G-20 summits are important for two reasons, the current topics on the agenda and the leaders who will attend.
The current upcoming one, scheduled for St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday and Friday is important for both reasons. President Barack Obama has devalued it to a degree by declining to take the opportunity of being in Russia to meet also bilaterally with President Vladimir V. Putin. His administration claims that it decided against the meeting with Mr. Putin because it didn't see anything particularly useful coming out of it, but it is clear that the real reason is pique on the U.S. president's part that Russia has given at least temporary refuge to American leaker Edward J. Snowden.
The main focus of a G-20 summit is supposed to be global economic and financial affairs. There are plenty of those to fill the agenda of the St. Petersburg session. Virtually all of the world is still struggling to pull itself out of the recession that America basically started with Wall Street and its banks fooling around with subprime mortgages, hedge funds based on them and other financial fun and games. U.S. unemployment remains high and job creation low. Wages for 80 percent of Americans have remained flat for a decade. The inequality inherent in the American economy remains unaddressed by its government.
Europe has comparable problems and a number of sick puppy countries including Greece, Greek Cyprus, Italy and Spain. The Indian currency, the rupee, is currently in free fall based on what analysts assess as basic weakness in its economy. Even China is slipping as the flag-bearer of sturdy economic growth. Other, Third World economies are suffering the predictable blowback of problems in the world's economic major leagues.
Instead of the world economy, G-20 attendees are predicted, at least by American media, to focus their attention on Syria, a Middle Eastern country, population 21 million, whose situation exercises little real impact on the global economy -- that is, unless the major countries let Syria's problems develop into a regional war in the Middle East. The concentration of the United States in St. Petersburg should be on not letting that occur, if the subject of Syria starts to dominate useful conversation on critical economic and financial issues.opinion_editorials