The Group of 20, a group of countries developed and emerging whose populations comprise two out of three people on Earth, saw their world leaders gather in St. Petersburg over the last two days. First coming together in 2009 to counter the economic crisis, the G20's fifth anniversary will see a variety of geopolitical issues discussed, beginning with Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the ceremony with a lukewarm message highlighting his focuses for the meeting: "As this summit is shadowed by U.S. desires [to launch] airstrikes on Syria... the G20 is here celebrating it's fifth anniversary... We were able to consolidate the main world economies together, we were able to limit the consequences of the world economic crisis, and we were able to [try and avoid] future crises [by building] a firewall against them... the G20 has shown that it can [get serious problems under control]... but in my opinion, we cannot rest on our laurels, because the global economy needs to find stable economic growth, and this has not yet been achieved."
A BBC article acknowledged that the situation surrounding Syria is not on the agenda; however, Putin's hopes are that it will be informally discussed during the working dinner. Regarding Russia's views on evidence of chemical weapons usage in Syria, Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesperson, said that Russia "can't accept proof that is a long way from being convincing."
Russia's own media has had a variety of reactions, from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's desires to see an agreement reached ("They must strike up a conversation that will lead to the improvement of relations," he said) to the liberal paper Kommersant, which wrote that when the moment arrives that the U.S. strikes Syria, "what happens [after that moment] stopped mattering to him [Vladimir Putin]... The U.S. president might as well not travel to St Petersburg from Stockholm: Putin isn't interested any more."
In spite of President Obama's recent claims that Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe had shared opinions on the issue of a military strike, Abe has made no such statements of support.
Meanwhile, on other parts of the summit floor, the only item on some countries' tongues was money. A Reuters report on the G20 Summit has many nations up in arms over recent decisions by the U.S. to reduce the amount of printed money.
The head of the Finance Ministry's international department, Andrei Bokarev, told Reuters that "The most difficult and time-consuming discussions [are] related to the evaluation of the situation of global economy." Bokarev also helped draft a communique that went out to the attending nations that insisted on a united monetary policy that is "carefully calibrated and clearly communicated."
India was targeted by China and Russia, in particular, for not handling an account deficit that risked the rupee's economic health, particularly while the U.S. dollar is being tapered. The communique made it expressively clear: "emerging markets agree to take the necessary actions to support growth and maintain stability, including efforts to improve fundamentals, increase resilience to external shocks and strengthen financial systems."
One major positive to come out of this year's G20: the European downturn appears to be coming around. European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso was thrilled because,"at this G20 we were no longer the focus of attention."[Image via a formerly live stream on Youtube of opening of the G20 Summit]