In St. Petersburg, Russia, two world leaders shook hands and smiled for the cameras. Vladimir Putin welcomed leaders including President Barack Obama for a dinner last Thursday. Russia was host to world leaders for the G20 Summit. The G20 Summit typically focuses on economic issues. This time foreign ministers were invited to discuss Syria outside of the main meeting. They discussed the two years of bloodshed in Syria.
After the meetings we learned that China had sided with Russia in not wanting to strike Syria, along with Great Britain. Mr. Putin was extremely critical of President Obama in his military strike endeavor. Pope Francis also weighed in on this matter; suggesting leaders find a way to come together, and propose a solution which would not include military action upon Syria.
The Canadian neighbors were supportive of the United States as was the French President Francois Hollande. These leaders met for two days. A key point was issued by Vladimir Putin in an interview before the Summit began. He said if it can be proven that Assad gassed his own people with chemical weapons then he may back a United Nations resolution. The president of Russia also accused John Kerry of lying about rebel ties to al-Qaida. This of course has been denied.
The visit by President Obamas put him in the same country where Edward Snowden, the US fugitive, is hiding out. The situation has most likely strained relations between Putin and Obama as the original meeting prior to the Summit was cancelled. President Obama had decided not to visit Moscow after Snowden was granted asylum. Snowden, a former National Security Agency analyst faces charges in the US for leaking documents about US surveillance programs. Russians see Snowden as a defector and will not return him.
The G20 includes China, France, Russia, U.K. and the US. Security Council sanctions on Syria were blocked by China and Russia, and so President Obama will need to garner support for a military strike from NATO.
China weighed in on the economy and risks to the world if a US-led military strike occurs in Syria. Chinese minister Zhu Fuangyao issued warnings concerning the price of oil, thus negatively impacting the global economy.
Other topics, such as trade, capital flaws, debt and deficit targets and tax evasion, were discussed at this meeting. Tax evasion may be an area where Russia and the US see eye to eye. The G20 wants to fight global tax evasion, and stop wealthy individuals and corporations who avoid them, through special accounting practices. Tax authorities want to find out if their citizens and corporations have offshore bank accounts, which deprive their country of tax revenues.
Did the two very powerful leaders meet and have a one on one? Yes, according to Georgiy Mamedov, a Russian ambassador to Canada. Did they discuss the highly anticipated world event, the Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi? With Russia as the host maybe President Obama and his stance for human rights, mainly his criticism of the Russian law which bans gay “propaganda” had some influence on Putin.
Political leaders and the countries represented had much to discuss at the G20 Summit, with security and freedoms at the heart of our global economic future, it was expected.
By Caroline Clemens