Just when the G-20 ― which saved the world economy from depression in the wake of the financial crash a decade ago — was coming to be seen as ineffective and useless, it sprang back to relevance last weekend in Hamburg. Absent a crisis moment, it still faces the challenge of proactively advancing the global agenda. But it has proven now to be a bulwark against rolling back globalization and the fight against climate change.
As Fyodor Lukyanov writes from Moscow, this time around the United States and Russia have reversed roles in the 19+1 geometry, with Russia inside the consensus of the world’s major economies and America on the outside. “The biggest economy in this global club, which was created to counter protectionist instincts, now openly proclaims a protectionist course,” he says. “China and Germany, two major targets of U.S. mistrust, reiterated their support for an open global economy. Russia supported the rest of the 19, both in trade and on climate issues, while being unusually constructive vis-à-vis the global agenda.”
“Many Russian commentators,” Lukyanov goes on to report, “have argued that the Hamburg summit marked a watershed moment in global development, when previous divides lost their relevance. Instead of emerging (or re-emerging in the case of Russia) versus developed economies, we are witnessing a growing split between ‘globalists’ and ‘nationalists.’” Lukyanov senses a certain vindication in America’s isolation after decades of gloating at Russia’s humiliating defeat in the Cold War.
After surveying public opinion on the ground in Moscow, Anastasya Manuilova warns against making too much of the first in-person meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit. She found naïve hope, but also some skepticism, among ordinary Russians and concludes that one face-to-face encounter alone is unlikely to end the new “Cold War” many there see as having emerged between the two nations.
Whatever Russians might think about the Trump-Putin tête-à-tête, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, sees the declared outcome of “mov[ing] forward” and letting bygones be bygones as “a big mistake.”
“This prescription for improving our bilateral relations implies a false sense of shared ownership for past causes of conflict,” he writes. “That’s wrong. It has been Putin’s actions, not decisions taken by Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush, that have contributed directly to the most contentious issues in U.S.-Russia relations today, as well as the tensions between Russia and many of our allies.” He goes on to say that “pledg[ing] to forget about these problems created by Putin lets the Kremlin off the hook without generating any positive outcome for the United States in return. That’s a bad deal for the American people and our allies. In fact, it’s not a deal at all — it’s a perfect gift to Putin.”
Chandran Nair looks beyond the G-20 consensus about globalization and expresses deep doubts that the dominant Western ideas of the past few decades are much of a guide for the future. “Many of the economic development ideas the West believed to be long-held truths and major Western contributions to modernity no longer seem so accurate,” he writes from Hong Kong. In his essay, Nair challenges several myths about development — from the value of the free market and foreign investment to the definition of productivity and the management of large-scale urbanization and climate change.
This week, Donald Trump Jr. released emails that implicate him, Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers, and Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign manager, as potential players in the Kremlin’s alleged effort to influence last year’s U.S. presidential election. Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at the watchdog group Common Cause, writes that the emails are evidence that Trump Jr. broke campaign finance law, under which it is “just as illegal ... to solicit a political contribution from a foreign citizen as to accept one.” Ryan’s organization filed a complaint and urged the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and enforce the law.
Liu Xiaobo, China’s most prominent dissident, died on Thursday after nearly a decade of imprisonment by the Chinese government on sedition charges. As the late Chinese astrophysicist dissident Fang Lizhi wrote when Liu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, China’s oppression of Liu and many other activists is evidence that democracy is not inevitable with economic progress.
Other highlights from The WorldPost this week:
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