Sunday, November 16, 2014

Putin: the pariah of G20

Russian President Vladimir Putin turned out to be the Anna Karenina of the Group of 20 major economies summit (G20), where he was ostracized by all Western leaders. On November 16, 2014, he was the first world leader to leave the G20 in a hurry, before the official conclusion of the summit. Putin claimed thathe wanted to leave early to catch up on sleep before going to work, as though attending the most important summit of world leaders was not part of his official duties. Putin faced intense criticism from Western leaders over Russia's unsavory involvement in Ukraine, but attempted to downplay it.

In Putin’s press statement following the G20 summit, he made no mention of Ukraine, until journalists started asking pointed questions. Putin’s initial responses included abrupt statements, such as “Ukraine hasn’t even come up yet” and “Ukraine was not discussed in any official context during the G20 discussions.” He was then forced to acknowledge that “[A]ll of the bilateral meetings dealt practically entirely with Ukraine.”

The event has been undoubtedly permeated by hostility towards Putin, amid fierce criticism of the Kremlin’s involvement in fostering the crisis in Ukraine. A chilly reception towards Russia’s unrepentant leader commenced with his arrival to the summit in Brisbane. While President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping were enthusiastically welcomed by Australia's Governor General and Attorney General, Putin was greeted by the Assistant Defense Minister. Australian Attorney General George Brandis was standing nearby, but made no attempt to greet Putin. Even the docile koala bear, held by Putin during world leader photo-ops, didn’t seem comfortable to be in the grasp of the controversial figure.