Letter From the Editors: Sept. 5 - 11, 2016

Author: Matthew Larson

Continental Drift.

Do you ever get the feeling, to quote Kipling, that "we’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding"? Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that the seas of misunderstanding separating the "island nations" of the world have grown choppier of late and that those islands are drifting further apart - perhaps giving new, geopolitical meaning to the term "continental drift."

This week, the Group of 20 convened in China in what was essentially a forum for political grandstanding rather than a venue for hashing out global economic issues, according to Fyodor Lukyanov. More fascinating than the G-20 agenda itself were the bilateral and multilateral meetings on the summit sidelines that did and did not take place. Unlike the G-20 meeting two years ago, when Vladimir Putin was derided and publicly ostracized, the summit in Hangzhou featured Putin in a more positive role. The Russian president held talks with several world leaders, including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Theresa May. But the meetings were not without incident or frostiness. May either forgot about or blew off the traditional handshake and photo op prior to their meeting. Was this a misunderstanding, as the Russian side portrayed it, or a deliberate snub, as some British commentators suggest? And Putin’s conversation with Barack Obama conversation (candid, blunt and businesslike, according to Obama) also seemed to be misunderstood by the two sides. Putin left the meeting believing that the only thing left to do was resolve some technical issues with regard to Syria, while Obama said that there was still a "gap of trust" separating the US and Russia. That gap will likely widen further after Russia and China hold joint naval drills next week in some of the most hotly contested waters - the South China Sea.

Another gap - also formed by mistrust and misunderstanding - ...

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