Next week, the meeting to end all meetings takes place in Davos, Switzerland, as the high and mighty gather to discuss the fate of the world order. Did you hear Xi Jinping is going? Still, for those who can’t make it through the velvet ropes, being seen can require a little creativity about where to meet. Here are a few of the world’s more unusual meeting places that have popped up this week.
3. A Russian aircraft carrier. If Americans want to feel superior to Russians, they need look no further than the fleet of Russian aircraft carriers. It is a fleet of one, the Admiral Kuznetsov, which travels with a tug in case of breakdowns. Nonetheless, the Kuznetsov was the place to be this week, particularly if you’re a renegade general. The Russians anchored the ship near Tobruk, Libya, and took on board Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan who has been leading a rebellion against the weak but internationally backed official government of Libya. The visit was nominally so he could meet by video link with Russia’s defense minister—no word on whether his headwear made a stir on this trip, as it did on a visit to Moscow recently—but more likely so he could be shown off to the world as a thumb in the eye of the West. Still, there’s reason to hope it was a short meeting, if only because many of the bathrooms on the Kuznetsov don't work.
2. Houston. For a little while this week, Texas got to relive its glory days as an independent republic. Under the suddenly newsworthy One China Policy, the president of Taiwan is not generally allowed to visit the U.S., with one glaring exception. The Taiwanese leader is allowed to stop in the U.S. “in transit” to other destinations, a loophole that allows for quite a bit more than just aircraft refueling. Tsai Ing-wen took advantage of that on Sunday, when she stopped in Houston en route to Central America. To make it even more glamorous, she met with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who was busy not being president of the United States. No word yet if she met with not-Vice President Carly Fiorina.
1. Trump Tower Ice Cream Parlor. Let’s say you’re running for office. And let’s say you want to be seen as part of an international movement of nationalist-populists, but for whatever reason, you don’t actually want a photo op with Mr. Brexit himself, the president-elect. What do you do? Why, schedule a meeting in the Trump Tower ice cream parlor, of course. And that’s apparently what Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, and current front-runner for the first round of France’s presidential election, did this week. Reporters stumbled across her meeting with a pro-Trump activist in Trump Tower on Thursday. Both Le Pen and Trump’s camp deny any meeting took place between the two. But Trump Tower is a pretty hard place to wander into by accident, given the Tiffany-branded police barricades outside. Who knows, maybe next time she and Trump can meet in France. After all, if there’s one place that might be covered in enough gold for Trump, it would be Versailles.
This article has been adapted from Matt Peterson’s weekly newsletter for Eurasia Group, Signal.
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