Boycott the G-20?: Obama would be unwise to skip the summit

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A suggestion is swirling around Washington and among certain commentators that President Barack Obama should skip the G-20 summit in Saint Petersburg and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin because of that country's failure to hand over American secrets leaker Edward J. Snowden.

This would be shortsighted to the point of foolish.

The G-20 meeting, set for Sept. 5-6, is normally attended by a raft of the world's top leaders, as Pittsburgh recalls from 2009. It should include opportunities for Mr. Obama to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The principal subject matter will again be how the world's largest economies recover from the global recession. Given the role of the United States in those comeback efforts, its interdependence with the rest of the world economy and America's own economic and financial problems, Mr. Obama needs to be there and, inasmuch as possible, to coordinate U.S. efforts with those of the other major economies.

As far as Russia and Mr. Putin are concerned, the plate is full of important issues of common interest. These include the fighting in Syria, the major unrest in Egypt, Russia's attitude toward the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Iran's nuclear program and new President Hassan Rouhani, North Korea's latest antics and prospects for mutual arms reduction, a matter of particular importance to Mr. Obama.

Even though it is sometimes tempting, the tactic of boycotting a major event in a country that is doing something unhelpful makes no sense in international relations. Mr. Obama needs to take his seat at the G-20 and talk to the Russian president.



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