of the partially submerged dam, making it difficult to categorically rule out any scenario.
Experts have said the structure was in disrepair, which could also have led to its collapse.

WHO rushes supplies to Ukraine, readies to tackle disease in flood areas

Updated 08 June 2023

WHO rushes supplies to Ukraine, readies to tackle disease in flood areas

  • Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the bursting of the Soviet-era Kakhovka hydroelectric dam
  • "The impact of the region's water supply sanitation systems and public health services cannot be underestimated," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing

GENEVA: The World Health Organization has rushed emergency supplies to flood-hit parts of Ukraine and are preparing to respond to an array of health risks including trauma, drowning and waterborne diseases like cholera, officials said on Thursday.
Russia and Ukraine have traded blame for the bursting of the Soviet-era Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, which sent waters cascading across the war zone of southern Ukraine in the early hours of Tuesday, forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.
“The impact of the region’s water supply sanitation systems and public health services cannot be underestimated,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.
“The WHO has rushed in to support the authorities and health care workers in preventive measures against waterborne diseases and to improve disease surveillance.”
Asked specifically about cholera, WHO technical officer Teresa Zakaria said that the risk of an outbreak was present since the pathogen exists in the environment. She said that the WHO was working with Ukraine’s health ministry to put mechanisms in place to ensure that vaccines can be imported if needed.
“We are trying to address quite a wide range of health risks actually associated with the floods, starting from trauma to drowning, to waterborne diseases but also all the way to the potential implications of disruption to chronic treatment,” she added.
The huge Kakhovka Dam on the Dnipro River separates Russian and Ukrainian forces and people have been affected on both sides of its banks. WHO’s Emergencies Director Mike Ryan said the WHO has offered assistance to Russian-controlled areas but that its operational presence was “primarily” on the Ukrainian side.
He said Russian authorities had given them assurances that people living in areas it occupies were being “well monitored, well cared for, well fed (and) well supported.”
“We will be delighted to be able to access those areas and be able to monitor health as we would in most situations wish to do,” he said, adding it would be for the Ukrainian and Russian authorities to agree how that could be achieved.