“Nyet! Only President. I am sorry. Only President!”
Trump’s secret service men moved the President back from the door leading to the corridor, which was the underground entrance to the G20 meeting hall. Trump could see a lone figure standing with his hands on his hips and his back towards him.
“Nyet! Please! Only President! Orders!”
“That’s fine, boys. I’ll be all right. You stay here.”
“That’s not such a good idea, Mr. President,” Martinez said, his hand already under his coat and holding his service revolver.
“I’ll be fine, Roberts. I think this is called a state visit – KGB style.”
Trump could see the man turning slowly and looking directly at him, smiling. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation and former KGB strongman, extended his arm and motioned Trump to come forward. The doorkeeper, at almost seven feet and four hundred pounds, opened the door quickly to allow Trump to walk through. Just as quickly, he shut it so no one else would intrude on this unannounced summit. As Trump walked the narrow passageway, which was lit with only two low-hanging light bulbs, Putin extended his hand. Trump moved slowly, taking everything in. The air was musty and hung with a stench of human bile. The walls showed spots of mold and red stain of forgotten humanity. All and all, Trump thought, the perfect place for this meeting. Putin, however, appeared to have just stepped out of the pages of GQ. His suit was perfectly tailored from the finest shop on Savile Row. His tie and pocket handkerchief, a rich burgundy with white polka dots, offset the black-on-black wool suit and crisply starched white shirt. The black tie shoes glistened with a perfect shine. Trump thought he could be approaching the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
As the two men shook hands, firmly, without hesitancy, Putin said, “Thank you, Mr. President, for meeting in these surroundings, circumstances dictate discretion and no interruptions.”
“Understood. I didn’t realize you spoke such good English, Mr. President. I knew you were fluent in German and , of course, Russian. It would that we will not need our interpreters.”
“Just us,” Putin responded. “I wanted to see you to deliver a message.”
Putin shifted his weight as though he had said something he wished he hadn’t. “My English sometimes fails me. I meant I wanted to give you my thoughts about a solution to this predicament you seem to have gotten yourself into.”
Trump knew it was still a message, but from whom, and why Putin?
“Yes, I understand. Please continue.”
“You have put yourself and your country in a corner and may be forced to take actions that could create some extreme, or shall we say, very extreme repercussions.”
Trump wanted to interrupt but understood since his college days that just listening had its advantages, especially when someone appeared to be on the verge of offering a direction that would be favorable for the Donald’s well-being.
“I am sure you didn’t expect the British Parliament to go against you in your invasion plans of Syria. The Pope has officially, contrary to your lobbying efforts, denounced your aggression. Of course, the Chinese are ready to fill the air with counter drones if you move forward. In short, Mr. Trump, it’s check.”
Donald was aware of Putin’s love of chess and his skill as a player. Chess was something that had never interested Trump, but now he wished he had listened to Bernie when he said that all the great leaders knew the game. Trump unfolded his arms and started to respond. “One thousand people were gassed to death, and if you think that we—“
Putin held up his palm to Trump, reminiscent of the Bernie move that said, “Be quiet.”
Trump smiled and knew this was not about a thousand dead Syrians; it was about a very much alive Donald Trump.
“Mr. President, your statements were, perhaps, in the minds of your Washington advisers, necessary. However, on the world’s stage, they were premature. A world war is not necessary and certainly not needed at this time. And please, Mr. President, I am not the mainstream media. A thousand deaths in a day are really irrelevant. You and I both know that my pipeline into Europe is a thorn in the side of you and your friends.”
Putin smiled and raised his hands as though he was showing the size of a fish he had just caught. He then lowered them with his palms open, dropping his chin to his chest. With this gesture, Trump knew he was about to hear an offer or perhaps a demand. Either way, it would all be good.
“Ah, your friends. We all have friends, don’t we Mr. Trump?”
“You will continue to attack Syria with your mercenaries, and we will continue to provide our friends with the necessary instruments to prevent any real change. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the pipeline will remain.”
“But how do I know—“
Putin anticipated Trump’s next question as though it were a chess game. “I will announce my support of your position in regards to weapons of mass destruction. I will demand the ultimate destruction of all such weapons in Syria within the next thirty-six months. Joint teams from the United States and Russia, and of course the United Nations, will supervise and oversee this transition.” Putin dropped his hands to his side, paused, and smiled again. “Mr. Assad will denounce all, but will, reluctantly, agree to the terms. Of course, he will be given a small personal financial stipend to offset any unnecessary dislocations.”
Donald loved the word dislocation. Back in D.C., that word was bribe. “Terms will be worked out later,” he said.
Putin stepped forward. The distance between the two men was almost immeasurable.
“This, Mr. President, provides you a way to exit gracefully. It also allows you to turn your attention to your own troubles at home. This also will leave the front pages of the world press to me and in my hands. Perhaps I will be named Time magazine’s Man of the Year.”
Trump smiled. “Stranger things have happened. But I am sure we could arrange it.”
Putin nodded. “All this will transpire immediately after the conclusion of the G20 meeting, without any advance announcement form anyone. I will wait till all delegates have returned home.”
Trump knew that this was not a discussion between two heads of state. No. This was a statement of fact given by one man to another. Trump could see that, once again, like so many times before, he was being shown the way out. It was almost like being told, “We have a car waiting.”
But why? He knew Putin had him. He could let him go down the wrong road. He could turn check into checkmate. Why? Trump kept wondering. As though on cue, Putin turned, without shaking hands, walked toward the opposite entrance from which Trump entered. He got to the door, paused, spun around, and walked back toward Trump. He will shake hands, Trump thought. Putin stood in front of Trump as Donald extended his hand. But Putin did not grasp the President’s hand. Instead, he put his right hand on Trump’s left shoulder and spoke softly in Russian. When Putin had finished, Trump felt a slight squeeze of his shoulder as though he was meant to believe that all would be well. Putin quickly walked to the exit again and turned the knob to leave. Still standing in the middle of the musty, moldy hidden corridor, Trump blurted out, “I am sorry. I do not speak any Russian. What did you just say?”
Vladimir Putin, President of Russia and former KGB enforcer, said, without turning around, “We use what we have to get what we want.”
“Is it possible?” Trump said. “Of course it is.”
He answered to no one in particular. Except the long-ago ghosts who filled a forgotten corridor. Underneath a meeting room that housed, supposedly, the world’s most powerful leaders. Or were they?