November 18, 2015

“Caution, the Doors… Are Opening...”


November 15-16, 2015, the Turkish city of Antalya hosted the annual meeting of leaders of the world's leading countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Britain, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Canada, China, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the USA, Turkey, France, South Africa, South Korea, Japan and the EU) — the 10th summit of the leaders of the “Group of 20” (G20).

It is believed that G20 is first of all an economic summit (the share of the countries-participants accounts for 85 % of the total volume of the world economy and two-thirds of the world's population), where the leaders of the countries discuss ways to address global issues of financial and economic cooperation. In the same 2015, against the background of increasing combat actions of the international coalition led by the United States against the IS (“Islamic State”) in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist attacks in Turkey and the air crash of the Russian A321 in the Sinai Peninsula — to the fore front there have come the issues of struggle against terrorism and the migration crisis in Europe. But the “Bloody Friday” in France (in Paris) literally on the eve of the Summit only confirmed the urgency and vital importance of these issues, as well as the need to discuss and coordinate these questions in the first rate.

Therefore, the Summit focused not so much on economic as on political and security issues. While the G20's format itself has always been quite effective in discussing all sorts of problems and priorities that are different in different countries.

For Russia — the first is the question of lifting the sanctions imposed by the West. So it decided to put forward a demonstration of its military power, although according to the recent IMF report (November 13, 2015), its economy (along with Turkish, Hungarian and Ukrainian ones) is one of the four most fragile economies in the world. Brazil has problems associated with a high budget deficit and the current account. India, over 30 % of the population live below the poverty line, trying (unsuccessfully) to solve the problem of poverty. The most important issue for China and Japan is to ensure growth during economic restructuring, for which purpose they are pursuing a policy of competitive devaluation of their currencies. To Europe's old problems (employment, economic growth) today has been added a new and most serious one — migrants.

The Communiqué of the leaders of the “Group of Twenty”, adopted at the Summit, included strengthening of global economic recovery, increasing the potential for economic growth (in 2018 the total GDP of the “Group of Twenty” must rise by additional 2 %), creating new and better jobs, strengthening the stability of financial institutions and improving the stability of the financial system, reforming the global financial architecture and the IMF, as well as measures to combat tax evasion by corporations, questions of the migration crisis, climate change and others.

The questions of the struggle against international terrorism remained one of the most important discussions on the sidelines of the Summit and bilateral meetings of heads of states and governments, as today nobody underestimates the risks in the global economy created by terrorism, fragile states and the waves of migration that follow.

The “Group of Twenty” has adopted a special statement on the struggle against terrorism, in which it strongly condemned the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 and in Ankara on October 10. Stressing unity in the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of terrorist organizations, all countries expressed their determination to counteract this threat. The measures considered by parties appropriate in this regard are as follows: exchange of operational information, blocking the channels of financing of terrorism, including strengthening cooperation in the sphere of information exchange and freezing the terrorists' assets, border control and other preventive measures against terrorist organizations.

However, expressing the unity in the issue of the need for general strengthening of the fight against the IS and other terrorist organizations, specific steps to implement the strategy were not been made public.

Obviously, because of Russia's position the participants failed to develop a common vision of all parties on the Syrian issue.

Russian President V. Putin launched unprecedented activity on the sidelines of the Summit. Unlike last year's “cold shower”, arranged for the Russian President in the Australian Brisbane, Turkish Antalya welcomed him warmer, but it was obviously far from the warmth of St. Petersburg of 2013.

For example, in addition to the now traditional, informal meeting of the leaders of the member countries of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), Putin had official bilateral meetings with the Chinese President Xi Jinping, with IMF Managing Director Ch. Lagarde, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with German Chancellor A. Merkel, with President of Turkey R. Erdogan, Prime Minister of Italy M. Renzi, with the British Prime Minister D. Cameron, with the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. V. Putin and B. Obama's 20 minute talk on the sidelines of the Summit did not go unnoticed either.

Of particular note is the fact that in all his initiatives Putin continued to actively promote the idea of ​​creating a broad coalition against terrorism, presented by him at the September meeting of the UN General Assembly. It was noticeable that the situation in Syria, the migratory crisis in Europe and the tragic events in Paris had obviously “strengthened” the position of the Russian leadership and actually gave him an opportunity to somewhat defuse the “Ukrainian question”.

Thus, in the first day of the Summit, the Presidents of Russia and the United States — Barack Obama and V. Putin — retired at a table in the lobby and intently talked about something for more than an hour, “leaning close to each other”. “New York Post” considers these informal talks, perhaps the most important meeting of the Summit. “The two leaders, who had been conflicting for many years, it seems, have got united in their attitude to the struggle against the ISIS and returning the control of Syria”, — writes the edition. The White House called the meeting “constructive”. “All the key countries came together and came to a common understanding” — US President summed up the results of the Summit.

The French President Francois Hollande wants to team up with Russia and the USA for the joint strike against terrorists. He said this at the meeting of the National Assembly (after the terrorist attacks Hollande canceled his trip to the summit).

The readiness of the West to compromise with Russia was also expressed on the BBC by the British Prime Minister David Cameron, with whom V. Putin has very cool relations. Putin himself in Turkey said that the countries “have to join forces in the fight against terrorism”.

According to the vast majority of Western analysts and experts, after the Summit in Turkey, Putin turned from a world pariah into an international player. “Russia and the United States have been united by the ISIS' strengthening” — they sum up the results of the Summit on this issue. “Perhaps, the West will now refer to Russia as a partner and, therefore, can to some extent take the Russian model of resolving the conflict in Ukraine”, suggested in an interview with BBC's Russian Service the known political expert James Sherr from the Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House.

By the way, we should pointed out the Russian “home preparation” on the question of restructuring of Ukraine's debt of 3 billion US dollars (the loan was given to Putin's friend Yanukovych and disappeared). Although according to experts, due to Kyiv's firm position, it is rather a forced measure than Moscow's “gesture”. Besides, private creditors of Ukraine, who have recently agreed on the terms of restructuring the country's debts within the framework of the IMF, will hardly allow Kyiv to agree to the proposal, without a partial write-off of the Russian debt.

Despite V. Putin's expectations, “the Ukrainian issue” was not removed from the agenda. During private meetings both, US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not fail to remind the “master of the Kremlin” that Russia must fulfill the “Minsk Agreements”, withdraw Russian troops from the Donbas, stop funding and supporting the separatists. Besides, the “Ukrainian issue” was later discussed by the summit participants in a narrower range, already without Putin. After that, it was stated that sanctions against Russia would remain in force until the complete fulfillment of the “Minsk Agreements”.

So, according to leading Western political scientists and experts, to speak about the leader of the Russian Federation V. Putin's having broken international isolation is premature.

All this leaves ambiguous impression.

On the one hand, the G20 Summit did not become a turning point in the West's relations with the Russian President and demonstrated the unchanged position of the leaders of the world's key countries in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. On the other — the latest developments in Europe and Paris have strengthened the Kremlin's desire to sell at a higher price its participation in the fight against the IS (at least for the lifting of sanctions and implementation of the Russian scenario to resolve the situation around Ukraine), and most importantly — they have set the stage for discussion.

“If now our partners believe that the time has come to change our attitudes, we will welcome it, V. Putin said at his final press conference. — We have never refused to work together and the door is not closed”.

We all know the famous phrase: “Caution, the door is closing”. Can it sound vice-versa: “Caution, the door… is opening...?” Time will tell. But then the second part of the phrase sounds very alarming: “The next stop is....”