Table of Contents
Chapter 19, part 2 appeared
in issue 139.
Chapter 19: Brussels, Belgium
At the forefront of Raymond’s mind was the ongoing invasion of Iraq. Quo could see that the Deputy Advisor had been obliged to put a delicate but definite spin on the sum of the intelligence he had received over the previous year, allowing his team’s daily pre-conflict recommendations to SACEUR to match sufficiently with the strong pro-invasion urges of the U.S. and British governments. Behind the scenes, however, it was clear that Graves was extremely dubious that the military action would have a beneficial net effect, and indeed he feared a precipitate and significant political vacuum and a drawn-out local backlash.
But the man clearly had a very different personal attitude towards the broader “war on terror” that had been semi-formalised in September 2001. With a few minor exceptions, he strongly supported the proactive line that had initially been taken, by a rough consortium of western governments, for immediate action in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Indeed, he was disappointed that the international foxhunt for those at the heart of the many plots and actions executed in the years up till “9-11” had so quickly slipped down the interest ratings and been subsumed under what he called “that phoney cause” of protecting oil supplies to the West.
Quo also observed some serious misgivings, in Graves’ mind, on a subject which he obviously considered to be globally critical. The question of the adoption, or otherwise, by the various European states of a single European currency, the euro (or “dollar” in all but name), had so far been, for the different countries and peoples of the existing EU, either a singular non-issue or a reason for protests approaching the fever pitch of martyrdom. Graves knew that full monetary union made good sense from almost all the financial and commercial angles, and had taken that line in his briefings and recommendations. But secretly, it seemed, he had huge concerns about the move towards a totally unified European currency; not because it would pose a threat to the dollar or the yen or eventually the yuan, but for precisely the opposite reasons — it would place a single manifestation of what he considered to be a sub-efficient economy into the firing line of its more agile competitors. All three of them. And some day, he feared, their massed financial computers would all aim and shoot at the same millisecond, and the global results of the European economy’s instant demise would be catastrophic ...
But, Quo discovered, the subject which was clearly preoccupying Raymond more than any of these was the monumental vote, due to be taken in the very near future in the European Parliament, on the substantial enlargement of the European Union. No less than ten Eastern European and Mediterranean countries were officially hopeful, and unofficially very confident, that their long-standing applications for membership would be formally accepted within a matter of days.
Quo quickly absorbed the long list of political, economic and military factors which Graves and his colleagues had investigated over the past few years; observed the official conclusions which the Deputy Advisor had drawn on each; noted the terms in which he had communicated his recommendations to his seniors; and then looked inside the man’s soul and saw a very different set of judgements.
Even more interestingly, Raymond’s general insights into the private views of many of those close to the heart of the debate also suggested some significant ambivalences.
So Quo triumphantly concluded that although the Mission had no particular interest in the subject of EU enlargement itself, it had now found the single Issue which it needed to investigate, in order to rapidly establish its initial Insight Gaining samples; and, in the person of Raymond Martin Graves, the perfect instrument with which to obtain them ...
Thank you, Raymond. You have been most co-operative. It almost feels as though you are already in active support of our aims.
‘The ability to gain such insights holds great potential for peace, Quo.’
Indeed. As we discovered some time ago for ourselves.
Now, here are your immediate instructions.
You will return at once to your normal place of work, and advise your colleagues and staff that your health is improving but you are not properly recovered. You will ignore the rest of the day’s formal appointments, which should already have been backfilled for you. You will then, under the pretext of some minor administrative topic, organise short individual meetings with each of the seven other professionals in your team. Use the telephone if they are not in the office. If necessary, work in the evening and tomorrow morning until you have finished.
In each private meeting, you should discuss some potential office layout changes for a few moments. Then, you will request that colleague to summarise his or her principal views on the main issues of European enlargement. Take care to remember the responses. You are then to ask, in an extra-friendly way, implying that you are in special need of that person’s particular help: “But, off the record, what do you really think ...?”
In each case, take note of any significant differences in the two sets of responses, and privately write these down after each meeting, so that you can later memorise them all thoroughly before our next engagement.
Instruct each person specifically not to discuss the contents of the meeting with their colleagues, and imply to each one that it is his or her view alone that you have sought on this issue.
And you have one other initial task, Raymond. By the time of our next meeting, here, at noon tomorrow, you will have drawn up a list of four senior NATO country politicians, four such politicians from non-NATO countries, and the heads of four agencies or academic bodies which you consider particularly relevant to the issue of European enlargement. Choose individuals whom you know personally, and who would not hesitate to grant a request from you for a special private audience at very short notice.
I see that you have one minor scheduling concern, Raymond.
‘Yes, Quo. It is imperative that I attend a critical meeting in Mons between ten and twelve tomorrow morning. To abandon it would not serve your cause well, believe me! I shall collect all that you have requested before that meeting begins, but I simply cannot be back in Brussels by twelve o’clock.’
Raymond, your conscientiousness is admirable. Thank you. You will rendezvous instead, with the same contact as today, at twelve-thirty, immediately outside the main entrance to Mons railway station.
‘I shall be there, Quo.’
Released from Carla’s tender grip, but undermined now in a fashion far different from his earlier expectations, the deputy political advisor stood up, made a polite, almost oriental bow to his once again visible go-between, gave Toni and the CD player another quizzical glance, and strode off back towards Brussels Central station.
* * *
It was nearly eleven-thirty. As Carla had expected, she and Toni were now both free for twenty-four hours. So he could go straight off to Amsterdam (‘... are you sure you really don’t mind, Carla?’), and they could rendezvous at ten in the morning in Toni’s hotel room (‘... you’ll obviously be back from Amsterdam rather late tonight — but we shall need to get going by mid-morning ...’).
‘What shall I do with these roses, Carla?’
‘Well, you tell me, Toni. Can’t you think of any ladies to give them to today ...?’
Toni fell silent, then realised he could indeed think of two. Carla, however, could silently think of four.
He mumbled ‘OK — hasta mañana,’ and left her sitting in the park. He hurried back to his hotel room, dumped the CD player on a table with the unopened Strauss CD, and quickly got changed. He found a laundry bag to hold the roses, and left for the nearby Central station at twelve-fifteen, in plenty of time to buy a ticket and catch the 1250 departure to Amsterdam ...