Friday, July 7, 2017 at 7:47 AM

G20 Germany Hamburg: Much Ado About Nothing

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Foremost, with all the humbug about Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, bear in mind that American President Donald J. Trump might be a bigger danger to Westerner democracies.

Putin must be laughing at his dumb luck. After all, he could never have imagined having an American president who seems almost as hell-bent as he is on undermining the democratic institutions, multilateral agreements, and military alliances that have reinforced America’s status as leader of the free world for the past 70 years.

(“The Week Trump Kissed Up to Saudi Arabia, Kissed Off Europe, and French Kissed the Philippines,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 30, 2017)

That said, much is being made of Putin and Trump having their “first” meeting today at the G20 Germany 2017 summit in Hamburg. But, trust me, it will be remembered far more for the media hyping it like a heavyweight boxing match than for any policy or substance emanating from it.

Here, in a nutshell, is why it will amount to much ado about nothing:

Putin wants Trump to lift US-led sanctions imposed on Russia for invading Crimea, destabilizing Eastern Ukraine, and meddling in American and European elections. This would show that Putin really is the master of the “black art” of political manipulation. But – even if he wanted to – Trump can’t lift them because

  • He’s under criminal investigation for all manner of high crimes and misdemeanors related to Russia; and
  • A bill is already making its way through Congress to make those sanctions even more onerous, and it will pass with a veto-proof majority.

Trump wants Putin to strike deals with him to solve everything – from Syria’s internecine conflagration to Russia’s Ukrainian incursion and North Korea’s nuclear provocation. This would show that Trump really is the master of The Art of the Deal. But Putin will look him dead in the eye, promise everything, and deliver nothing – as former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama could have told Trump.

And, for the record, I think Trump will bring up Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election to cover his ass back home. But I suspect neither of them sees any point in paying any more than lip service to it because

  • Putin knows he ordered it; and
  • Trump knows he not only encouraged it but won because of it, which would make blaming Putin to his face too churlish a case of biting the hand that fed you – even for the preternaturally churlish Trump.

Incidentally, this should compel you to question conventional wisdom, which holds that Putin is a Machiavellian master – who moves other leaders on the world stage like pawns doing his bidding. No doubt he has a gift for creating mischief, but the long-suffering Russian people have precious little to show for all his machinations.

Yet the futility of their talks will be surpassed by the futility of the gabfests that invariably define these summits. In fact, what I wrote about the G20 England 2009 summit in London remains as relevant today as it was back then.

Here is an excerpt from “G20 Fails to Stimulate or Regulate Global Economy,” April 3, 2009.


The G20 is comprised of 19 of the world’s most developed countries plus the EU. Its purported mission is to ‘strengthen the international financial architecture and to foster sustainable economic growth and development.’

But nothing demonstrates its failure in this respect quite like the fact that G20 countries were the architects of the financial house of cards that has now fallen and has the world teetering on the precipice of a 1930s-style depression.

And G20 leaders compounded this failure by doing nothing to strengthen the international financial architecture. This, despite the communiqué they issued at an emergency summit in Washington just six months ago, in which they promised to take coordinated and substantive steps to do so. In fact, reports are that 17 members actually enacted protectionist legislation in direct contravention of that communiqué.

To reinforce the point, recall that G20 leaders became notorious by their failure to take concrete steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, despite promising to do so by signing the highly touted Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

This record of failure is what informed my cynical belief that the communiqué coming out of this week’s summit would be full of “pious words and general principles” signifying nothing.


You might think my cynicism is unwarranted. If so, I urge you take note of this summit’s communiqué, and you will see in due course that it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

Nothing presages this quite like the shots summit host, Chancellor Angela Merkel, took at Trump earlier this week. For starters, she threw shade at him for withdrawing from the Paris Accord on climate change, which Americans across the political, corporate, and social spectrum spent the past decade forging. Then she accused him of pursuing “protectionist” policies at the expense of the Western political and economic architecture America had the biggest hand in building.

Given all this, I’d be remiss not to give honorable mention to the itinerant, anti-globalization protesters – who always contribute to the futile spectacle these summits have become.

Related commentaries:
The week Trump kissed up
G20 London

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