Saturday, December 01, 2018

The dance of diplomacy

I was struck by what a complicated dance must be going on at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, almost literally.
I guess that what happens at the beginning of a meeting like the G20 is a grand reception where the various leaders circulate around, schmoozing, giving each other manly pats on the back, that kind of thing. The universal greeting is of course the hand-shake, but there are many variations on it, and the press corps is well-versed in the potential implications of each. So, people's initial reaction to the current international bĂȘte noir, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, becomes a thing of major import.
Well, it comes as no surprise that Vladimir Putin (Public Enemy No. 2) barely suppressed a bear hug, offering MBS something awkwardly between a hand-shake and a high-five, and the two grinned at each other like naughty schoolboys, chatting amicably. India's Narendra Modi and China's Xi Jinping were also photographed being at least cordial with the Crown Prince (what an awkward phrase that is - is there any other kind of Prince?). France's Emmanuel Macron (never one to hide his light under a bushel) and the UK's Theresa May (who desperately needs some good publicity) were about the only two that appeared to take MBS to task over the Kashoggi affair and the war in Yemen, although he seemed unfazed by their attentions. President Trump, one of MBS's most vocal supporters, limited himself to a terse, ambiguous nod, reserving the right to side-meetings later during the weekend, well away from the bright lights and the (fake news) press.
Pretty much everyone else, I assume, managed to basically ignore the Crown Prince, either avoiding any eye contact, or being steered judiciously away by aides in order to avoid any potential diplomatic faux pas. I have this image of a kind of swirling dance, as friends and foes contrive to come together or move apart, as realpolitik dictates. The reality, I'm sure - I hope - is probably far removed from this little fantasy of mine.

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