November 20, 2015
Vladimir Putin should have left the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, in an upbeat mood. The Russian president clearly demonstrated that on the world stage he is neither isolated nor marginalized. His interactions with other key global leaders, both in the multilateral format of the summit as well as in numerous bilateral sidebars, showed, in the words of a headline in The Guardian, Putin’s dramatic transformation from “pariah” to “powerbroker” in the span of a single year.
It is telling that the most public rebukes delivered to Putin for the continuing crisis in Ukraine came from Canada’s newly elected prime minister Justin Trudeau. Other Western leaders indicate that they brought up the Ukrainian situation in their talks with the Russian president but the tone seemed to shift from last year’s unequivocal condemnation in Brisbane of Russian actions to one of “agreeing to disagree” on the situation today. Putin’s tete-à-tete with Angela Merkel, for instance, seems to have been focused more on technical aspects related to the full implementation of the EU-Ukraine association agreement and Russia’s likely trade response—as well as Russia’s apparent willingness to discuss restructuring Ukrainian debt—rather than on holding Russian feet to the fire on complete implementation of the Minsk Accords.