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Battles Over G20

  • August 9th, 2013
  • Posted by EU Australia

G20 session 2The G20 meeting of world leaders early next month at St Petersburg has become the focus of some urgent curtain-raisers.

The American President Barack Obama has cancelled a side summit with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

Further South, the lure of the world stage at the G20 was factored into thinking about when to hold elections in Australia, by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

Russ for 4.8.13Mr Rudd (picture) was among the first to get the G20 together, when, holding office less than a year, his government ran into the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

Nineteen heads of government of the larger economies, and the European Union as a collective entity (and provider of representation for smaller member states not at the table in their own right) met at London in April 2009; (see membership states – picture).

G20 Map DFATThey laid claim to coordinating the beginnings of recovery, mainly commenced with stimulus spending — most deliberately taken up in Australia, China and the United States.

The following year, 24.6.10, Kevin Rudd, popularity waning after a chain of passing calamities in his administration, was replaced in a party room coup by his Deputy, Julian Gillard.

He recovered, agitated quietly but persistently, and last June (26.6.13), reclaimed the premiership from Ms Gillard in a party room manoeuvre of his own.


With an election coming due in the second half of this year, calculations had to take into account whether the restored Prime Minister would hold off long enough to relive some glory, at the G20 in Russia.

The summit was beckoning, just a few weeks off, set for 5-6.9.13; and then, Australia had achieved the next Presidency of the G20 and would be hosting the November 2014 summit in  Mr Rudd’s own town, Brisbane, in Queensland.

However, all would be in vain if he were to lose office; and accordingly, on the weekend (4.8.13) he called elections for 7 September, declaring he would send the Foreign Minister to St Petersburg; leaving the door just slightly open to taking himself along too, if circumstances should allow.


Obama REDUCEDIt’s an adage of world journalism that at summit level there will always be a story of some kind.

President Obama this week (8.8.13; picture) provided a strong story even in the midst of the previews for the September event, with his declaration of a snub to Vladimir Putin (picture).

putin G20 2He is very displeased that the Russian government has given temporary protection to Edward Snowden, the former CIA man who has been letting out American government files to a startled world public.

Much of the leaked material concerns mass electronic monitoring of citizens’ communication traffic, by phone and on line, in the United States and elsewhere.


Heading his government’s drive to get Edward Snowden home to face trial, Mr Obama would be displeased of course to see him staying over in Moscow; but that was only one in a list of irritants between the White House and the Kremlin.

As the President said, he considered the Putin government had been going back to a “Cold War mentality.”

“That’s the past”, he said. “We’ve got to think about the future.”

Tensions had been building up on a list of differences, not least Russia’s support for, and arming of the Syrian government in its civil war against insurgents.

Earlier problems had included Russian ire over the construction of an allied anti-missile system on former communist territory in Eastern Europe; a guard against Iran rather than the former Soviet adversary, but an annoyance to Moscow nevertheless.

Mr Putin as a host for important gatherings, invites disdain in the West, on account of the rough style of government and justice over which he presides.

The peremptory busting of oligarchs, especially those with political ambitions and any tendency to shape up against the presidency, came to a head with the 2005 arrest and gaoling of the Yukos oil man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and his associate Platon Lebedev, both still locked away.

The charges against such winners from the chaotic exit from communism are usually over tax evasion or fraud.

Some have met a less genteel end than a long stint in prison, adding to the world list of mysterious deaths in exile.


Violent deaths of Russian journalists have come at a time of bullying, appropriation and monopolisation of media outlets; the Pussy Riot girls got gaoled for thumbing noses at religion and the President; and in a land where old-style poofter-bashers shrive, that element of society has received a green light with the new legal regime, forbidding “homosexual propaganda”.

Bitter irony may be being deployed, with the dubbing of the February Winter Olympics at Sochi in Russia, as the “gay games”.

Sochi 2 Sochi 3 Sochi oneIf that tarnishing of a prestigious event, promoted hard these last six years or more; or the fact of having a big summit without a special chat with the American top man, have stung Mr Putin and his followers at all, they are showing no sign of caring one way or the other.


Such matters might not be “priorities for developing a modern society”, as the Russian President would put it.

The core agenda of the G20, all side issues apart, is taking shape as a new offensive on  the theme of stimulating jobs and growth, along with new and concerted moves against endemic costs to civilisation, through tax evasion or official corruption.

Vladimir Putin declares, as chairman of the coming summit: “Russia has identified stimulating economic growth and job creation as a primary objective of its G20 Presidency. We consider these tasks a priority for the development of a modern society.”


Mr Obama returned to relations with Russia on the weekend (9.8.13), talking about a pause to recalibrate diplomatic ties.

He said he hoped gay and lesbian athletes would do well in the Olympics.

Jesse OwensRussian sports officials have vowed to observe the Olympic rule book guaranteeing rights and freedom from discrimination.

In 1936 the issue was race, and the criminal regime in Germany at that time, bowed to Olympic necessity, letting in the African American athlete Jesse Owens (picture), who won Gold at the Berlin games.

It stirred up the racist dictator, Adolf Hitler, no end.


Barroso Van RompuyIn 2013, for the G20, at Moscow: The European Union has made an early declaration of its priorities for the gathering, in  the form of a joint statement by the President of the Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, (picture).

They have reiterated the theme of stimulating  growth for economic recovery, and employment growth to go with it; tightening of financial regulation; clamping down on tax evasion and corruption, and cooperation on the search for sustainable energuy solutions for the future.

“We need to remain vigilant and proactive to support the recovery and find our way to strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth”, they said.

“The G20 Leaders in Saint Petersburg should send a positive message to improve global confidence and support the global recovery.”


BBC, London, Obama cancels Putin meeting over Snowden asylum, 7.8.13., (8.8.13).

DFAT, Canberra,The G20.,(8.8.13).

Forbes, NY, Some Jailed Russian Oligarchs May Finally Walk, 25.5.13.,(8.8.13).

Russia G20, Vladimir Putin., (8.8.3).

Russia G20, EU announces its priorities for the G20 Summit, 25.7.13., (8.8.13).

Pictures, DFAT