The Most Awkward G20 Summit Ever?
|Written by Dan Beeton|
|Thursday, 05 September 2013 11:36|
President Obama is in St. Petersburg, Russia to participate in the G20 Summit today and tomorrow, amidst a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and several G20 member nations. Looming over the summit are the Obama administration’s plans for a possible military attack on Syria, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that a U.S. military response without U.N. Security Council approval “can only be interpreted as an aggression" and UNASUR – which includes G20 members Argentina and Brazil, issued a statement that “condemns external interventions that are inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”
New revelations of NSA spying on other G20 member nation presidents – Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico – leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden and first reported in Brazil’s O Globo, have also created new frictions. Rousseff is reportedly considering canceling a state visit to Washington next month over the espionage and the Obama administration’s response to the revelations, and reportedly has canceled a scheduled trip to D.C. next week by an advance team that was to have done preparations for her visit. The Brazilian government has demanded an apology from the Obama administration. In an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, an anonymous senior Brazilian official underscored the gravity of the situation:
Other media reports suggest that Brazil may implement measures to channel its Internet communications through non-U.S. companies. But when asked in a press briefing aboard Air Force One this morning, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes did not suggest that such an apology would be forthcoming:
Such responses are not likely to go far toward patching things up with Brazil. It is conspicuously dishonest to suggest that the U.S. government “carr[ies] out intelligence like just about every other country around the world,” as no other country is known to have the capacity for the level of global spying that the NSA and other agencies conduct, and few countries are likely to have the intelligence budgets enjoyed by U.S. agencies – currently totaling some $75.6 billion, according to documents leaked by Snowden and reported by the Washington Post.
There are also signs that the Washington foreign policy establishment is troubled by the Obama administration’s dismissive attitude toward Brazil’s understandable outrage. On Tuesday, McClatchy cited Peter Hakim of the Inter-American Dialogue – essentially the voice of the Latin America policy establishment in Washington:
The ongoing revelations made by Snowden have affected U.S. relations with other countries as well. As the Pan-American Post points out, Peña Nieto may continue to reduce intelligence sharing with the U.S.; he also said yesterday that “he may discuss the issue with President Barack Obama at the summit.” U.S.-Russian relations, of course, have also recently become tense following Russia’s granting of temporary political asylum to Snowden.
The G20 Summit also comes just after the IMF, at the direction of the U.S. Treasury Department, changed its plan to support the Argentine government in its legal battle with “vulture funds” – meaning that U.S.-Argentine relations may also be relatively cool.