It may be dangerous to be America's enemy, but to be America's friend is fatal.

This quote is attributed to Henry Kissinger.

I did find many references such as this WSJ article that further this claim, but they can't really be used to ascertain if Kissinger actually said it or not.

Is there some primary source of this?

2 Answers 2


It was the "then" clause of a conditional statement:

Word should be gotten to Nixon that if Thieu meets the same fate as Diem, the word will go out to the nations of the world that it may be dangerous to be America's enemy, but to be America's friend is fatal.

Sources: Kissinger's War, 1957-1975 and United Nations Journal: A Delegate's Odyssey

Kissinger said this in late November 1968 after Nixon was elected president, but before Nixon was inaugurated.

It wasn't a public statement, just a statement to William F. Buckley Jr. in a phone call, with Buckley taking notes, so it isn't verifiable beyond Buckley (author of United Nations Journal: A Delegate's Odyssey).

  • 62
    So, to be clear, the answer is a strong "no". The quote is taken out of context so that it says the complete opposite of what K meant. In reality he said that it's NOT fatal, and he wanted to keep it that way. Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 15:03
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    Though, seven years later, Thieu did meet "the same fate" as Diem in that he was also deposed (though not killed). Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 19:13
  • 7
    @NateEldredge A more completely quotation would clarify that Kissinger was trying to warn Nixon that Clark Clifford was trying to depose Thieu. So the point was that the US shouldn't depose Thieu like they helped do to Diem.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 19:21
  • 3
    @OwenReynolds - Was a "no", in 1968. And even that's a stretch. It's more like he said "people are already wary of being America's friend, one more snafu will remove all doubt". And then there was (at least) one more snafu. So he may as well have said it. The condition he placed on it originally has been satisfied.
    – aroth
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 3:18
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    @aroth - Clearly, Henry Kissinger of all people believed that it was best for countries to be allied with the USA. He's talking about perception here—he's afraid that "word will go out" and convince other countries not to be friendly with the USA.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Dec 11, 2023 at 9:29

i ll give an answer, but not about directly Kissenger.

Kissinger was not the first who said this words, but he repeated them.

The author of this words was russian(Empire) general-major Aleksey Efimovich Vandam(Edrikhin), the intelligencer, the writer of strategic and geopolitical works. He was a participant in the Boer War on the opposite side to Britain Empire, after Russian-Soviet revolt he switched the side to German, not to Entente. He supported the politic course to an ally between Russian, German and France without Britain.

The citaite is from the book "Наше положение"(~Our circumstance) chap XXI(real XXVI-wrong dating) p. 123

Наконец наступает очередь и Китая, который после своих разнообразных опытов с англичанами и американцами смело мог бы сказать теперь — «плохо иметь англосакса врагом, но не дай Бог иметь его другом!».

Finally, it is the turn of China, which, after its various experiences with the British and Americans , could safely say now — "it is bad to have an Anglo-Saxon as an enemy, but God forbid to have him as a friend!".

Kissinger could to know the text, because it is a russian view point on anglosaxons geopolitics. And he made a wording little bit different - "God forbid" changed to "fatal" - in meaning destructive, deadly fate. Or, probably, Edrikhin also used quotes for this phrase, so, probably, the goes is elder then 1912.

About the sense, i'll remind to you another Kissinger citations, very cynical too:

“America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”

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

As quoted in The Washington Post (23 December 1973); he later joked further on this remark, on 10 March 1975 saying to Turkish Foreign Minister Melih Esenbel in Ankara, Turkey: Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings "The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." … But since the Freedom of Information Act, I'm afraid to say things like that.

  • This is not an answer to the question. Whether ypu believe Kissinger was quoting or paraphrasing someone else is irrelevant, only whether he did or did not say it himself matters.
    – Nij
    Commented Jan 4 at 23:09
  • @Nij this makes clear, what Kissinger meant saying "fatal". i do not think, that to be skeptic is an ability to say yes or no only, but "to reflect, look, view". I looked and i say - yes he did, and fatal means definitely deadly, do you like it or not - i do not care, that is a fact. You can't be "sceptic" if you do not know the sense of the phrase it is asking about. Commented Jan 5 at 1:16
  • Being a skeptic means answering the question asked, not obfuscating what might or might not answer a different question. Nowhere here do you provide evidence of Kissinger saying this, only that if he did, you think he copied a Russian saying it earlier. That is just not an answer to the question on Stack Exchange.
    – Nij
    Commented Jan 5 at 1:37
  • @Nij sorry, english is not my native, i understand words senses and meanings with dictionary - etymonline.com/word/sceptic . about the single act of the wording by Kissinger, there is enough information in another answer. But the fact is more then single act of wording. Without sense clearly of the wording, you may not say - that is a fact. Kissinger could have made a reservation, word mistake, or Buckley could have to hear wrong - all may be, but if you have sense of the wording - that make any mistakes zero possibility. So, only if you have a sense, you have a fact. Commented Jan 5 at 13:16

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