UK & US sidelined at G20

Posted on: 09 September 2013 by Olderiswiser Editorial

'Small' Cameron belittled as G20 big beasts fail to agree Syria solution

G20 realpolitikNothing brings the UK's junior partner status in the 'special relationship' into sharper relief than a lost vote that goes against American interests. David Cameron has bathed in Barack Obama's limelight as the US president's preferred 'European ally' with numerous informal photo shoots and cosy get-togethers, but he was very much on the outside looking in at the G20 summit.  

Having talked tough on Syria for the past six months, Cameron fell to a 'humiliating defeat' as his coalition partners failed to back him in the Commons vote on whether the UK should intervene militarily in Syria.  

The news that the UK would not be able to commit to any military action prompted a swift and pronounced shift of attention from Washington. As leaders descended on St Petersburg for the G20 summit, the US was busy on a charm offensive of countries more amenable to shouldering the burden of intervention and possible regime change, while Russia engaged in some old school mischief making to thwart Obama's plans.

Russia president Vladimir Putin's aide Dmitry Peskov ramped up the pressure on Cameron in a briefing to journalists claiming the UK is "a small island no one pays any attention to" in a bid to split further the US / UK alliance.

Mr Putin cleverly altered the agenda of the talks to include a dinner discussion about Syria - effectively putting the issue centre stage and isolating Barrack Obama.  

David Cameron's failure to get a one-to-one session with Obama, is as much a result of Putin's manoeuvering than the Commons vote. The presumption that London and Washington could dictate an armed conflict against Syria has been expertly countered by the Russians - leaving Cameron wounded and Obama exposed. The icy handshake shared by the leaders of the two superpowers prior to the conference was far more revealing than the forced media smiles.

Retired US General Jack Keane has attempted to play down the US president's decision to meet Francios Hollande instead of Cameron, speaking on the BBC's Today programme: "We operate side by side with the UK and we know who our closest ally is. We certainly would much rather do this with the UK side by side, that's how the military feels, I really think the leaders of the country feel.

"I think, if I may use some rich language here, the humiliating defeat the Prime Minister suffered in Parliament, I can only surmise was stunning to the President and I think it impacted on him.

"I think that's one of the motivations that introduced what I call palpable fear and one of the reasons why he is seeking political cover himself."

G20 will go down as a bruising failure for both the UK and USA, with both having returned to domestic politics without the support required to act on Syria. Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, has shown himself to be a very skilled operator who expertly exploited the uncertainty of key states to belittle David Cameron and outfox Barack Obama with Kissinger-esque Realpoliitik.

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