In Brisbane the Media saw what was not
The recently finished G20 Summit in Australia has vividly shown that frequently the Media are analyst’s false friends. What can be learned about the Summit from the Russian and international Media is that the President of Russia received a cold welcome that caused his early departure.
However, the reality is a long way from what the Media is trying to picture.
It was no démarche: the fact that Vladimir Putin was to leave the Summit earlier than the others was known even before the event. The two days in Brisbane passed in friendly conversations between the Russian president and world leaders, and with Australian Prime minister Tony Abbott, who had previously promised to bring Putin to account, hospitably beaming.
Some of the leaders were enjoying Putin’s company for the second time during the week for Barak Obama, Abbott and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had met at the APEC Summit in Beijing several days earlier. And if there had been anyone to be brought to account, it would have been the Chinese leadership, who organized the APEC meeting shortly before the G20 Summit. Thus, Brisbane came as the last destination point of the long working week for the Forbes’s three most powerful people, and the temptation to miss some of the meetings on minor issues was strong.
It is not rarely that I face the Media’s distortion of some international events. Deliberately or not, it makes me wonder, who do we trust to inform us on the latest developments if the Media, even sometimes respectable ones, do not abstain from descending to discussing Putin’s koala bear?
Surely, the gist of what is happening on the G20 sessions is difficult to follow for those who are not experts on the matter. The Group’s resolutions exclusively concern economy and aim at changing rules, which has a delayed effect. Nonetheless, making up political tales instead of trying to look into the case does not seem a correct choice.
The G20 summit is first and foremost a chance for the participants to comprehend the international environment, in which they act, and to have some influence on the dynamics of its development. The format of the G20 provides a possibility for international coordination in minimizing macroeconomic risks on the global level from financial markets’ instability to uncontrollable migration.
The priority put forward in Brisbane consists in achieving the 2% annual growth of the global economy by 2018. In order to encourage this growth the participants agreed on an Action Plan, which provides for implementation of more than 800 activities. The Plan was approved by OECD and IMF experts committed to monitor its realization. Each nation presented its plan on stimulating economic growth and curbing unemployment.
The Australian chairmanship suggested that among the incentives for the economic boost should be the newly forming Infrastructure hub in Sydney. Taking into consideration that the global need for construction is estimated at 70 trillion USD by 2013 (which is twice as much as the G7 states total GDP), the hub is expected to provide information exchange on new projects and coordination on international investment. The Summit participants also committed themselves to create new jobs and ensure employment based on equality of sexes.
For the Russian leader the visit to Australia was the ending in a double tour to Asia. After China Putin spent some time in Vladivostok, and after this left for Brisbane.
With all the importance of the international forums like G20, the key objectives for the leader of a state lay in domestic politics.
According to Russian governmental sources, a 5-year program for economic and infrastructure development will be published by the end of the year. A number of priorities of this program are already made public, namely the National Wealth Fund investments in infrastructure development around Moscow, construction and development of capability for movement of goods to the East by the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Baikal–Amur Mainline as well as creation of conditions for high-speed railway communications and development of port and airport infrastructure.
That is why in Brisbane, and likewise on the APEC Summit, Putin was mostly interested in the tendencies of the Asian-European trade for part of it may be expected to transit the Russian territory. However, no hint of this interest of Moscow during the G20 Summit can be found in the Media.
Apart from that, despite the Media’s criticism of the Summit and the Russian participation in it, Vladimir Putin praised Australia for the constructive atmosphere of discussions and Tony Abbott personally for good moderation of the talks. The Australian Prime minister, in his turn, on his press conference expressed approval of the conditions created on the Summit that were favourable for sincere opinion exchange. When asked to confirm his criticism towards Putin, Abbott frankly stated that “President Putin is a member of the G20, and I was glad to receive him with respect and hospitality in Australia”.
The Summit agenda for Putin, as well as for other leaders, was not limited exclusively to the official program. On the sidelines of the forum talks between the Russian leader and Italian Prime minister Matteo Renzi took place with the latter showing interest in Putin’s meetings that had happened in the APEC framework. Putin’s discussions with Angela Merkel revealed that the anti-Russian sanctions threaten 300 thousand jobs in Germany. An ample interview with Putin was broadcasted in Germany during the Brisbane Summit.
French President Francois Hollande on his meeting with cher Vladimir expressed hope that “we will soon stop suffering from the turbulence happening in the world”. The BRICS leaders’ unanimous condemnation of the sanctions came as the final accord for the Russian ‘international isolation’.
All this does not mean that world leaders share peace and solidarity. However, this is to say that the existing differences among them should not be exaggerated. It is dilettante to infer global conclusions from some minor facts.
Generally speaking, international relations are more simple and prosaic than the Media pictures them. Which is why reporters are trying to shift the focus from the actual facts to some bright events, even if they are fictional.
In the end, the Media creates a virtual reality, which reflects journalists’ answers to their expectations and fears.
To catch the gist of what is actually happening reporters should be able to look at the events with the eyes of the characters they report about.
It is true that Putin missed the last meeting of the G20 Summit this year. However, it is worth recalling that two years ago he missed the whole G8 Summit in the US, and it was not the end of the world. On that meeting Russia was represented with Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev.
My observations in Washington prove that this is not an immediate objective for the US yet. However, it does not mean, that the Americans will refrain from an opportunity to speed up the fall of the Russian regime if the internal problems cause a social upheaval. Having met with the White House, National Security Council and Pentagon officials, as well as experts on Russia in Washington, I may conclude that the US has certain difficulties formulating a single consistent policy towards Moscow and is, therefore, incapable of conspiring against it.
The key question for Russia is whether the Operation Atlantic Resolve will become the start of permanent stationing of American and NATO forces in the countries of former Warsaw Pact and the post-Soviet space. Moscow insists that its security needs be taken into account, whereas the American leadership believes that the motives of Russia stem from “misinterpretations and outdated thinking”.
Although coping with sanctions, plummeting oil prices and a devalued ruble is challenging, it is paramount that Russian leaders continue to spend time and energy to address the economy’s structural problems and give it a new focus. That is the path to creating an economy that is stronger, more efficient and more flexible in the years to come.
It seems to me that George Friedman’s geopolitical doctrine simplifies both the international reality and the liberal ideas of the American mainstream. Acceptance of the reality of the existing balance of powers, aspiration for preserving stability and guidance by the international law – these are the key ingredients in the realist policies recipe that the US still fail to manage.