September 7, 2013

Syria crisis: No Clear Winner In Russia-US G20 Duel

Both sides have claimed victory in this G20 gladiatorial contest over Syria, but identifying who is on which team is not straightforward.

So who backed Russia and who backed the United States?

According to President Vladimir Putin, the outcome was not a 50/50 split, but a balance of opinion in Russia’s favour.

Russia's Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama failed to see eye to eye over Syria during the G20 summit
Russia’s Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama failed to see eye to eye over Syria during the G20 summit

He claimed that, at the G20 dinner on Syria, only four countries – France, Turkey, Canada and Saudi Arabia (plus a British prime minister rebuffed by his own parliament) – had backed America.

Whereas siding with Russia in rejecting military strikes on Syria, he says, were seven nations: China, India, Indonesia, Argentina and Brazil, as well as South Africa and Italy.

Yet not all the Russian president’s views on Syria were endorsed by other G20 leaders.

Who else in St Petersburg publically declared, as he did, that Syria’s “so-called chemical weapons attack” was in fact “a provocation staged by rebels, in hope of winning extra backing from their foreign backers”?

In making that categorical claim, the Russian leader left little room for compromise and ended up looking, perhaps, somewhat isolated.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama also declared he had enjoyed support from a majority of G20 participants, who were “comfortable” with American claims.

Alongside the US were, unsurprisingly, the two keenest cheerleaders when it comes to taking military action, French President Francois Hollande and Britain’s David Cameron.

All other signatories were also longstanding US allies from around the world: Australia and Canada; from Asia, Japan and South Korea; from the Muslim world, Turkey and Saudi Arabia; and, from Europe, Spain and Italy. The last somehow got itself included in the tally on both sides of the divide.

But, tellingly, the list of Mr Obama’s supporters did not include Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany (perhaps she thought it too risky so close to a federal election).

And the statement was carefully crafted to omit the controversial crux of the American plan: punitive airstrikes on Syria, to be led by the US, quite possibly without UN backing.

BBC

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