"We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction," Kissinger wrote in a commentary published Thursday in the Washington Post.
"Russia and the West, and least of all the various factions in Ukraine, have not acted on this principle," he said. "Each has made the situation worse."
Russia can't impose a military solution -- thousands of unidentifiable troops were deployed to Ukraine's autonomous pro-Moscow Crimea region -- without isolating itself, he said.
On the flip side, Western leaders' demonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin isn't policy, "it is an alibi for the absence of one," Kissinger said.
"Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War," the former diplomat said. "For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington."
He urged all leaders to return to "examining outcomes, not compete in posturing," including the following principles:
-- Ukraine should have the right to choose freely economic and political associations.
-- Ukraine should be free to create any government "compatible with the expressed will of its people."
-- Russia's annexation of Crimea is "incompatible with the rules of the existing world order," but it should be possible to put Crimea's relationship to Ukraine "on a less fraught basis" by Russia recognizing Ukraine's sovereignty over Crimea and Ukraine reinforcing Crimea's autonomy.
"The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction," Kissinger said in conclusion. "If some solution based on these or comparable elements is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate."