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Will Obama take a step forward at G20?

Updated: 2014-11-15 08:48
By OP Rana (China Daily)

In the Asia-Pacific region, his "pivot to Asia" strategy, many believe, has created more problems and solved none. But at least, the Xi-Abe handshake and the China-US pacts, especially on military, signed at the APEC conference will help defuse the situation in the region.

But no such breakthroughs seem forthcoming in the Ukraine crisis. Agreed, Russia led by strongman Vladimir Putin had a role to play in whatever has happened, and whatever will happen, in Ukraine, but the Ukraine crisis is not of his making alone. NATO's, rather the US', rapacity to expand its frontiers eastward is to be blamed for that. How could Obama even think Putin would sit back in amusement while Ukraine danced its way into the Western bloc cutting off access to its Black Sea fleet?

Whoever tied the knot on the bell is the one to untie it, goes a Chinese saying. Obama and Putin have been playing a hide-and-seek at international gatherings ever since the Ukraine crisis broke out. They did speak during the APEC conference, but nothing of substance was exchanged. On the sidelines of D-Day commemorations in Normandy in July, the two avoided each other. At a formal meeting during a summit in Northern Ireland last year, Putin slumped in his chair as Obama tried to joke about the Russian leader's athletic ability.

By avoiding each other, the two leaders have been avoiding to resolve an issue that concerns the future of a nation and its people, the region and the world order. Putin could have punished the Kiev leadership for siding with the West by not agreeing to the gas deal with Ukraine and thus forcing millions of Ukrainians into greater misery in winter. But he didn't.

Can we now expect Obama to take a leaf out of Xi's book on diplomacy? Obama and Putin both know the Ukraine crisis cannot be resolved without a meeting between US and Russian leaders. But the onus is more on Obama to take the first step toward such a meeting, because he has to justify the premature awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to him. And perhaps he will not get a better occasion to do so than the G20 Summit in Brisbane on Nov 15 and 16.

The author is a senior editor with China Daily. oprana@hotmail.com

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