The 68th Bilderberg Conference took place in Washington D.C. from 2 to 5 June 2022. This meeting will go down in the annals of the Group for the level of secrecy that surrounded its organisation. However, one of the participants, the Italian journalist Stefano Feltri, published an article after the meeting in which he summarised his impressions of the discussions in a few lines. A valuable testimony, like the one he offered in 2019, which revealed two things: that the war in Ukraine was the leitmotif of all the discussions. And that the opinions on this subject were many and varied.
In fact, the cream of Western security pomp and circumstance was gathered at the Mandarin Oriental hotel to talk about the war in Ukraine, together with the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarowa, and the CEO of Naftogaz, Yuriy Vitrenko. But also to discuss a possible future confrontation with China, as British journalist Gideon Rachman suggested in an article entitled ‘Ukraine and the start of a second cold war’ , which appeared in the Financial Times the day after the meeting.
In this context, the announced presence of the former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was likely to agitate people. Indeed, during the Davos forum, which had taken place a few weeks earlier, Kissinger had made appeasing remarks about Russia that had provoked strong reactions in Ukraine and internationally. Outraged by his proposal to concede Ukrainian territories to Moscow in order to obtain peace, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was keen to send him this reply: “It seems that Mr Kissinger’s calendar is not 2022 but 1938, and he thought he was speaking to an audience not in Davos but in Munich at that time.
Kissinger was in a contradictory situation: his Cold War experience made him one of the ‘wise men’ to be listened to, but his ties to Putin must have placed him among the suspects of Russophilia. In a 2012 article, the New York Times revealed that Putin and Kissinger were “old friends” and had met a dozen times over the years. In 2017, for example, they met at the Kremlin.
As Gideon Rachman explains in the article mentioned above, Kissinger continues to be a source of inspiration for some nostalgic people:
“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.”
Since the Washington meeting, much has happened and Kissinger has come to reconsider his position on Russia, the war and Ukraine’s future. In July 2022, for example, he admitted that the Ukrainian territories seized during the Russian invasion should not be ceded in any negotiations with Moscow. At the Davos Forum in January 2023, he went further and said that he now supported Ukraine’s membership of NATO.
At the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed this development: “I am glad that Mr Kissinger has changed his mind. For us today, the priority, our political task is for famous people, various political figures – who are relevant today or used to be relevant – to recognise the huge mistake that Putin himself has made, and recognise that this is Russian aggression, recognise these important points, so that they also put political pressure on Russia to end this bloody aggression”.