Just one week after the WEF filed out of Davos, the far more secretive Bilderberg held its own gathering of U.S. and European elites between the 2nd and 5th of June. At the swanky Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington D.C., the attendees’ primary concern was the waning influence of—and active challenge to—the Atlanticist power structure.
The nearly 70-year old private conference, which held its first meeting in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in the Netherlands (from which it derives its name), has—especially since the advent of the internet, making knowledge of its existence more widespread—piqued considerable interest.
Over the years, its guest lists have included heads and ministers of state, powerful business magnates, CEO’s of financial institutions, intelligence agency representatives, media company executives, royalty, and in more recent years, tech billionaires. With all being bound to the Chatham House Rule (to ensure complete confidentiality, no invitee can ever reveal who said what during proceedings), no on-the-ground reporting allowed, and mainstream media outlets making only scant, if any, mention of it, speculation about Bilderberg has been rife.
In its own FAQs, Bilderberg describes itself as a platform for fostering dialogue between Europe and North America, which brings together “individuals who share an active interest in affairs relevant to the relationship between Europe and Northern America … There is no desired outcome, there is no closing statement, there are no resolutions proposed or votes taken, and the organisation does not support any political party or viewpoint.” A less charitable interpretation, however, is that it functionally serves as a steering committee, where various issues are discussed and relevant members influenced in the shaping of policy—naturally, with no democratic input (supposedly the sacred doctrine of those U.S. and European elites) to speak of.
This year, the conference’s infamous shroud of secrecy was even more opaque than usual. For one, the name of the hotel had been left undisclosed. It was therefore entrusted to intrepid independent journalists, like Josh Friedman, to scour Washington D.C. for a hotel that had the hallmarks of a high-level meeting taking place within. With a healthy dose of luck, the plucky young man managed to be the one to confirm the Mandarin Oriental as the location.
While a bullet point list of topics on the agenda exists (which Bilderberg faithfully communicates every time it holds a meeting), nothing of sufficient detail can be gleaned from it. Yet what is clear from titles such as “Geopolitical Realignments,” “NATO Challenges,” and “Indo-Pacific Realignment,” is that Russia and China are posing a challenge to the United States-led world order, putting the Bilderberg group in a reactive, instead of proactive, state of mind. An emerging, alternative world order, one not of their own choosing, is staring them in the face.
It should be no surprise then that this year Russia and Ukraine experts, including the Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander, and ex-deputy National Security Adviser Nadia Schadlow, have received invitations. Perhaps equally unsurprising is the attendance by a larger-than-usual contingent of Ukrainians, such as Yuriy Vitrenko, CEO of the state-owned Ukrainian gas and oil company Naftogaz, as well as Oksana Markarowa, the ambassador of Ukraine to the U.S.
While no Bilderberg is complete without the stalwart Henry Kissinger, now 99 years old—who coincidentally mentored Klaus Schwab, a former member of the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, helping him set up the World Economic Forum in 1971—the guest list contained some fresh faces as well.
Finland’s application for NATO membership proved to be of considerable importance, as shown by the presence of Finnish PM Sanna Marin. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (a regular attendee since he got the position in 2014) even tweeted out that they met in Washington for that very purpose, although he did not mention it was in the context of Bilderberg:
Whatever was discussed within the walls of the Mandarin Oriental’s conference room can not be known. Little doubt remains, however, that future policy will echo it more than just faintly.