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The return of Russia

The Syria crisis has brought Russia back to global centrestage.

In hosting this month’s G-20 summit, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would not have imagined in his sweetest dreams that he would be able to recover for Moscow the “G-2” kind of status it had once enjoyed in a bygone bipolar world at this new global high table. After all the G-20’s pecking order is defined by a country’s economic status more than its political or military status. In the world of geo-economics, G-2 refers to the United States and China. So, quite understandably, Putin stuck to the knitting when he defined the goals for the St Petersburg summit in terms that could hardly have offered Russia the centrestage that it secured thanks to the geopolitics of Syria.

Putin’s goals for the G-20 summit, defined earlier this year, were: the reform of the international currency and financial system, strengthening international financial institutions and financial market regulation, completing the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations, taking forward the discussions on energy security and climate change, global trade and development assistance. Even after achieving all of these geo-economic goals, Russia would not recover its old geopolitical status of the Cold War era, given China’s economic weight.

Judged on the basis of Putin’s declared agenda for the summit, St Petersburg did not leave much of an imprint on the G-20. The summit made little progress on the reform and restructuring of the international currency and financial system, though it took note of the concerns among emerging economies about the monetary policy of developed countries. There was no palpable movement forward on issues pertaining to energy security and climate change, and none at all on the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Development Round, barring the fact that the G-20 did express a clear view on the future of multilateral trade talks. On development assistance, there was hardly a murmur.

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