For any politically minded wonks, the G20 summit is among the most important conferences of the year. Why? Because the leaders of the 20 most powerful nations on the planet gather to discuss the latest and greatest of the global economic and financial agenda. The problem is that when leaders like Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin quite literally refuse to talk to each other, it's hard to see any world progress happening at all.
Particularly, economic talks this year have been out-shined by the U.S.'s upcoming decision regarding Syria. The extent of the discussion between Obama and Putin totaled 20 minutes on the sidelines of the conference, with still no agreement on how to approach the conflict. Although it seems Putin advocates for a constructive relationship, ties between the United States and Russia have not been this low since the end of the Cold War, particularly because of the bilateral summit the United States canceled over issues concerning Edward Snowden's asylum. While Obama waits for congressional support to use military force in Syria, Russia remains hesitant as it is President Bashar Al-Assad's most powerful protector.
Other world leaders like those in China had their own say on the Syrian crisis at the G20. China's Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao noted that a strike would cause the price of oil to skyrocket, so for the sake of global economic welfare, he encouraged a diplomatic solution to the Assad chemical weapons attack. Progress didn't improve even within the UN as U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said there was "no viable path forward" for support in the UN Security Council, where both Russia and China have veto power over military action. Without UN support, Russia has warned the United States against this form of "aggression," and will not ally itself with the U.S. should it move forward without international backing.
Nonetheless, although talks with Russia have stalled, Obama is expected to meet with representatives from France, China, and Japan to gain individual support. The U.S. moved a step closer on Wednesday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 in favor of giving Obama the authority to launch an attack, making it the first time since 2002 that Congress has authorized military intervention.
Overall, the G20's Syria discussion takeover has simply led to higher tensions fueled by uncertain political action by each of the 20 nations present. One of the only sure positions is that of Syria, who's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad defiantly stated Wednesday, would not change its position "even if there is World War III."