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G20: A Look Behind the Smiles and Handshakes

G20: A Look Behind the Smiles and Handshakes
Thousands of delegates emerged on Brisbane, the venue of the recent G20 summit to tackle global economic growth among other world challenges. Will the talk be followed by action?

Agree or Disagree discusses the outcomes of G20 and Russia's role in the group with Nikolai Murashkin, a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies of the St. Catharine’s College at the University of Cambridge and Anna van Densky, who's a political analyst and a contributor for the EU Reporter magazine.

Ahead of President Putin's visit to Australia, a number of western leaders threatened to confront the Russian president as well as impose more sanctions on Russia.

Tune in to this edition of Agree or Disagree to find out more on the talks that took place on the sidelines of the summit and the role of Russia in the work of the G20 group.

How did you see the summit?

Anna van Densky: Everybody was saying that it would be the West against Russia, but it didn’t happen. It was a great victory of the Russian politics. President Putin showed himself as a strong proponent of a multilateral world. And now, when we see that the European ministers of foreign affairs insist that the talks with Russia continue, we can say that it was a very thrillingly successful moment of the Russian politics.

Nikolay Murashkin: There was unfortunately that fact that the current geopolitical conjecture was taken into the equation, especially quite often brought up by the Australian politicians as hosts. Perhaps, for the bilateral relations that is one thing, but given that Australia is a host of a multilateral forum, I find that it is not quite relevant to this sort of framework to bring these issues up. So, that is where, I would say, the unfortunate part of the forum was. But I’d say it went better and with more optimism than it was expected.

Anna, you said that it was the success of the Russian diplomacy. What exactly did you see as the success of the Russian diplomacy?

Anna van Densky: I think that, first of all, we cannot apply the patters on human life to the state life and international relations. If in private life we can say – I don’t like Mr. X or I don’t like that gathering, I won’t go there – here we deal with the international relations and Russia assumes the responsibilities. There are more than 200 states in the world now, but Russia is not as any other state.

Russia is the international A-class player, because Russia is in the UN, in the Security Council, Russia has its historical role in the WW II that shaped the modern world and I can continue. Russia is a paramount player in the international relations. So, that’s why President Putin, the only thing he could do as a responsible statesman, he went there.

President Putin left early, how was that received in Australia?

Nikolay Murashkin: There was quite a mixed view. I think it depends on the actual media outlet you are looking at. Those media that draws on sensationalism, they maybe saw that it was somewhat scandalous. But I think the more serious media, they were looking at the documents that were signed – papers, commitments – and there wasn’t that much attention to this leave from the summit.

How instrumental is the G20 group today?

Anna van Densky: I think it is the rising star of international politics. This is the real format and without it I think we can’t develop as the mankind, because this old format of G7 is very much a colonial world we don’t want to be with. We – it is not only the political analysts, but citizens, people who live in the West, we feel that it is dramatically outdated. G7 makes an impression of old powers plotting against the rest of the world and their image is fading, as the image of the US who created so many problems with their foreign politics that nobody knows how to resolve them.

I think it reflects the realities of the world, because that is the way that we are as humanity – we are diverse, we disagree on anything and still we have to go on together on different issues, for example, the climate change. So, I think it is realistic, it is modern, it is fresh, it is vibrant, it is interesting. And I think Russia can share its experience, because Russia is the federation that unites more than 90 nationalities.

Nikolay Murashkin: G8 was more tilted towards discussing the political issues. G20 is supposed to be and it should be, really, an economic gathering. So, we are talking economy and finances here. It started as the meeting of the ministers of finance in the late 1990’es. And in that sense G20 is good for Russia as a space, because there is less controversy involving Russia’s geoeconomic interests and posture. And this is also where Russia has a lot of friendly states, like the BRICS countries or others.

Right after the summit was over we heard that the European leaders will be meeting to discuss further sanctions against Russia. In the negotiations between Russia and the EU we certainly see Germany as one of the key powers. But looking back on the talks between Putin and Merkel this past month, they were suspended or delayed, or didn’t take place. It seems that there is something going on there. Is Germany under some external pressure? To me personally it seems that Germany is not quite sure as to what line to take.

Anna van Densky: Germany is very conscious about their economic interests, but Germany is under NATO obligations and NATO pressure. The security in Europe is dependent on the US and the energy is dependent on Russia. So, basically, they are torn by two different interests and two different vectors in their politics. So, the point is that, of course, it has a very difficult position, because now, as we all know, the Republicans are at power in the US and it will bring a very sharp twist to the American policy. It will be as they call it “the policy of burned land”, because all the wars are related to the Republicans. We know that they are the hawks. So, the point is that, of course, there is this new factor and it is very alarming. But on the other side there the clarity that sanctions didn’t bring any tangible result, that sanctions are the way to nowhere.

Let’s go back to the G20, have the tasks set before, say last year, been dealt with?

Nikolay Murashkin: There definitely is continuity; we can see that in the final document. The question with the G20 is always – who will implement and how will that be monitored. If you look at the final document, they say – country X will do this, this, that and that. But it is a self-imposed kind of commitment and there isn’t really a mechanism to monitor, let alone to enforce that commitment that has been made.

So, for instance, Christine Lagarde, the Director of the IMF said that the IMF will monitor how the commitments taken by the G20 governments will be fulfilled. Is it a good sign? Rather yes, of course it is a good thing, because there will be cost monitoring and because the relationship between the G20 and the IMF is yet to be clarified. So, that interaction is obviously of useful nature. Now, the question is also how that will work or play together well with the reform of the IMF.

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