Although formally the G20 grouping is a purely economic format, from the start the summit in Australia was viewed as the arena for a tough confrontation between Russia and the West over the situation in Ukraine. Source: Reuters
Despite being on the receiving end of severe criticism and some barbed protocol, Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared himself satisfied with the outcomes of the G20 summit in Brisbane, which concluded on Nov. 16.
“I think our work has been completed, and completed with success,” he said, concluding his press conference. However, his decision to leave for Moscow before the summit was officially over was criticized by a number of analysts, though Putin justified his early departure by explaining that he had important work to return to in Moscow.
Although formally the G20 grouping is a purely economic format, from the start the summit in Australia was viewed as the arena for a tough confrontation between Russia and the West over the situation in Ukraine. For example, the host of the summit, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, at one point proposed excluding Russia from the list of participants altogether. The idea did not work: Matters like these are decided by consensus, which in this case was lacking.
Some countries, in particular China, were categorically opposed to the idea, while others, for example Germany, viewed Russia’s participation as yet another opportunity for talks. The U.S., the UK, Canada, and Australia, on the other hand, saw the summit as an opportunity to subject Putin to a public whipping.
Against this backdrop, Putin began his visit to Australia with a meeting of the BRICS nations. Now a tradition at G20 events, the session allows the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa to demonstrate the mutual similarity of their positions in the G20, primarily on economic matters - though on this occasion, politics also came into the equation.
After the meeting, Russian presidential aide Yury Ushakov told journalists that the BRICS leaders were unanimous in their declaration that sanctions against Russia had no legal basis. “They all said that the sanctions were unlawful, that they violate the UN Charter and prevent economic recovery,” said Ushakov, who stressed that the BRICS leaders had raised the issue of the sanctions at the meeting by themselves, “without any prompting from our side.”
U.S. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, held a meeting with EU leaders, which was almost entirely devoted to the issue of Ukraine. Unless the Kremlin changes its position on Ukraine, said Obama, “the isolation that Russia is currently experiencing will continue,” AFP reported the U.S. president as saying. Obama had earlier listed Russia alongside the Ebola virus and the Islamic State (ISIS) fundamentalist organization to the world’s media as key global challenges.
It was with this baggage that the sides joined the plenary sessions of the summit, though the issue of Ukraine was not raised in these meetings. “In official discussions within the G20, the topic of Ukraine was not at all touched upon, that is not at all, it was not even mentioned,” Putin told journalists. However, he continued, “all the bilateral meetings were in effect devoted exclusively to Ukraine’s problems. I must say that these conversations were very frank, substantive and, I think, useful.”
The key encounter was a four-hour meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which was joined later by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Nothing is known about what was said at the meeting but the fact that the Germans are focused on talks rather than on isolating Russia was confirmed by Germany’s minister of economy and energy, Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel.
“It is right that Angela Merkel and [Foreign Minister] Frank-Walter Steinmeier are focused on dialogue rather than confrontation, like others,” Gabriel told the ARD TV channel. “For example, I think that reacting [to what is happening] with NATO’s endless saber rattling at Russian borders is absolutely wrong.”
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