by Giorgio Bombassei
Henry A. Kissinger KCMG is the oldest member of Bilderberg. The former US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor will celebrate his 100th birthday on 27 May 2023. But the celebrations will kick off the week before, when he’ll have his centenary toasted at the Bilderberg Conference in Lisbon. This is a great opportunity to look back on some aspects of his long and star-spangled life, in connection with his beloved Bilderberg Group.
Despite having attended the Group’s annual conference, on and off, since 1957, Kissinger has been surprisingly careful never to mention Bilderberg in his books. The first volume of his biography by the historian Niall Ferguson also remains silent on his involvement with the Group. We are confident, however, that this gap will be filled in future volumes as the author has himself has attended several Bilderberg Conferences and knows the role played by ‘Henry’ in the organisation. Just as he knows the role played by the organisation on the international scene.
After World War II, Henry Kissinger was responsible for the denazification of the Bergstrasse district in Hesse before becoming a lecturer at the European Command Intelligence School at Camp King, Germany. In 1951, while a graduate student at Harvard, he cut his geopolitical teeth as director of the Harvard International Seminar, which led to him founding the foreign affairs magazine Confluence. This, according to his biographer Walter Isaacson, allowed him “to build a network of influential acquaintances”, a network that he is still nurturing today.
In 1952 Kissinger was recruited as an advisor to the Director of the Psychological Strategy Board, a government agency responsible for planning and coordinating psychological operations, which included the Director of the CIA and the No. 2 officers of the State and Defense Departments. His ascension of the Intelligence ladder continued in 1955, when he was appointed as a consultant to the Operations Coordinating Board of the National Security Council, which was responsible for the implementation of national security policies and their integration by all government agencies.
His duties and interpersonal skills enabled him to quickly build up an enviable address book. They also opened the doors to exclusive circles, such as the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
WHEN HENRY MET DAVID
It was through the CFR that Henry Kissinger first met David Rockefeller in 1955. At the time, he was teaching at Harvard, where he was also a research director. He was chairing a working group on nuclear weapons and foreign affairs, of which David was a member. David was immediately struck by the young German-born strategist’s quick thinking and sharp analysis. The two men got to know and appreciate each other. They discovered that they had a similar mindset, the result of a common background in military intelligence.
The following year, David introduced Kissinger to his brothers who were, like him, seduced by his steely brilliance. They put him in charge of the Special Studies Project of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. And then, in 1957, the door to Bilderberg was opened for Henry, when David invited him to the conference on St. Simons Island, in Georgia. This marked the birth of a pairing that would rule American foreign policy for almost half a century. The St. Simons summit was the fifth Bilderberg conference, and took place three months before the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which gave life to the European Economic Community (EEC) and Euratom – the European Atomic Energy Community. Incidentally, we wonder what Joseph Retinger thought of young Mr. Kissinger? Did he even notice him?
David Rockefeller’s older brother Nelson took Henry Kissinger on as an adviser in his campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination in 1960, 1964 and 1968. This experience allowed the academic to enter the world of politics through the front door and to become known to the whole of Washington. From that moment on, his rise was meteoric. Once elected President of the United States, Richard Nixon chose him as Secretary of State. As soon as he took office, Kissinger championed a policy of détente with the USSR and promoted a rapprochement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In this context, he was the architect of Nixon’s famous visit to Beijing in February 1972, which greatly contributed to the normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
As the journalist François Honti wrote in Le Monde diplomatique at the time, “The rapprochement between Washington and Beijing can only be recorded as a positive development in international relations; it marks the end of an absurdity. The stubbornness of American governments since 1950 to prevent the world’s most populous country – which is also one of the oldest – from taking its place in the United Nations and to obstruct its recognition was an insult to common sense and an obstacle to the development of peaceful cooperation between nations.”
Kissinger was back at Bilderberg again in 1964, at the Williamsburg meeting, and then at the Woodstock meeting in 1971, before being finally co-opted by the Group in 1977, just weeks after he left office as Secretary of State. He arrived at a critical moment in Bilderberg’s history, which David Rockefeller wrote about in his Memoirs:
“In 1976, the Bilderberg Group was confronted with a scandal that almost led to its demise. Early that year, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it was alleged that Prince Bernhard had offered Lockheed the opportunity to use his official position to influence Dutch defence procurement policy in return for a substantial fee. As time went on, the evidence against the Prince accumulated, including information about his meetings with intermediaries during the Bilderberg Group meetings”.
As a result, Prince Bernhard resigned as Chairman of Bilderberg and the 1976 meeting was cancelled. The very existence of the Group was then questioned among its members. An American diplomatic telegram of 14 October 1976 bears witness to this. It is a report sent by the Department’s spokesman, Robert J. McCloskey, to the Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger, concerning a meeting he’d just had with the Bilderberg’s European Secretary General:
“In the course of a pleasant lunch yesterday, your longtime friend Ernst van der Beugel, among other things, expressed concern about the future of Bilderberg. The departure of Prince Bernhard , van der Beugel feels, leaves a vacuum which will very likely contribute to a slackening of interest among those who always felt that the Prince brought a certain elan to the meetings in addition to serving as a highly efficient chairman. Van der Beugel is even concerned whether under the circumstances Bilderberg can be kept going. Inasmuch as I have never attended a Bilderberg Conference I take van der Beugel’s word for all this. As with so many things, you will be better able to judge the significance of this than I. Additionally, van der Beugel said that Joe Johnson is resigning from his position with the Group and is to be replaced by Bill Bundy. Van der Beugel will be discussing all of this further with other Bilderberg hands, among them George Ball, in London at the end of the month. I don’t presume to know what value you personally attach to Bilderberg, less whether you have any feeling about who should replace the Prince. My only tentative thought is that it should probably be a European, if there is one such and if he is available. In any case, I did assume you would be interested.”
Others thought that the discredit was so great that it was better to stop. In their view, no one serious would come to the conferences any more. After analysing the pros and cons, the Steering Committee decided that it was important to continue the experiment. It had to urgently select a new chairman who could take over the task in such circumstances. Apparently, this proved to be a rather complex task. It was necessary to find someone of comparable standing to the Prince, with the same talent for mediation, experience in managing assemblies, knowledge of international political issues, particularly transatlantic relations, and who was available and ready to take on such a delicate role.
The choice finally fell on the former British Prime Minister, Lord Home of the Hirsel, who accepted the post. Thus the UK was asked to organise the first of the ‘new’ Bilderberg Conferences, in Torquay, 22-24 April 1977, which Henry attended, now free of all restraint and reserve. Since then he has hardly missed a meeting and the last one he attended was at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington in 2022.
For 65 years (45 at the ‘helm’) he has been a diligent and committed member. It is difficult, for example, to put a figure on the number of contributions, written and oral, that he has provided to Group members and their guests over the years. He was for a long time a member of the Steering Committee before being co-opted into the Group’s Advisory Board, a sort of Bilderberg Hall of Fame. This body (which no longer exists) guaranteed the coherence and strategic continuity of the organisation. It was composed of several former glories of the Steering Committee, including David Rockefeller, the Italian Giovanni Agnelli (president of the FIAT group), Henry J. Heinz II (CEO of the H.J. Heinz Company) and William Bundy (senior CIA official, former presidential advisor, Under Secretary of State and editor of the magazine Foreign Affairs).
AMERICAN FRIENDS OF BILDERBERG INC.
If Kissinger’s intellectual contribution to Bilderberg activities is invaluable, his financial contribution can be quantified by the accounting data of the American Friends of Bilderberg Inc. foundation, which represents the interests of the American branch of the Group.
David Rockefeller was one of the main promoters of the creation of the American Friends of Bilderberg Inc. which aims to organise and sponsor conferences that study and discuss important issues relating to the Western alliance. It contributes to the Bilderberg Conferences, which are held in Europe and North America. This structure, which serves as a legal cover for the North American members of Bilderberg, was registered on September 1, 1975, in New York as an educational organisation. “The Foundation”, as it is called by its members, is managed by a Steering Committee composed of a variable number of members. Most of them are or have been members of the international Steering Committee of the Stichting Bilderberg Meetings. Until 2004, the Steering Committee consisted of five people: a Chairman, a Treasurer, a Secretary, plus Bilderberg Life Members David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger. Since then, this number has doubled to ten, due to a significant increase in the workload of the foundation over the past decade.
Each year, as required by law, the Foundation is obliged to make public a certain amount of data relating to its accounting management. These include the identity of its trustees, the size of its financial reserves, the amounts received and the identity of donors, the size of the contribution due to the Steering Committee International, etc.
Donations are irregularly distributed over time, as the foundation generally raises funds only as needed. Most of the donors turn out to be the members of American Friends of Bilderberg. Other patrons are regular participants in the Bilderberg Conferences. There are few cases where the donor has no direct connection with the organisation.
Each year, its trustees are required to make an active contribution to the smooth running of the organisation, including financial contributions. They give between $1,000 and $300,000 each, either personally, through their companies or through family trusts. Other donors are regular participants in the Bilderberg Conferences, companies or foundations. Among them, we should mention two that have a direct link with Henry Kissinger: the William S. Paley Foundation, of which he is still a board member, and the Freeport McMoran Copper&Gold Foundation. He was a director of the latter’s parent company, Freeport McMoran Copper&Gold, from 1988 to 1995. A company that has also been a client of his consulting firm Kissinger Associates for many years.
Finally, the available data shows that between 2001 and 2020, Henry Kissinger personally gave the association between $5,000 and $20,000 per year, for a total amount of $183,500.
Henry Kissinger founded his own consulting firm in New York in 1982, which he named Kissinger & Associates. In 1999, he joined forces with former White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty to expand the firm’s scope. The firm was renamed Kissinger McLarty Associates. The two divorced in 2008 and the firm reverted to the name Kissinger Associates.
Among the personalities Kissinger has co-opted over the years as partners in Kissinger Associates are the three former chairmen of the Bilderberg Group: Baron Carrington, Baron Roll de Ipsden and Count Etienne Davignon. Among the personalities on the staff of the company who have collaborated with the Group in the past are Timothy Geithner (2004-2008), Bill Richardson (1999-2000), Brent Scowcroft (1985-88-94) and John O. Brennan (2017).
Scowcroft caused a blip on the mainstream media’s radar when he was George H. Bush’s national security adviser, because of his links with Kissinger Associates. In 1989, for example, the Washington Post questioned the $300,000 he had received from this company while in the White House. In a memo to White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, Scowcroft stated that he would place his many shares in a blind trust and authorise the trustee(s) to sell shares in companies whose activities might conflict with his duties.
From its inception, Henry was keen to keep his company as discreet as possible. Kissinger Associates has never disclosed its client list, under US lobbying law. The company has already threatened to sue Congress in the Supreme Court to oppose a subpoena for its client list – this was in 1991, when it had to answer for its links with the notorious BCCI bank.
In another example, on 14 December 2002, Kissinger resigned as chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (commonly known as the ‘9/11 Commission’), informing President Bush that he could not serve if it meant revealing the clients of his consulting firm. In his letter, Kissinger said he was prepared to submit all relevant financial information to the White House and an independent review, as well as to other members of the joint commission. But he added that “although specific potential conflicts can be resolved in this manner, the controversy would quickly move to the consulting firm I have built and own.” And he resigned from the post, saying that “to liquidate Kissinger Associates cannot be accomplished without significantly delaying the beginning of the joint commission’s work”.
According to lawyer Anthony J. Sebok: “On the morning of the day of his resignation, Kissinger offered a compromise: He would reveal the clients’ names, but only to members of the families of the victims of 9/11, and only if they signed an agreement never to reveal those names. Whether the families would have agreed to public secrecy and private access is not clear, and is now a moot point: Kissinger resigned before it could be resolved.”
There is, however, a list of companies known to be (or have been) clients of Kissinger Associates. Many of them are linked, directly or indirectly, to the interests of Bilderberg members. Chase-Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase), Fiat, H. J. Heinz & Co, Hollinger Inc, Rio Tinto and Warburg, to name but a few.
THE CHARLEMAGNE PRIZE
It is well known that Kissinger was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Le Duc Tho in 1973 for jointly negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam. As the Nobel Prize website recalls, this nomination caused a stir both in Western public opinion and within the Nobel Committee itself.
“Christmas 1972 saw heavy bombing raids carried out over the North Vietnamese capital Hanoi by American B-52 bombers. All over the world, thousands of people took to the streets in protest. The man who ordered the bombing was at the same time spearheading cease-fire negotiations. The armistice took effect in January 1973, and the same autumn Henry Kissinger was awarded the Peace Prize together with his counterpart Le Duc Tho. The latter refused to accept the Prize, and for the first time in the history of the Peace Prize two members left the Nobel Committee in protest.”
Less well known is that Henry was also the recipient of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen in 1987, which is awarded since 1950 to outstanding personalities who have committed themselves to European unification: “a true link between the past and the future, this prize highlights a continuity from the foundation of medieval Europe to the architecture of our modern Europe”.
The organisers commissioned the former chairman of the Bilderberg Group and recipient of the award in 1977, Walter Scheel, to deliver the eulogy in Kissinger’s honour at the award ceremony. On this occasion, he said, among other things:
“Henry Kissinger has also sharpened our consciousness of European integration. He has given impulses for a process of reflecting and reassessing European components in the power games of world politics. […] I think back with great satisfaction that the American participation in the highly complicated and laborious Berlin negotiations was executed with complete and precise adjustment to the federal government of Germany. In postwar history there has never been more accurate proof that coordinated western policy of détente is possible and that the Soviet Union can be moved to make substantial concessions.”
For his part, Kissinger said:
“… it is a source of spezial pride that America, the daughter of Europe, in part repaid its heritage by contributing idealism and resources in Europe’s darkest hour, thereby making possible European initiatives to reassert its historic role. […] In terms of that tradition, European unity and Atlantic partnership are not antithetical, but complimentary; they are not simply practical necessities—though that undoubtedly plays an important part. […] The West is now suffering from the consequences of past successes. A generation of peace has produced on the European side of the Atlantic the temptations of emancipation from superpower relationships; on the American Side there are signs of the re-emerge of historic isolationism—especially as the country’s centre of gravity shifts westward. But America, the daughter of Europe, can no more turn its back on its heritage than Europe can seek salvation in an illusory equidistance from the so-called superpowers, of which in fact Europe should be one.”
Kissinger was the second American to receive the Charlemagne Prize, after General George C. Marshall in 1959. A third would follow: Bill Clinton, in 2000. Kissinger’s win provoked many protests as well. The most important reaction was the creation of another prize in 1988: the Aachen Peace Prize, which was intended to be more independent and less subject to political pressure than the Charlemagne Committee.
WHEN KLAUS MET HENRY
Through his words, writings and actions, Henry Kissinger has inspired generations of young diplomats, politicians and strategists of all kinds. As a university professor, he was fortunate to be able to influence the minds of countless students, including Klaus Schwab of Germany. Schwab founded the European Management Symposium in 1971, which became the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in 1987. He was a member of the Steering Committee in the mid-1990s. In a book published by the WEF in 2010 to celebrate its 40 years of existence, it is written that Henry Kissinger was Schwab’s mentor when he was his professor at Harvard and that it was Kissinger who gave him his foot in the door.
Schwab himself confirmed this when he participated in an event organised in his honour by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 2021. During this ‘conversation’ about ‘improving the state of the world’, the moderator asked him if there was any course or professor during his tenure at Cambridge (MA) that had particularly impressed him. He replied:
“Yes. There was one seminar of Henry Kissinger which really opened my eyes. I wasn’t accepted to the seminar but I sat in. I think he let me in because I was German and it was relatively shortly after the War. At that time, there was no many Germans here. This created a friendship which has endured until today. And as you know, Henry has been several times in Davos. I think it was mainly participating in his seminar so I developed my interest for geopolical affairs.”
In Davos in 2008, Schwab also admitted that he regularly consulted his friend and mentor, who he said was “the embodiment of someone who believed not just the art of the possible in diplomacy but in expanding what the art of the possible could be.”