Created March 23, 2021
The press and late-night TV comics had a field day when the Esalen Summit was announced by the White House. Backstory: Joe, Kamala and Chuck had a running joke about the subject and then one day, started to take it seriously.
It turned out that Vlad and Jinping liked the idea. Just the three of them, Joe and his counterparts, without aides, in the hot tubs overlooking the Pacific. No press. No guards visible. Just three men having a good time and talking shop or whatever they felt like. Aimed at visioneering the future together, if it should turn out that way. Otherwise, just a fun thing.
Naturally when they got there each of them took the full most deluxe spa treatment. Vlad did that every night at home anyway. They steamed, saunaed, swam, meditated, yogaed, got massaged, and then met in the hot tubs on the deck just before sunset. Nature was making its contribution in the sky as the pelicans began their evening hunt. A dolphin breached. The three men happily watched it.
Joe asked Vlad, “He wasn’t one of yours, was he?” and the three men chuckled. All three countries had enlisted dolphins into their military and paramilitaries.
The other two men were very relaxed and had no agenda so Joe got to say something else.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if it could always be like this?”
Both men are urbane and smiled good-naturedly, while shaking their heads to indicate it can never work. Joe poured for them. An excellent Russian vodka bottle in ice. All three had agreed in advance to start with vodka. A few steps further away was a bottle of Moutai chilling, and Jack Daniels setups sat in a corner. Joe poured himself a water.
“You remember that Bogart movie where Sidney Greenstreet says he would never trust a man who doesn’t drink?” Jinping asked mischievously.
“Maltese Falcon,” Vlad supplied.
“That was right before they slip him a mickey and then kick him in the head,” Joe recalled. They all laughed. Their respective guard squads had tested all the foods, beverages, the air, and everything else. The amount of air traffic high above was constantly audible.
“See, that’s why it can’t be like this, nice, all the time,” Jinping philosophized. “We know for a fact we can’t trust each other, none of us can afford to be trustworthy, I can’t see the present situation ever ending.”
“How can we be nice all the time while calling each other soul-less killers?” Vlad asked levelly.
“And thugs?” Jinping added with a smile.
Joe had been told to expect those questions. “Look, you guys are pros, you know how the game is played. You had to expect some kind of hard talk from me after you wiped the floor with the Donald and slipped all kinds of unthinkable things past him. The last time anyone got away with daring the US so blatantly was the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
The two Eurasian friends looked at each other and tacitly gave Joe the point.
“So,” Joe went on, “I apologize and will do so publicly when we announce something positive together after this is over. But let’s get back to the future, one in which we talk things over just the three of us, and try to settle everything amicably in advance. Have you wargamed it?” Joe asked both of them. “I mean peacegamed it. Scenarios…” They both nodded ponderously. This promised to be a boring conversation for them. However, as professionals they both enjoyed looking for the advantages they could gain from something he might say.
“We have too,” Joe confided, “it comes down to four things: whether we each feel we have elbow room, how much our behavior at home offends one of us, what to do about everybody else besides our three countries, not making aggressive moves against each other, and a load of details our people can work out.”
“Like the trade deals,” Jinping complained mildly, “just one of the little details?”
“And like what we base world currency on,” Vlad added studiously.
“Say it comes down to a trillion things, still, those top four are the ones to solve, the rest is like a zipper,” Joe pitched them. Both men sat back and pretended to be getting their backs done by the jets. Meanwhile their minds went into overdrive envisioning how they could turn this to their own advantage. Soon all three men were smiling, concocting their own visions of what might be achievable from the springboard of this summit.
Interestingly, all three gave some time to thinking about their people as well as about themselves.
To Be Continued…
Best to all,