NATO Summit, Warsaw, Poland, July 2016.
Mikhail Palinchak

Inside the Rooms Where the World's Most Powerful Leaders Make Decisions That Affect Millions of People

January 25, 2019 11:42 AM EST

A bag rests on a plain white chair; men in suits wait in a lounge area; unopened water bottles sit on an empty table — the photos that make up the series “Bilateral Rooms” look like they could come from any typical business meeting.

Instead, the series, by photographer Mikhail Palinchak, reveals a look at the everyday spaces where some of the world’s most powerful figures come together to make crucial decisions that shape the lives of millions of people. In his photo series, Palinchak opens the closed door to the negotiation rooms where the action takes place, exploring the paradoxes that come from using temporary spaces that look like any other conference room to make the choices that permanently shift the course of the world.

From NATO summits to the United Nations General Assembly and even to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, each negotiation room offers up something similar: minimalist interiors with only the basics, nondescript furniture and subdued colors that offer a backdrop for representatives from all nations to hold the most pertinent conversations.

NATO Summit, Warsaw, Poland, July 2016.
Mikhail Palinchak
Eastern Partnership Summit, Brussels, Belgium, November 2017.
Mikhail Palinchak
Nuclear Security Summit, Washington DC, USA, April 2016.
Mikhail Palinchak
United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 21, Paris, France, November 2015.
Mikhail Palinchak
World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2018.
Mikhail Palinchak
NATO Summit, Warsaw, Poland, July 2016.
Mikhail Palinchak
United Nations Climate Change Conference COP 21, Paris, France, November 2015.
Mikhail Palinchak
World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2019.
Mikhail Palinchak
NATO Summit, Warsaw, Poland, July 2016.
Mikhail Palinchak
NATO Summit, Brussels, Belgium, July 2018.
Mikhail Palinchak
NATO Summit, Brussels, Belgium, July 2018.
Mikhail Palinchak
Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde at the head of IMF delegation in the Headquarter of the United Nations during opening 71th session of the UN General Assembly, New York, USA on September 21, 2016
Mikhail Palinchak

Mikhail Palinchak is a Ukraine-based photographer. Follow him on Instagram @mpalinchakphoto

Mahita Gajanan is a reporter at TIME. Follow her on Twitter @mahitagajanan

Maïa Booker, who edited this photo essay, is a Senior Multimedia Editor at TIME. Follow her on Instagram @maiabooker_

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.