❧ The Washingberg 2022
The White House turned orange for a night on Friday, June 3, 2022, “to raise awareness about gun violence”. The question is whether, by any chance, some of the residents of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, less than a mile away, took this as a thoughtful gesture towards them? If so, then President Joe Robinet Biden will have succeeded in killing two birds with one stone, without even realising it.
We are talking about the descendant of William of Orange, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, his Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra, all three of whom were attending the 68th Bilderberg Conference, which took place from 2 to 5 June 2022, at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington DC (and when you consider that the “mandarin” is orange, the circle is complete). Interestingly, this hotel is part of the Mandarin Oriental International Limited group, whose main shareholder is the British company Jardine Matheson, which became famous in the 19th century for its crucial role in the opium trade in China.
Joking aside, this American edition of the Bilderberg Conferences will go down in the annals of the Group for its secrecy. For the past twenty years, Bilderberg has been in the habit of informing the public of the meetings a few days before they take place. This allowed those interested in the summit to make arrangements in time to attend. This time, the Group only announced the event once the meeting was underway. This contradicts what the spokesperson for the organisation wrote to us two months ago: “Information about our next meeting will be made available as in all other years, i.e. a few days in advance we will publish the location, agenda and list of participants.”
It’s noteworthy that this year a quarter of the members of the group’s Steering Committee did not attend, which might suggest that the meeting was organised in haste: not enough time for everyone to organise their busy schedules around it.
This delay in the dissemination of information prevented, de facto, any European journalist from being able to arrive in Washington in time. This leads to a second observation: on the American side, astonishingly there were only two independent journalists with their cameras trained on the Mandarin Oriental: Josh Friedman and Luke Rudkowski. And that’s all. For four days, they were literally the only ones covering the event on site. Can you imagine? With the tens of thousands of journalists in the US, and the many thousands in Washington itself. It’s a sad fact that there were five times as many media representatives inside the hotel as outside. Inside the conference walls there were managers, owners, editors and journalists from groups such as Prisa, Axel Springer, The Economist, Financial Times, The Atlantic, Domani, Helsingin Sanomat Newspaper, Habertürk News Network, Weekendavisen and YetkinReport.
On the outside, Josh Friedman first had to scour the city to find out where the meeting was taking place, since the Bilderberg press release did not mention the name of the hotel where the meeting was taking place. It simply said that the meeting was taking place in Washington D.C. Once he arrived at the Mandarin Oriental, it took him some time to be sure he was in the right place, as there was nothing to confirm or deny this, except for the tarpaulin fence that hermetically enclosed the hotel. His experience (he had covered several Bilderberg meetings in the past) and his instinct told him it was there, but his professional conscience demanded that he be certain. Fortunately, some well-known faces appeared, such as Mark Carney and Mark Rutte, which reassured him, and at the same time electrified him. Imagine his emotion at being the only journalist in the world (Luke Rudkowski only joined him in the evening from New York) to report on this exclusive transatlantic summit.
The footage Friedman and Rudkowski shot around the Mandarin Oriental is remarkable. It is hardly conceivable that 130 of the most influential figures in the Atlantic Alliance could meet like that, in the heart of Washington, for four days, during a war, with literally only two good souls to witness it.
To grasp the general mood of the discussions, one would do well to read the article ‘Ukraine and the start of a second cold war’ written by one of the journalists allowed inside the charmed circle, Gideon Rachman, and published on the Financial Times website on 6.6.2022, the day after the end of the conference. It was Rachman’s fifth attendance in twenty years. In his article Rachman prefers not mention the ‘B Word’, as his colleague Martin Wolf usually does when reporting on his participations, but its content is too close to the agenda not to reflect it.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter with the agenda of the meeting, which was the following:
- Geopolitical Realignments
- NATO Challenges
- Indo-Pacific Realignment
- Sino-US Tech Competition
- Continuity of Government and the Economy
- Disruption of the Global Financial System
- Energy Security and Sustainability
- Post Pandemic Health
- Fragmentation of Democratic Societies
- Trade and Deglobalisation
Two sessions are particularly noteworthy because of their titles: sessions 7 and 8, ‘Continuity of Government and the Economy’ and ‘Disruption of the Global Financial System’. These serious issues are characteristic of times of war (inter-state or civil). The agenda is creaking under the weight of war and “geopolitical realignments”, and this is reflected in the list of participants.
Gathered in Washington for this Bilderberg conference was the top brass of the military-industrial complex, as President Dwight Eisenhower defined it in his farewell address on 17 January 1961. They were there to talk about the war in Ukraine, of course, in the company of the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarowa, and the CEO of the Ukrainian energy company, Naftagaz, Yuriy Vitrenko. But also to discuss a possible future confrontation with China.
Conference regular, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, had the opportunity in Washington to discuss international affairs with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, as he himself reported on Twitter : “I was pleased to meet with Prime Minister @MarinSanna of our close partner Finland in Washington. We discussed the need to address #Turkey’s concerns and to advance Finland and Sweden’s application for NATO membership.”
It is a pity that he did not specify in what context their meeting took place and where the photo he published as an attachment was taken.
Nevertheless, as journalist Charlie Skelton wrote on his twitter account, “It’s a mad irony that the head of NATO is doing more actual reporting on #bilderberg2022 than almost every news outlet in the world.”
In addition to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, US National Security Council Director Jake Sullivan and leaders of the CIA, CISA, GCHQ and DGSE, Kurt Campbell, the White House Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific at the National Security Council, was also present. The Senior Director for Technology and National Security at the National Security Council, Tarun Chhabra. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Celeste Wallander. And the Director of the Office of Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, James H. Baker.
For Europe, the President of the European Council Charles Michel, the Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas, and the European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders were present, as already mentioned, accompanied by the President of the Eurogroup and Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.
Other politicians and public present included:
• US Secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo.
• US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Adewale Adeyemo.
• Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares.
• Swiss Secretary of State of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Livia Leu.
• Greek Minister for Digital Governance, Kyriakos Pierrakakis.
• Belgian Minister for Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten.
• Swedish Minister for Health and Social Affairs, Lena Hallengren.
• Irish Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne.
• UK Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove.
• The Chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee and former military intelligence officer, the Franco-British Tom Tugendhat.
Some political figures indicated their participation in the meeting in their official schedule. This is the case of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel; the Vice-President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas; the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders; the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin; and the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Chrystia Freeland.
Mr Reynders also made it clear that he would participate in the panel on ‘disinformation’ at the meeting. Given his responsibilities, this suggests that a judicial solution to the problem at European level is in the offing. This means that we can expect tougher legislation against the spreaders of fake news in the coming months.
Looking now at the private sector, the conference boasted CEOs and directors from some of the world’s biggest companies. Big oil and big pharma were represented by Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, BP, Shell and TotalEnergies. Joining them were the heads of Brookfield Asset Management, CDPQ, Evercore, Goldman Sachs International, Enel, AXA, SwissRe, UBS, SEB, Volvo, Heineken, KKR, Ryanair, Microsoft, Palantir, Facebook, DeepMind, OpenAI, and InflectionAI, to name just a few.
Academics and senior members from some of the West’s most influential NGOs were present: the Center for European Policy Analysis sent the former head of the US Army in Europe, Ben Hodges and a member of its International Leadership Council, Anne Applebaum. From the Hudson Institute came senior fellow, Nadia Schadlow, a former member of the National Security Council, and a current member of Bilderberg’s Steering Committee. The Institut Montaigne was represented by its chairman, Henri de Castries, who is also a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment (and the former chair of Bilderberg’s Steering Committee). Also from Carnegie: the American diplomat and academic Ashley J. Tellis, who is an advisor to the US Chief of Naval Operations.
Perhaps the best example of the crossover between NGO advisors, international diplomacy and the military is conference attendee William J. Burns. The former deputy Secretary of State was President of the Carnegie Endowment and was briefly on the Steering Committee of Bilderberg before resigning from both to become Director of the CIA in March 2021.
Besides Burns, four other active intelligence chiefs attended the 2022 conference: the head of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters; the director of France’s external intelligence agency, DGSE; the leader of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; and Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. Former spy chiefs at the talks include David Petraeus (CIA) and Sir John Sawers (MI6), now a board member of Bilderberg and BP.
The list of participants also includes the doyen of US intelligence and diplomacy, former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. At 99 years of age, he is still professionally active as President of Kissinger Associates Inc. A former member of the Steering Committee, he has participated in the Bilderberg Conferences since 1957. 65 years of loyalty to the Club is something to celebrate! At the same time, he confirmed his record of seniority within the Group. This record was previously held in Montreux in 2019 by his friend and mentor, the late David Rockefeller, who had been linked to the Group for a mere 61 years, from 1954 until his death in 2015.
Given the war in Ukraine and the tense situation with Russia, Kissinger must have found himself in a contradictory situation. If, on the one hand, his Cold War experience was to propel him among the ‘wise’, his ties with Putin were to place him among the suspects of Russophilia.
In an article published in 2012, the New York Times revealed that Putin and Kissinger were “old friends” and that they had met a dozen times over the years. Thereafter, they met several more times, as in 2017, in the Kremlin. As Gideon Rachman explained in the above-mentioned article, Kissinger continues to be a source of inspiration for some nostalgics: “While there is some glib talk in the West about attempting to “do a Kissinger” — and once again engineer a split between Russia and China, as happened in the 1970s — few in Washington believe that is a plausible near-term prospect. On the contrary, US officials see China as very firmly in Russia’s corner. Dissuading Beijing from translating its pro-Russian sentiments into direct military or economic support for Moscow remains a top American priority. “
To sum up — the list of participants, the agenda of the meeting and the level of secrecy surrounding it, suggest that we are about to enter a rather turbulent period, where anything can happen, be it military, political, economic or social. “Deglobalisation” is unlikely to be a joyous and happy process, especially in a context of societal ‘fragmentation’ and economic stagflation. Moreover, as Gideon Rachman reminded us in the article cited above, the Biden administration’s policymakers are already defining the war in Ukraine in global terms. They see Russia and China as partners in a challenge to the “world order”.
These policymakers “see Russia and China as partners in a challenge to the ‘rules-based order’, upheld by the US and its allies. The battles in Ukraine are currently the central theatre of that wider struggle.
Viewed from Washington, security threats in Europe and Asia are now so deeply connected that the two continents are seen by officials as a ‘single operating system’.”
As the Bilderberg agenda suggests, we are currently witnessing many ‘geopolitical realignments’, especially in the Indo-Pacific region. As Vaimiti Goin wrote in an article entitled: ‘The Indopacific Space, a geopolitical concept with variable geometry in the face of power rivalries” (« L’espace Indopacifique, un concept géopolitique à géométrie variable face aux rivalités des puissances ») published in 2021: “The use of the Indo-Pacific concept in international relations is not neutral: it underpins an ideological vision. There are two main visions: a first vision based on rivalry with China and a second one defending a free and open space including China. The main point of confrontation between the two visions, however, is China’s refusal to recognise the geographical and ideological existence of such a space, which it perceives as a strategy of containment against it.”
So what Martin Wolf predicted when he returned from the Montreux Conference in 2019 seems to be taking shape: “The disappearance of the Soviet Union left a big hole. The ‘war on terror’ was an inadequate replacement. But China ticks all boxes. For the US, it can be the ideological, military and economic enemy many need (…). Across-the-board rivalry with China is becoming an organising principle of US economic, foreign and security policies.”