Just before lunch on Friday, two cars left the Marriott hotel in Copenhagen in quick succession. First to leave was laden down with US military brass. It carried the supreme allied commander in Europe, General Philip Breedlove, and his aides.
Four stars on his hat and a grim look on his face. Clearly he’s annoyed to be missing the buffet. He can still smell those Danish meatballs. It’s killing him.
The general hadn’t travelled to Bilderberg alone. Discussing the situation in Ukraine with this many senior government ministers makes it official military business. He was well accompanied.
A few minutes after the hungry general had been swooshed off, out popped the secretary general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, aka “the Fogh of War”.
Rasmussen always makes me chuckle, because in every photo we’ve got of him he looks so incredibly vain. Like a miniature Fonz. Rasmussen was travelling with quite an entourage, one of whose jackets flapped open to reveal his firearm.
Rasmussen’s bodyguards were there, of course, to try and keep the heads of Airbus and Saab from throwing themselves at him, begging for a nice big war.
I hope they managed to protect him. He’s only little, and the CEO of Airbus, Thomas Enders, is tall with a kind of lanky strength. The head of Saab, Håkan Buskhe, has a low centre of gravity. Together they’d be unstoppable, especially with Kissinger behind them, pushing.
Here’s Buskhe of Saab, ordering his factories to step up the work rate. The way things are heading they’ll soon have some extra fighter jets to deliver.
Now, we knew from the officially released agenda that Ukraine was scheduled to be discussed at this year’s conference, and we know that the Friday morning session was on this topic, because one of the participants- the Dutch politician Diederik Samsom – told us so.
It was lunchtime on Friday, not long after the two heads of allied forces in Europe had left the hotel. Samsom, the leader of his country’s Labour party, was enjoying a quiet glass of champagne on the patio. Ed Balls squeezed past, clutching a huge wad of files – has he put them down the entire time he’s been here? – and Samsom pirouetted out of his way. He found himself facing the security fence. He took a deep breath and strolled over to the clutch of reporters, bloggers and transparency campaigners behind it.
“I remember what it was like,” he said, taking a sympathetic sip of champagne. “I used to be a Greenpeace campaigner.” We asked him if he felt flattered to get the invitation. “I’m a politician”, he laughed. “I’m flattered all the time.”
Samsom confirmed that the morning meeting had been about what was happening in Ukraine, which explains why Rasmussen and Breedlove were hot-footing it out the door straight afterwards. Their job was done. Or just starting.
And make no mistake. Bilderberg is part of their job. This wasn’t a jolly. This was briefing papers, dress uniforms and military aides. Land Rovers packed with military bodyguards.
This is Nato business. US military business. Government business.
The Spanish government, for example, is represented here by their minister of foreign affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo. Here he is arriving on Thursday evening.
And because it’s official government business that he’s on, García-Margallo arrived with a member of his foreign ministry, the Spanish diplomat and Balkans expert Mercedes Millán Rajoy. She’s partially visible on the right of the above image, and rather more visible here.
There she is, clutching her Balkans briefing notes. She looks wistful. She’s imagining the wretched rumble of the war machine as it makes its way east.
Either that or she’s slightly regretting the trouser suit.
What’s obvious is that for the Spanish government – as for all the governments here, our own included – this is an official international summit. The discussion about Ukraine isn’t chitchat over a cup of tea. It’s international diplomacy, which makes the mix of people at Bilderberg such an unsettling one.
Bad enough that you’ve got military chiefs briefing arms companies bosses – in private – about their hopes and dreams for Ukraine. But you’ve also got billionaire speculators and the heads of gigantic private equity funds listening in.
People who stand to make a killing out of knowing where and when the bombs are going to fall, how many and on whom.
People like David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA and now head of KKR’s Global Institute, the advisory wing of a multibillion dollar private equity company. Here’s the general, cracking the glass on an expensive lens with his thousand-yard stare.
The KKR Global Institute prides itself on “knowing how to respond to emerging geopolitical and macro-economic trends”, which enables “smart investing, portfolio management, and risk mitigation”, in other words getting the inside tip. And once you’re inside Bilderberg, you’re hearing “emerging geopolitical and macro-economic trends” right from the secretary general of Nato’s mouth. Very profitable, I’m sure.
The Bilderberg conference is a five-star car crash of the public and private sectors. It’s full of scenes like this: the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers having a cheery one-to-one with Carl-Henric Svanberg, the chairman of BP.
That might not matter a whole lot, except that a few minutes ago the head of Nato was carefully briefing them – and the heads of HSBC, Shell and Deutsche Bank – on the situation in Ukraine. Sawers is in charge of British foreign intelligence. Is he briefing Svanberg now? Who, as they say, is zooming who?
Fortunately, the good civil servant that he is, Sir John is allergic to even the slightest whiff of corruption.
So nothing to worry about here. Here’s fine. If you want to worry about anywhere, worry about Ukraine.
Unless of course you’re running Airbus or Saab or the KKR Global Institute, in which case you’ve nothing to worry about at all. Except where to stick your next billion. I’ve got an idea where I’d like to stick it …
The KKR Global Institute. They offer some amazing returns on your capital investment. Just ask Petraeus. Although if you do ask him, just be careful not to look him in the eye. It might tear your retina.
Consider that a bit of risk mitigation from me, free of charge.