President Obama’s visit to Brussels on Tuesday apparently cost the city £8.4m to cover his 24 hours in the country. He arrived with a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles and three cargo planes. When he visited a First World War cemetery on Wednesday, he was accompanied by a convoy of nine US helicopters, with 350 police and military on motorbikes having also secured his routes to the EU and NATO summits. Obama had spent Monday in Amsterdam and The Hague, and left Brussels on Wednesday for Rome to meet Pope Francis. And God only knows (literally) how much that would have cost. Obama’s one speech during the three-nation, four-day European tour was to a 2,000-strong audience at Brussels’ Centre for Fine Arts. Know what he spoke about? Nor do I.
I’ve been doing a lot of research recently on UN & NATO summits, G20s & G8s for a screenplay I’m working on. Did you know, for example, that the financial cost of hosting the G8 & G20 summits in Canada in 2010 was $857,901,850.31? Do you know what the politicians achieved or agreed upon during those summits? Nor do I. Did you know that the security costs alone for the London and Pittsburgh G-20 summits in 2009 were $30m and $18m respectively? Can you remember what they all agreed upon there? Did they agree upon anything? I doubt it. Most summits are an exercise in pointlessness – and very expensive ones at that.
Earlier this week, Gwyneth Paltrow announced that she and Chris Martin were ‘consciously uncoupling’. Jumping on the uncoupling bandwagon, the G7 western countries and Japan decided to also suspend their 16-year collaboration with Russia and uncouple themselves from a future G8 in response to the annexation of Crimea – and they also threatened sweeping sanctions in the event of any Russian military moves in the region. I started to wonder whether Russia really cared. Must have hurt, no? Must have felt like being unfriended on Facebook or ‘Sent to Coventry’ (actually, Coventry would be a fun place for a G20). Must have really hurt, surely? A bummer. A massive bummer. Er, no …
Sometimes, like it or not, you have to admire Putin. What does he do? He uses a telephone! A telephone! Remember telephones? They existed before G7s, G8s & G20s – before telex, fax, emails, SMS, Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter or Facebook. It wasn’t even a ‘conference call’, it was just … a call. On Friday Putin decided to make a telephone call to speak to Obama. Simple, really. No need for a G8. No need for a 900-strong entourage, including 45 vehicles, three cargo planes and nine helicopters. Just one simple telephone call. Knowing Putin, he probably managed to reverse the charges, too. Obama took the phone call at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after finishing a two-hour dinner with King Abdullah … and let’s not try to guess the cost of all that.
‘Er … it’s Vladimir Putin on the phone for you, Mr.President, sir.’
‘I haven’t had my cheese and biscuits yet. I’m not even a friend of his on Facebook anymore.’
‘He’d like a chat, sir.’
What was said by telephone? Well, at the moment, there seems to be quite a difference in tone between the statements by the US and Russia on what was said … with the White House stressing possible ‘diplomatic’ movement, while the Kremlin stressing Putin’s complaints about ‘extremists’ in Ukraine. But at least they’re talking. And since Obama and Putin have spoken by telephone, Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, have also spoken (by telephone, too!) and are meeting today in Paris to talk more. Lavrov has already stated in a television interview that Russia has ‘no intention’ of invading Ukraine … well, that’s despite Russian forces massing along the Ukrainian border …
Anyway … life’s too short. Just pick up the telephone. You know it makes sense. I’m now going to contact Nokia, the ‘Connecting People’, to see if they will sponsor this blog.