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Reuters/Jason Lee
With Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli, Mar. 2015.
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Decades of awkward hugs from Henry Kissinger

Jake Flanagin
By Jake Flanagin

Reporter

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger is not known for being an especially sentimental man. As he famously said, “the American temptation is to believe that foreign policy is a subdivision of psychiatry”—and this is a decent distillate of his political legacy.

Kissinger, simply put, does not come off as a hugger. His policy surely suggests a preference for stern, if not vice-like handshakes; curt nods and grumbly salutations. But there’s a startlingly large quantity of photographic evidence to the contrary—decades upon decades of archived images featuring the grim-faced realpolitiker sharing awkward embraces with dozens of world leaders. There were, of course, hugs for the usual suspects: Egyptian military strongmen, Saudi sheikhs, Israeli prime ministers. And there are a few unexpected world leaders enveloped in those besuited arms: Nelson Mandela, for one, despite Kissinger’s well-known support for South Africa’s apartheid leadership in the 1970s.

Henry Hugginger is a man of infinite contradictions.

With former German chancellor Helmut Kohl, Mar. 2000. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
With former Argentinian foreign minister Alberto J. Vignes, Feb. 1974. (AP Photo)
With former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, Oct. 1975. (AP Photo)
With former Jordanian monarch King Hussein, Oct. 1974. (AP Photo/Toranian)
With former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, Mar. 1978. (AP Photo/Max Nash)
With Chinese state councilor Dai Bingguo, July 2009. (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
With former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Jan. 2009. (AP Photo/Maurizio Gambarini)
With former German vice chancellor Hans Dietrich Genscher, May 2005. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
With former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, May 2013.
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