Russian President Vladimir Putin got an earful from several western leaders about his Ukraine intervention at the G-20 Summit this weekend and, in a rather petulant move, decided to leave the confab early, skipping the official lunch scheduled for Sunday.
Last month, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to “shirtfront” Mr. Putin when he saw him. It made Abbott look a little ridiculous when a photo was snapped of he and Putin engrossed in what appeared to be friendly conversation. Abbott says he told Putin that Russia could not “recreate lost glories” of the Tsar or of the old Soviet Union. You can imagine how that went over with Putin.
British Prime Minister David Cameron was even more blunt:
During a tense 50 minute meeting Mr Cameron warned that Russia is risking its relations with the West and must end its support for Russian separatists.
Mr Putin denied that Russian troops have entered Ukraine and claimed that he is prepared to accept a ceasefire and stop the flow of Russian weapons across the border. He also said that he is prepared to recognise Ukraine as a “single political space”.
Mr Cameron is said to be “realistic” about Mr Putin’s comments after he previously broke pledges to end Russian action in Ukraine.
The meeting at the G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, follows a tense build up in which Mr Cameron compared Russia to Nazi Germany.
Tensions escalated further when Russia stationed a fleet of warships off the coast of Australia in an apparent show of strength ahead of the summit.
In interviews hours before the meeting, Mr Cameron suggested that he cannot trust Mr Putin and described Russia’s decision to send a fleet of warships to Australia as “international machismo”.
Asked if he trusts Mr Putin, the Prime Minister told ITV News: “I take people as I find them. The sad thing is that to date undertakings given in the Minsk agreement have not been followed but the right thing to do is to continue to engage.
“So far we haven’t seen his actions follow up the statements that he’s given on previous occasions.
“The point is and the reason for meeting is that this issue matters and it’s very important Russia understands what’s at stake and gets a very clear message.
“There’s a real choice here, there’s a different and better way for Russia to behave that could lead to an easing of relations, but at the moment he’s not taking that path.”
What is it with these western leaders who think they can appeal to Putin’s better nature and get him to behave himself? Obama and Kerry are hopeless in this regard, but Cameron isn’t far behind in the wishful thinking brigade. The former KGB agent is wholly uninterested in anything the west has to say about his Ukraine policies and, given the provocative — dare I say “warlike” — military moves off the coast of Australia and over the skies of Europe, it would appear that Mr. Putin doesn’t care how Russia is perceived in the world.
The west is supposed to be considering further sanctions against Russia, but it doesn’t appear likely that they will be able to come to an agreement on how to punish Putin. Considering how ineffective previous sanctions have been, it’s probably just as well.