Yes, Trump will continue his work of prodding global affairs in the right direction. But don’t expect this gathering of world leaders to produce any blockbuster agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs. Rarely do these high profile meetings wind up serving anything other than nothing-burgers with a side of not much.
This is especially true in the Trump era. So far, none of his “great power” meetings have produced anything great. And that’s not a problem for Trump.
If the G-20 did not exist, Trump would have invented it. He loves meeting heads of state. But for him, these meetings are mostly just “feeling out” sessions, only part of the negotiating process. This is not where the final hard bargaining happens or where the deal is finally done. The president seems indifferent over whether he delivers the big deliverable at the post-talk press conference.
So, what won’t happen in Osaka? Well, for one thing, there are no prospects of real advances in U.S.-Russian relations. Blame Putin for that; he is just not interested.
No matter what does or doesn’t happen in Osaka, most everyone agrees that the economic scrapping between the U.S. and China will be scrapping for a long time to come.
Indeed, Putin likes to pretend he is wearing the West down. And perhaps he is.
This week, Russia was readmitted to the Council of Europe. It had been barred from the assembly five years ago as punishment for annexing Crimea. Moscow still occupies Crimea, but the obsolete leaders of Europe voted to let Putin back in the club.
Truth is, right now he is just trying to wait Trump out as Moscow continues to try to splinter the Europeans.
What about the other big threat: China? Xi and Trump seem to be working toward a time-out in the trade war. Perhaps they’ll even decide to postpone additional tussling until after the 2020 election. Or maybe they will work toward some kind of interim deal. We’ll see.
But no matter what does or doesn’t happen in Osaka, most everyone agrees that the economic scrapping between the U.S. and China will be scrapping for a long time to come.
What is more important than what gets done, is what Trump is not doing. He is not dividing the world. In fact, he is doing more than any other leader to keep the dream of a globalized world alive.
Globalization for Trump isn’t the one-world government of Star Trek. It’s a much more realistic mission of allowing free peoples to freely move their goods, people and services around the world. The U.S. is a global power with global interests. We like a connected a world. For us, it’s a home game.
So at the G-20 what is important is to mark what Trump is not doing. He is not laying the groundwork for a so-called G-2, a grand bargain with China and Russia where we just make all the big decisions and divide the world between us. Nor is Trump’s plan to “decouple” the East from the West, reviving the Cold War and forcing everyone to pick sides. Trump isn’t interested in either extreme.
The G-20 is just another step in Trump’s long game to press Russia and China to stop their destabilizing behavior, play fair, and allow the world to go along and get along. It’s not flashy, but it is, in fact, a “very big” undertaking.
Trump is the world’s Luca Brasi. He is doing the world’s dirty work and getting no love for it. The leaders at the G-20 know what he is up to. Some are cheering him when no one is looking. Some are hoping someone else will be the next president. But they are all taking him seriously because he has a serious plan for a better world.