A Meeting of Ministers
The Franz Palace, Official Home of the High President, Thurston
The High President was waiting for the arrival of the Polish delegation, who had requested this summit. According to Billy, who had received a substantial salary increasefollowing the events at the Wilanow Palace, the Polish plane had landed and the new President Karolina and her entourage were on their way.
"They don't know about what happened at the Wilanow Palace, do they?" the High President whispered. "That could have been a bit of kerfuffle if that had gotten out"
"Rather," Billy replied. "We managed to persuade the palace security to keep quiet about the whole affair. Only a select few people outside of ourselves know about the whole thing."
Good...", the High President said, satisfied. "Best not to cause a fuss until we know the full details. How's the investigation going, anyway?"
"Meh...it has its good days and its bad days. Mostly bad days...", Billy admitted. "They've got a few leads, but nothing solid. There's rumours that it might be Crusa-"
"If I might interrupt your little chinwag, we do have important guests arriving any moment. Lets keep the "secrets" for when they've gone, shall we," interrupted the outspoken Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Wayne Martinelli.
He was of course right, thought the High President. Much more important things to be worrying about. He went over in his head the mental notes he had made. Madame President, not Your Majesty. Madame President...he kept repeating in his head.
It was announced that the Polish delegation had arrived outside the palace, and were about to enter. He looked around at the welcoming party he had assembled. There was Martinelli, looking as eager to impress as he always did. There was the Secretary for Defence, Allen Moreno. Not a hair out of place, typical for the old army sergeant. He was rehearsing his smile, in itself a rare sight, in a nearby mirror when the palace doors opened to admit the Polish entourage.
Outside The Franz Palace
"Well, I bet they weren't anticipating the results that happened since we last met," President Kligenberg said to her Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Benedykta Gulczynska; her Secretary of Defence, Josef Polanski; and her Secretary of Internal Affairs, Ian Syzmanowski. The three secretaries were the only ones to have cleared their appointment hearings in Warsaw, and were able to join the President on her trip before Mrs. Gulczynska and Mr. Polanski split ways with the President and Mr. Syzmanowski.
"I don't think anyone could, but if anyone were to be happy, it would be the Halsberg government," Mr. Syzmanowski said, keeping up with the President's fast stride. "After all, I don't think anyone would feel all that comfortable with a giant monarchy next door."
"Nevertheless, we get to have another session with our neighbours. It's becoming quite the habit," the President said to her Secretaries, and their panting aides.
"What is our goal then?" asked Mrs. Gulczynska.
"Our goal is to get ourselves even more aligned with Halsberg. We need to continue and get our government active, and now is our chance. The Sejm will soon get unpopular, but we have to appear great because I have a feeling that the Sejm will want to have a Presidential election next year," the President responded. "After all, I am appointed, not elected President."
"But, to be fair, they elected you..." Mr. Polanski began.
"Out of necessity. Karolina is right," Mr. Syzmanowski said to the party. They arrived at the door of The Franz Palace, and found it fun that they needed to knock.
"I haven't knocked on a doorway to get in somewhere ever," the President smiled. "I like it."
The secretaries rolled their eyes and chuckled.
"It's the little things," Mr. Syzmanowski grinned.
President Kligenberg was happy to see the familiar face of the High President looking at her.
"Ah Madame President." The High President stepped forward to greet Karolina and congratulated himself for using the correct address. "Such a pleasure to see you again, and in Halsberg this time. I'm so glad we have this opportunity to show you our country."
He gestured to the ministers gathered around them, and introduced them one by one.
"This is our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Wayne Martinelli, or "Doctor" Martinelli, if he is to be believed!", Solomon said with a smile. "Mr Martinelli is an impeccable secretary of state, always wanting to impress the foreign delegates. Quite sociable too, if one listens to the gossip going around. I hear his parties get quite...eventful!"
The High President realised he was rambling somewhat. He also realised that he would never have let himself talk so casually if he was in the presence of a foreign royal. Karolina's new position as President must have made an impact subconsciously on his manner of address. He hoped she wouldn't be offended, being quite new to the idea of a republic.
Moving on, we have Allen Moreno, Secretary for Defence, or as he likes to think of himself 'the Dark Destroyer'", the High President said playfully. Moreno blushed slightly, but still maintained that look of steel that betrayed the man's military roots. According to his PA, he plays with toy soldiers in his office. He moves them around pretending Halsberg is conquering the regi-"
"High President, I don't think the Madame President is interested in this. No doubt she's eager to get to business," Moreno interrupted quickly.
"Of course, I do apologise madame president. I've been babbling!"
The President grinned at her Halsberg counterpart, feeling much more at ease than when she arrived. The secretaries looked at her and the High President in utter disbelief. They leaned towards each other.
"Is Halsberg truly this insane?" Mr. Polanski asked the other two.
"No, but the High President is just a bit eccentric is all," Mrs. Gulczynska said to the two men. Karolina turned back around and looked at them with a 'I-can-hear-everything-and-so-can-he' face. She cleared her throat and stepped out of the way.
"Mr. Solomon, a pleasure as always, and it is nice to get out of Poland every now and then. Allow me to introduce the only members of my cabinet so far: this is Mrs. Benedykta Gulczynska, as of now the only other female besides me. She's a lovely woman, I promise. She just doesn't know how to filter her thoughts. This is Mr. Syzmanowski, my Secretary of Internal Affairs and the man who is informing me on how a republic functions. Lastly, this is Mr. Josef Polanski, Secretary of Defence, and he is the only person who carried over from the monarchy, so he must have done something right," Karolina explained. She seemed to take joy in leaving her Cabinet out to dry in such a manner.
"Pleasure to meet you," said Mrs. Gulczynska. "Secretary of Foreign Affairs, so this may not be the last time I meet with representatives of the government of Halsberg."
The other two didn't feel obliged to speak much. Mr. Syzmanowski leaned in to the President as they sat down.
"Way to castrate your Secretaries before negotiations," he whispered in terse tone.
"Oh relax," Karolina answered. "It's not like you really had balls to begin with anyway. All bark..."
Mr. Syzmanowski turned to Karolina, who had a happy grin on her face.
"Someone's got some bravado," Mr. Syzmanowski said to the President.
"Well, I got to read some of that Machiavelli fellow. Very good advice; I think I'll move on to Bismarck soon," the President joked. She turned to the High President.
"I was hoping that our mission can really establish even more connection between our nations. I'd like to hear your proposals for more economic cooperation, but what I know we can improve upon is our intelligence and military cooperation. Poland proposes that we form an even greater alliance and share our intelligence and engage in military practice with each other. I also propose that we create a formal alliance, as I do believe Poland and Halsberg are ready for such a step."
The Halsbergians sat down opposite the Polish delegation, with the ever unsubtle Secretary for Foreign Affairs leaning forward slightly in an attempt to eavesdrop on their whispers.
"I believe we've also been thinking the same sort of thing, madame president," the High President replied. "The intelligence sharing aspect most certainly. As I'm sure Mr Moreno will tell you, we've had a fair few discussions over potential close partners, and Poland has almost always been mentioned."
Moreno, who had been wearing the same smile ever since the Poles arrived, chimed in. Oh yes, in fact I don't think there ever was a meeting where we didn't talk about closer ties with Poland. Understandable, of course. Close proximity and all that. The intelligence sharing was definitely something that was brought up often. Mostly, to his credit, by Mr Martinelli. Something about "local area partnerships" I think he said."
"Indeed,", Martinelli agreed. "Halsberg has had little opportunity to develop close relations with his immediate neighbours, so I'm extra keen to jump at this chance. I'm no military man, but I'm sure our armed forces will welcome such a step."
Mr. Polanski grinned and took over the discussion.
"Yes, of course Mr. High President and Secretary Moreno. It is of great value that Poland would pursue closer intelligence ties with Halsberg. I do believe with our access to Western Europe and our own large internal territory would give you a decided edge with intelligence.
"We would like to also suggest a base swap. As you are aware, Poland has a large amount of Arctic Ocean coast, in which we do a lot of oil exploration and what not, but we would also like a warm sea port to keep some of our naval fleet as well. In exchange, we would like to give Halsberg the right to build an air-force base in Slovakia, our western most province, which would put you in a position to be able to react to European situations a lot quicker."
The President then resumed speaking.
"We would also like to propose that Halsbergian companies be able to function in Poland under the same laws as Halsberg, and vice versa. That would certainly ease economic confusion as our two nations have different laws, and subsequently different local areas have different laws as well.
"We would also like to formally request that our two national stock exchanges be open to our companies. I've realized that that was not the case before. Economics is the key to our nations becoming even closer."
"Those are certainly suggestions we'd be very interested in, especially the economic ones. We're always looking for new ways to make it easier for people to do business," the High President said. "We're already great trading partners, this will only make things better," he added. "You don't need to convince us of the merits of intelligence sharing, madame president. It's fortunate that you requested this meeting with that in mind; we would no doubt have approached the Poles with something similar."
The High President was somewhat puzzled as to the Poles request for a warm water port for their navy. Surely they were aware that the Caspian Sea is completely enclosed. Oh well, no doubt it was just a simple mistake. Regardless, the proposal was interesting. The secretary for defense adjusted his reading glasses as he studied a dossier on the potential base site.
"Hmm, yes. I think that would be most agreeable for us, madame president. Although recent conflicts have thankfully left our area of the region untouched, the downside is of course it is much more difficult to deploy forces should the need arise. That a Halsbergian air base in Poland would help our response time is a certainty. You're request for a naval base in the Caspian is perhaps less advantageous for your armed forces. Although I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong High President, that we're looking into some kind of passage that would open the Caspian to the wider oceans, currently the sea is completely enclosed. What else would you be looking to see in exchange for a Halsbergian air presence in your country?"
The President looked slightly embarrassed by her mistake. She recovered, but only just.
"Yes...we forgot the Caspian Sea is not at all close to being connected to another body of water. Sure, a common training ground would be great to have in Halsberg, as you have portions of climate, particularly warmth, that our soldiers would not be used to in large quantities."
"Well, we have been proposing many ideas, are there any ideas you would like to ask us to consider?"
"Oh its an easy mistake to make. Happens to the best of us!", the High President said. "On the subject of the common training ground, we'd be more than happy to welcome Polish troops to Halsberg for this. As you say, Poland doesn't really provide the warm conditions that the armed forces may be faced with in a potential situation. Perhaps a common ground near the south of the Golgosan Steppe? Its certainly the warmest part of Halsberg and is quite depopulated."
"Apart from the ideas you presented earlier, no I don't believe so. We would though like to talk more about your suggestion of an official military alliance. Halsberg currently only has a military agreement with Os Corelia, so we're always looking to expand our horizons on that front."
The Secretary for Defense, now in his element, was listening intently to the High President, nodding as he spoke. "The Steppe would be a great place. Remote, yet easily accessible. Moving on, having a strong, military partnership in the East of the region would be a great advantage to both parties. However, we don't know very much about the Polish military. Could you tell us more, madame president?"
"The Polish military is about 25% of our government budget; we have over 1.1 million soldiers at our disposal, with nearly 7,000 planes and 500 ships, and we're looking to continue developing our military. We have space capability, and while we are mining uranium, no real ability to make nuclear weaponry yet. We do, however, see that as an effective deterrent, especially considering Davishire is a neighbour and has some irresponsible responses to nations' internal issues," said the President.
"We've had a long standing partnership with Duxburian weapons companies, so most of are army is outfitted with Duxburian weaponry. We do see Halsberg as someone we would enter a military alliance with, and the Sejm in Poland actually is behind this proposal as well, guaranteeing its immediate passage if we were to engage in such a treaty."
"Our government spending priorities are quite similar then; the last budget allocated something like 35% of public spending to our armed forces, so we're in the same ball park in that regard. We're immensely proud of all seven and a half million of our servicemen and women, so we always make sure our forces are well maintained. We as a nation learned long ago that without a strong, united defense, our country doesn't stand a chance on the world stage."
Moreno paused and looked over the notes he had produced from his breast pocket.
"We have just under 40,000 planes in the Imperial Flight Division, which will obviously become even more significant following the opening of the air base in Poland. Our navy isn't as large as some of the other powers in the region, but it serves us well. In fact, we're looking at expanding it as the oil industry begins to increase its presence. Before, much of the Navy's role was rescuing boatloads of Kaasian refugees making their way across the Caspian."
The High President chimed in, "I'm sure the Parliamentary Council and Senate of the Commonwealths will behind the proposal too. I know that government members of the Council will be."
"Then this is a big step in securing a great alliance in Eastern Europe that will be formidable and able to respond to any situation," President Kligenberg said to the High President.
"Is there anything you'd like to discuss further? Even just on a personal level?"
"No, I don't believe so. No doubt people will look back on this day as the beginning of an even stronger partnership between our two countries. As you say, this alliance will make not only our two countries, but the entire region, safe and secure. Thank you."
The High President leaned in closer. "I've been hearing rumours that you've been begun to quite like one of the Duxburians that was at the Summer Ball", he said with a smile. "Get in there, hen.", he said, his mischievous grin breaking into a wide smile.
The President, belying her office, blushed tremendously at the last sentence. She regained composure, but not before High President Solomon saw her blush. They both couldn't help but laugh it off.
"I'm really glad we get on well at a personal level," President Kligenberg said to the High President. "I'm going there next, so hopefully something can amount from it. The ball was the first step in that direction.
"And I am also glad that Poland and Halsberg will becoming even closer friends. This has been a most wonderful visit, Mr. Solomon."
President Kligenberg, in the middle of her sentence, noticed something about Mr. Syzmanowski she had never seen before. A tattoo on his wrist flashed to her, in the shape of a knight...
She shook it off, as he has Lithuanian parents and there are a few patron saints who are portrayed as knights.