Cars burned, protesters beat innocent passers-by and police, and riot gear paramilitary looking forces struggled to push back the angry crowds. In a scene reminiscent of the hopeless situation in Venezuela today, the most critical G20 meeting in years kicked off in Hamburg, Germany. This pandemonium occurred in one of the wealthiest countries on arguably the richest continent in the world (with its four G7 nations).
The protests became so out of control that reports claim Hamburg police had to call for backup from police forces all across Germany to deal with the sheer numbers of individual incidents occurring throughout the wealthy German port city. In the end, 200 police officers were injured, but the force of 15,000 strong police from across Germany managed to hold the streets and protect the elites meeting only a few blocks away at the summit.
The G20 meeting from this past weekend was only a microcosm of the many problems facing the world today. Yet of the critical issues which are most pressing, the only one the G20 even attempted to tackle was the North Korean nuclear standoff. Sadly, the G20 nations barely addressed the real problems facing the world. What should be more upsetting to you is that the countries at this meeting can hardly fix these problems, since they have created the majority of them.
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The G20 Agenda Addressed Some Issues But Could Not Solve Them
To be sure, the Group of 20 tried to come to the table with what they feel are the critical challenges facing the world today. Their extensive agenda included terrorism, global trade, financial regulation, migration, climate, and threat to world security North Korea. Yet even if the summit of powerful and wealthy countries paired with the up and coming BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) had seriously attempted to successfully address these issues, they would not have been able to effectively deal with them all.
Part of the reason for the global leaders’ inefficacy is that there are so many problems and squabbles between themselves. Russia is at odds with all of its European colleagues, the United States, and Canada over the invasion and annexation of parts of Ukraine and the resulting sanctions which those countries have leveled against Russia in a show of ineffective retaliation. China disagrees with the United States, Japan, and South Korea on the best way to stop North Korea’s inexorable drive towards nuclear conflict.
Tensions over how to resolve the six year long civil war in Syria and how to deal with the other pariah nuclear ambition state Iran also divide the West from Russia and China, who are avowed long time friends of Iran and Syria. If this is not enough, there is the increasing furor over Russian-backed schemes to not only interfere in U.S. and western elections (such as France’s) but also to exploit weaknesses in American power plants in an effort to bring down the United States’ electrical grid.
Amidst all the chaos outside the G20 summit and the simultaneous infighting inside of it, there were other concerns which kept the world leaders from effectively addressing issues. U.S. President Trump had been looking for China’s help in dealing with North Korea’s worrying advances in nuclear-capable missile technology.
Yet as the Chinese have not delivered the much-touted aid in resolving the problem, Trump’s administration has increasingly turned to verbal threats and economic reprisals to turn up the pressure on a still-unwilling China. The President and administration have lost patience as the North Koreans at long-last tested their first successful ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile exactly on the Fourth of July U.S. independence holiday.
It this is not enough to divide China and the U.S., the graphic above shows why Trump has major issues with the Chinese as “global trade manipulators.” Meanwhile President Xi Jinping of China struck out at America for pulling back from the continuous march towards globalization with the American withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords and the TPP Trans Pacific Partnership (of which China is not even a member).
Xi condemned “major” developed nations for raising geopolitical dangers with their efforts to undo globalization and go back to the old era of protectionism. He opined that China and other countries would fill the leadership void with his provocative:
“Major developed countries have significantly backtracked positions on trade, climate change, and other issues.” We must “speak in one voice to steer the world economy in the right direction.”
And while American President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were shaking hands and smiling for the cameras in advance of their key initial bilateral meeting on Friday, the two had all sorts of conflicts to discuss, including American Patriot missile sales to Poland and Russian hacking and espionage efforts surrounding elections and electrical grids. Trump struck a conciliatory tone before the meeting, with his statement:
“I look forward to all meetings today with world leaders, including my meeting with Vladimir Putin. Much to discuss.”
To complicate the important nations’ global gathering even more, U.S. President Trump’s embracing trade protectionism and his “America First” agenda has driven apart traditional G7 and G20 allies the United States and Germany. This has fostered an unnatural alliance between the world’s two largest exporters China and Germany on the issues of free trade and climate change action (from which the U.S. has withdrawn).
Despite this, the U.S. did agree on a statement by the end of the two day meeting in Hamburg to “fight protectionism including all unfair trade practices and recognize the role of legitimate trade defense instruments in this regard.” So much for progress on the biggest issues on the G20 summit agenda. At least the looming trade war does not look imminent at the moment.
The G20 Missed Some of the Most Urgent Problems Threatening the World Now
To be fair, summit host and de facto current leader of the free world Angela Merkel of Germany understood that there are ticking time bombs facing the globe today, as she stated at the outset of the meetings:
“We know that time is of the essence. Solutions often can only be found if we’re ready for compromise — but without, let me say it clearly, bending over backwards. We certainly shouldn’t shy away from spelling out differences.”
The problem is that while Angela Merkel comprehends that time is of the essence with regards to the world’s critical problems, she still misses the point of what the world’s most significant geopolitical and financial problems are today. Unfortunately, these are not most of the topics which they attempted to address (with the exception of North Korea, a very real and dangerous threat to the geopolitical safety and stability). The real issues threatening the globe (and especially the world economy) today are these:
- Banking crises are again brewing in numerous countries – most seriously in Italy and Spain, but also in Portugal, Germany, and other systemically important nations
- Sovereign national debts are so high that rising interest rates will wreck these countries’ national budgets and ultimately economies – The United States is the biggest offender in this category, though Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, China, France, and most other major advanced economies are in similar perilous and precarious positions
- The Loss of confidence in and credibility of the world’s major central banks – the European Central Bank and others have driven interest rates down into unnatural negative territory over the last few years (for the very first time in human history) as they hurl every weapon at their disposal at the problems of sluggish growth, deflation, and a non-existent recovery from the decade old global financial crisis
- North Korea is threatening and practicing for nuclear attacks on South Korea, Japan, and the U.S. – a slight miscalculation on the part of any of these countries means a potentially full-scale regional conventional and quite possibly nuclear conflict that would likely irreparably harm the global manufacturing and trading centers of Seoul and Tokyo
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The uncomfortable truth that most everyone seems to be avoiding is that the G20 appears to be incapable of picking out the real threats to the continued prosperity of the world. Thanks to their many differences of opinion and political infighting going on between a range of varying factions today within the Group of 20 nations, actually dealing with them is another problem altogether.
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