Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The G20 Summit

So what did in fact happen at the G20 summit?

The short answer is that it was a shriller rerun of the ASEM summit in Milan. The same line up of European leaders joined this time by the Australians and the Canadians (Obama and Putin barely met) tried once again to bully Putin into doing what they wanted in the Ukraine, believing on this occasion that the fall in oil prices and in the rouble would make him more amenable. In order to drive the point home a media blitz of quite extraordinary intensity was also orchestrated.

To their collective bafflement and anger, Putin refused to move an inch. On the contrary Putin's position has if anything hardened since Milan as he made clear in the interview he gave to German television in Vladivostok (before the summit) in which (as I pointed out previously) he pointedly reminded the European leaders that it is within Russia's power to bring the entire Ukrainian financial edifice crashing down by calling in its loans and in which he also gave the clearest possible warning that Russia would not allow Novorossiya to be overrun (see below on this Page). The further news on that today by the way is that Russian Economics Minister Ulyukaev has confirmed that the rouble will be allowed to circulate in the DPR/LPR, strengthening their integration with Russia.

The European leaders have come away without a clue what to do. They desperately need an end to the Ukrainian crisis, which is hurting their own economies and which as Milos Zeman's and Orban's comments show, is creating increasing dissension within the EU itself. There is little appetite either for more sanctions or for giving the Ukraine the tens of billions it needs to turn itself round whilst there is deep reluctance to seek a restructuring of the Ukraine's debts since doing so would inevitably require the agreement of the Ukraine's biggest creditor, which is Russia, which would undoubtedly in that case link its agreement to movement on political matters. The hope always seems to be that Putin will somehow be bullied into solving the problem for the Europeans in the way the Europeans want and there is incredulity and exasperation when that fails to happen. Meanwhile the situation in the Ukraine itself both economically and politically continues to spiral downwards.

A good gauge of the bafflement and anger of the western leaders is the way the western media (obviously following a tip off from the Australian hosts) was encouraged to talk up Putin's decision to skip the summit's final working breakfast. The Ukrainian situation would not have been discussed at this breakfast so the idea that Putin was somehow bruised into running away is nonsense. That the western media had to seize on this non-event to show how supposedly battered Putin is, shows in reality how completely unsuccessful the Europeans and their Australian and Canadian allies really were with him. Perhaps it was his disappointment at this failure that was behind Cameron's frankly odd decision to go all apocalyptic a few months before an election with his very strange speech predicting another financial crash, which he made on his return.

In reality there has never been a G20 summit where media coverage has been more at variance with reality (a point Putin also made). To read the British and Australian press, Putin was completely isolated at the summit. In reality, on the first day of the summit there was a BRICS mini-summit meeting, at which Putin and Russia were put in charge of organising a future BRICS conference on investment policy, a fact you would never know about from reading the British press. In other words the BRICS front stood firm and it seems Putin also received some support from countries like Indonesia and Turkey.

In fact from the way the British press reported the summit most Britons are probably not even aware that non-western leaders including the other leaders of BRICS states also attended the summit. From the lack of attention they got one might suppose they were as unimportant as they were in say 1978. So delusional has the west's perception of the world and of its place in it become.

Putin also had a lengthy meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, whom he also sat next to during various plenaries, during which he would have been informed in detail of the Saudi approach at the forthcoming OPEC summit on 27th November 2014. That meeting the British media of course also failed to report.

The single most important event at the summit however had nothing to do with Putin. It was Obama's extraordinary speech at the University of Queensland, which apart from the brief comment about MH17 that I discussed previously, was basically a lengthy and not very thinly veiled attack on China, which he managed to talk about in the most amazingly patronising and even rude way, and which he spoke of as a potential threat to the whole Pacific region (!).

The great achievement of Obama's Presidency is that the US is now on bad terms with both China and Russia where it could have been on good terms with both. That is a quite an achievement and one which will resonate far into the future.


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