Russia-West tensions soar as Putin ditches G20 summit

Vladimir Putin’s early exit from a G20 summit in Australia after an icy reception from world leaders may further stoke Russia-West tensions and lead to renewed fighting in Ukraine, analysts said. Putin, who prides himself on his stamina, cited the “need to sleep” and a long flight home as his reasons for leaving the summit before the final communique was issued. Ahead of the summit, President Barack Obama said Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was “a threat to the world” and called the shooting down of MH17 in July “appalling.” The United States, Australia and Japan issued a statement condemning Russia, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper reacted to an offer of a handshake from Putin by responding, “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: You need to get out of Ukraine.”

An outcast? Yes, the APEC in Beijing and the G20 in Brisbane confirmed that Putin had become a … dependent outcast – world politics does not know a combination that would be more explosive.

Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Brookings Institution

In recent years, Putin has stolen the limelight at international gatherings, setting himself up as an outsider at G8 gatherings as the Kremlin agenda grew increasingly at odds with Western interests. Observers also pointed to Putin’s charm offensive at the APEC summit in Beijing ahead of the G20 where he caused an uproar by wrapping China’s first lady Peng Liyuan in a shawl. While some chalked up the gesture to old-school gallantry, others said it was the latest sign that the Russian leader considered himself above normal conventions. Asked if he had felt pressured by his G20 colleagues, Putin told reporters: “I’m very happy with the result and with the atmosphere.”

On Monday I must go to work. I hope to have four or five hours to sleep. I told this to Tony and he was very understanding so I didn’t give it a second thought.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly before leaving Brisbane