Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Loch Erne Summit Whimpers To A Close

Credit: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/WSJ

This picture tells more than a full page news story about the failure of the Loch Erne summit.  This is part of the classic end-of-event photo op, with the proud sponsor between the two contending sides of a Big Issue.  In this case, that would be Syria. Of course the sponsor would have ideally brought them together with joined hands.  Minimally, all three gentlemen should be looking forward, beaming at the world press for the consumption of their respective national constituencies.  

President Obama's whistle stop campaign wave looks wan and tired.  Prime Minister Cameron is in an unbalanced stance, clearly leaning into his erstwhile ally President Obama, and away from the prickly and taciturn President Putin.  Cameron also appears to be leaning forward with a firm jaw, looking out into the group of photographers; he seems to be thinking, "Bloody hell, there isn't one of this lot of press who's going to give me any kudos for this summit!"

President Putin looks quite comfortable in the solitary position away from the group.  The fact that he refuses to face forward communicates his disdain for the world press, the needs of his host, and for President Obama. He seems to be thinking, "Doesn't this man understand how I can turn the screws in Syria?"  

No doubt, the effects of recession on energy demand, cheap natural gas prices and proliferation of alternative supplies have taken the edge off Russia's energy cudgel on Europe, for the time being.  This, however, is not the same as suggesting that President Putin will allow Russia to be pushed aside from the Middle East table.  It would be foolish to believe anything like this.  

The rhetoric surrounding the end of Loch Erne is disconcerting.  No fly zones are a possibility.  Russia says that it will carry on with its plans to supply anti-aircraft weapons to the Assad regime.  To confound things, Israel says that it will not allow the introduction of any new weapons systems into the Middle East.  Which is the idle threat?  

The whole issue of chemical weapons has also been muddied beyond recognition by President Putin who suggests that he has evidence of chemical weapons construction/deployment by Syrian rebels using Iraq as a staging ground.  A full study of the evidence is needed, according to President Putin. There's no time for this, and neither side wants it.  So, he has effectively called the allied bluff.  

The trite and meaningless discussions about corporate transparency and the need for investors to know who owns their companies show how ineffective the G-8 mechanism has become.  

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