It takes two to tango: What did G20 summit actually achieve?

Neil Clark
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
It takes two to tango: What did G20 summit actually achieve?
The leaders of the world’s richest 20 countries met in Argentina this weekend for the latest G20 summit, but did anything important come out of it, save a few good photo-calls?

Let’s suppose there had been no G20 summit in Buenos Aires. Would we actually have been any worse off?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of world leaders getting together and having a chin-wag over some nice food and good plonk. To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war. But this G20 never really got off the ground. You might say that the ‘multiple system malfunction’ which forced Angela Merkel’s plane to fly back to Germany after take-off was an omen. Perhaps the plane knew something.

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The main news story from day one was Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ‘high-fiving‘ each other. Whether we think that was a good idea/bad idea or don’t give a monkeys either way, the prominence the story received in much of the Western media tells us plenty. “The video is also deadly serious. As these two leaders laugh it up – and are in the process of thawing tensions between their nations by working in partnership to shore up crude oil prices – there is a total absence of moral leadership from America's President,” wrote CNN’s Julian Zelizer.

Lighten up a bit, Jules. It’s your country that has been Saudi’s staunchest ally, after all.

While Putin was predictably condemned, those leaders who voiced their ‘concern’ over the ‘deplorable’ murder of Jamal Khashoggi, but who have taken no action to end arms sales to Riyadh, escaped censure. High-fives and exuberant greetings, are it seems, worse than backing the war in Yemen.

A meeting between President Trump and Putin might have been helpful to ease international tensions. Just imagine if the two men had danced the tango together – either literally or figuratively!

The head-to-head didn’t take place because of events in Ukraine. Or so we were told. In truth, Trump was damned if he met his Russian counterpart, and damned if he didn’t. If they’d have met it would be a case of Donald Trumpski getting his orders. If they didn’t, it would prove that Trump was too weak to tell Putin face to face to ‘get out of Ukraine!’

The US President did have a ‘working dinner’ with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping though. And what was agreed? Not much, except to put the current dispute over trade on hold for three months. Let’s at least hope the steak was good.

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Emmanuel Macron was in Argentina, but you couldn’t help but think he’d have been better off sorting out the growing problems he’s got at home, with France seemingly on the verge of another revolution. “I will always respect differences. I will always listen to opposition, but I will never accept violence," he said. He might have added, “except when directed against the government in Syria.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Victoria Nuland to fly out to Paris and hand out some democracy cookies to the gilets jaunes as she did to protestors in the Maidan almost five years ago. Will Britain be backing France’s ‘moderate rebels’ and sending in the ‘White Helmets‘ as first responders? That could be a good way of getting a better deal on fishing quotas.

Talking of which, Theresa May was in Buenos Aires too, no doubt enjoying a brief respite from her Brexit Blues at home. She insisted she would take the UK out of the EU, even though her negotiated deal, if we can call it that, is very likely to be defeated in the House of Commons.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned May about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. But of course, this isn’t ’interference’ in Britain’s internal affairs as he’s not a Russian.

Over a ‘working breakfast’ held ‘without media’ (but I hope with sausages, eggs, hash brownies and plenty of tea, toast, and coffee), Putin and Merkel agreed to talk more on Ukraine. At a later date.

Again, Buenos Aires was deemed not to be the right time and place.

Aside from the signing of the USMCA agreement on Friday, which could have been done anywhere, probably the most constructive thing to come out of the summit was the call from Turkey’s President Erdogan, made during a meeting with President Putin, for another summit to discuss the situation in Syria’s Idlib province, and the creation there of a demilitarized zone. 

But let’s face it, that could have been done with a phone call as well, couldn’t it?

Of course, some very important discussions could have taken place behind closed doors in Argentina. Discussions that might alleviate some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate change and global poverty. A long and rather waffly ‘Leaders’ declaration’ was issued
which reaffirmed a commitment to a “rules-based international order that is capable of effectively responding to a rapidly changing world,” but what does that mean in practice, when to take just one example, 2,000 US troops continue to occupy parts of Syria illegally.

So was Buenos Aires a missed opportunity?

Only those present will know the answer to that. It takes two to tango, but much more is needed to make a success of a G20 summit.

Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66 and @MightyMagyar

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