Bilderberg 2017: secretive global group gathers in US for ‘progress report’ on Trump
The secretive nature of the group has given birth to conspiracy theories
The storm around Donald Trump is shifting a few miles west of the White House, to a conference centre in Chantilly, Virginia, where the embattled president will be getting his end-of-term grades from the people whose opinion really matters: Bilderberg.
The secretive three-day summit of the political and economic elite was due to kick off Thursday in heavily guarded seclusion at the Westfields Marriot, a luxury hotel a short distance from the Oval Office.
The hotel was already on lockdown on Wednesday, and an army of landscapers have been busy planting fir trees around the perimeter, to try protect coy billionaires and bashful bank bosses from any prying lenses.
Perched ominously at the top of the conference agenda this year are these words: “The Trump Administration: A progress report”.
Is the president going to be put in detention for tweeting in class? Held back a year? Or told to empty his locker and leave? If ever there’s a place where a president could hear the words “you’re fired!”, it’s Bilderberg.
The White House was taking no chances, sending along some big hitters from Team Trump to defend their boss: the national security adviser, HR McMaster; the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; and Trump’s new strategist, Chris Liddell. Could the president himself show up to receive his report card in person?
Henry Kissinger, the gravel-throated kingpin of Bilderberg, visited the White House a few weeks ago to discuss “Russia and other things”, and certainly, the Bilderberg conference would be the perfect opportunity for the most powerful man in the world to discuss important global issues with Trump.
The US president’s extraordinary chiding of Nato leaders in Brussels is sure to be chewed over at Bilderberg, which takes its name from the hotel in the Netherlands where its conference first met in 1954.
The Bilderbergers have summoned the head of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg, to give feedback. Stoltenberg will be leading the snappily titled session on “The Transatlantic defence alliance: bullets, bytes and bucks”.
He’ll be joined by the Dutch minister of defence and a clutch of senior European politicians and party leaders, all hoping to reset the traumatised transatlantic relationship after Trump’s galumphing visit.
The guest list for this year’s conference is a veritable “covfefe” of big-hitters from geopolitics, from the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, to the king of Holland, but perhaps the most significant name on the list is Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the US.
According to the meeting’s agenda, “China” will be discussed at a summit attended by Cui, the US commerce secretary, the US national security adviser, two US senators, the governor of Virginia, two former CIA chiefs and any number of giant US investors in China, including the heads of the financial services firms the Carlyle Group and KKR.
The boss of Google Eric Schmidt, who warned in January that Trump’s administration will do “evil things”, was expected to attend, too.
The executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s holding company, has just come back from a trip to Beijing, where he was overseeing Google AI’s latest game of Go against humans. He declared it “a pleasure to be back in China, a country that I admire a great deal”. It’s possible three days spent chatting to the Chinese ambassador could even be good for business.
Several journalists are participating in this year’s forum, including London Evening Standard editor George Osborne and Cansu Camlibel, the Washington bureau chief for Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper. But per tradition, news outlets are not invited to cover the event.
“There is no desired outcome, no minutes are taken and no report is written,” the group stated. “Furthermore, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”
Ex-deputy secretary of state William Burns and former deputy assistant secretary of defence Elaine Bunn, both Obama-era officials, will also attend.
Burns, the current president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has warned that Trump “risks hollowing out the ideas, initiative and institutions on which US leadership and international order rest.”
Anti-globalisation protesters reportedly have descended on the location of the meeting.
The secretive nature of the group has given birth to conspiracy theories. Some have warned, for example, that Bilderberg is a group of rich and powerful kingmakers seeking to impose a one world government.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse