The history of the mysterious organization known as “Le Cercle” is in some ways linked to that of the Bilderberg Group. To sketch out some details of this particular relationship one needs to consult the memoirs of American banker David Rockefeller, who was a member of both organisations at the same time. He writes: “The Bilderberg Group meetings more or less coincided for a time with my participation in a relatively obscure but potentially even more controversial organisation called the Pesent Group.”
The “Groupe Pesenti” or “Cercle Pesenti” is also known as the “Cercle Pinay”. Insiders simply call it “Le Cercle”. It is a secret transnational, Atlanticist and conservative forum, which was created at the beginning of the Cold War by the former President of the French Council of Ministers, Antoine Pinay. Its aim: to help forge a united Europe on Christian, conservative and anti-communist lines. As a co-founder and member of the Bilderberg Group, Pinay drew inspiration from the latter’s workings to give life to the Cercle, while giving it a structure with its own characteristics. While Bilderberg operated on a bi-partisan basis (representatives of the main democratic political parties, from both the right and the left, whether socialist, social-democrat, liberal, Christian-democrat or conservative), the Cercle was conceived on a rather partisan basis. With a few exceptions, its members were all from conservative backgrounds. The second feature of the Cercle was that it was intended to add action to reflection.
While Pinay assumed the presidency of the Cercle, he delegated the management of the organisation to one of his close friends, the lawyer Jean-Paul Léon Violet, known as Jean Violet. He was a man of the shadows, with a troubled past. Both shared the feeling that a united, stable and prosperous Europe could only be established on the basis of a solid Paris-Bonn axis. The key to success lay, in their view, in Franco-German reconciliation. Among the first people they involved were Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, Otto de Hasbourg and Carlo Pesenti. Initially, the members of the Cercle were recruited mainly from among politicians and diplomats who were dedicated to the political and economic integration of the Old Continent. They were also joined by bankers, industrialists, academics, journalists and heads of intelligence services.
In the 1960s, when protest took hold of Western student circles, the Circle began to deal with internal security issues as well, such as counter-subversive and counter-insurgency policies. Experts in psychological and unconventional warfare, both civilian and military, began to be co-opted. These cold warriors fought the scarlet enemy by all means, including the most devious. All in absolute secrecy. This explains why Rockefeller considered that ‘The Circle’, compared to Bilderberg, “would be even more controversial”.
David Rockefeller was approached by Carlo Pesenti at a forum organised by the Chase in Paris in October 1967. The Italian offered to join a “very closed circle” that discussed the “major contemporary trends in European and world politics”. Because Pesenti was a good client of the bank and because the group was chaired by Pinay, his colleague in Bilderberg, Rockefeller accepted. When he entered, he could see that it was indeed made up of eminent personalities, including “Giulio Andreotti and Franz-Josef Strauss”.
What struck him at first was that Le Cercle was composed mainly of Europeans and that he was the only American invited, “although on rare occasions, when the group met in Washington, Henry Kissinger, then President Nixon’s National Security Adviser, came to dine with us”.
This is not surprising given the symbiotic relationship between the two men. The question is more likely to be asked: why did members of the Circle meet in Washington if it was essentially composed of Europeans, interested in discussing only European issues? Part of the answer was given in 1997 by the former British Conservative MP Alan Clark, when he revealed that Le Cercle was in fact supervised and funded by the CIA.
If this was the case, it is hard to imagine that David Rockefeller did not know about it. If, as he claims, he was indeed the first American member of the group, he was certainly not the last. From the few lists of participants that have leaked throughout the years, it would seem that in addition to Henry Kissinger, several of his compatriots also attended the Circle’s meetings later on. These included Richard Nixon, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Margo Carlisle, William Casey, Miles Costick, Jeffrey B. Gyner, Admiral Robert J. Hanks, William Schneider, General Norman Schwarzkopf, Arnold M. Silver, General Richard G. Stilwell, Paul A. Volcker, Paul M. Weyrich and William A. Wilson. Over time, delegations from Canada, Colombia and South Africa were invited to join the discussions. Then, as the international political situation evolved, the Circle began to invite senior figures from the Middle East as well.
A footnote on this: an article in the Observer from April 2003 mentions the Sultan of Oman and King Hussein of Jordan as guests. In 2003, the chairman of Le Cercle was the former UK Chancellor, Norman Lamont, who attended the 1995 Bilderberg meeting in Zurich. According to the Observer: “It is perhaps his links with Le Cercle which reinforce Lamont’s most controversial business relationship, that with Iraqi billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, who was arrested in Britain last Monday. Auchi, who is known to have attended a number of Le Cercle meetings, made millions selling Italian warships to the Iraqi regime in 1980. Lamont is a director of one of Auchi’s biggest companies, Compagnie Internationale de Participations Bancaires et Financieres, the financial arm of General Mediterranean Holdings, which holds a stake in BNP Paribas and Jordan’s Union Bank for Savings and Investment.”