Chris O’Brien and Patrice Hill have an outstanding piece in our paper Friday on exactly what happened at the G-20 Thursday in London. They do a great job of cutting through the clutter that always surrounds large international summits to identify the substance. Kudos to them.
Here’s what stood out to me from the story:
“The Group of 20 nations announced a surprisingly large $1.1 trillion in funding to help the organizations combat a collapse in world trade and assist nations in crisis, although it failed to agree on additional stimulus measures, which had been a U.S. priority. The extra aid will come from Japan, the European Union, China and other cash-rich nations, which in turn will gain greater voting power in the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
” … The G-20 also agreed to abandon a decades-old tradition that governs how the heads of the international financial institutions are chosen. The IMF director will no longer automatically be a European, and the World Bank director will no longer necessarily be an American. The heads of the organizations will be chosen “based on merit,” the summit communique said.”
As far as I can tell, this story has not been getting enough attention out of the summit, and I suspect that the ramifications of these specific actions won’t be fully absorbed for a day or two.
Chris and Patrice also write that the G-20 “announced that $250 billion would be added to the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights — a kind of reserve currency — which IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said would boost liquidity for the global economy and allow member states to offer loans to those most in need.”
What does this mean? Well, for a very skeptical view of SDR, read this Wall Street Journal editorial from the other day.
Now, as for Friday, I am already in France. I wrote a piece in Friday’s paper about how Obama‘s trip here brings out an odd contrast between the adoration that the French people have for Obama and how he has been treated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
“Everybody loves him here,” said Dominique Goy-Blanquiet, a literature professor at the Universite de Picardie in Paris.
Ms. Goy-Blanquiet, by the way, was a wonderful interview. She teaches mostly Shakespeare, and we spent a 30-minute train ride discussing our favorite plays (the comedies for her, the tragedies for me), the state of reading and literature in today’s hi-tech modern world, and Sir Thomas More. What a joy that was.
You can read the rest of my piece on the Obama visit here.
As for the issues themselves facing Mr. Obama and the rest of the NATO countries, here’s a rundown.
Afghanistan obviously tops the list. It’s a bit unclear what Obama’s line is going to be here on this. He’s just committed 20,000 more troops to the conflict, and Europe has been famously stingy with more commitments. The U.S. now has almost twice the number of troops in Afghanistan, 57,000, than the rest of the world, 32,000, in what is supposed to be a coalition-wide effort.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized European governments this week for not making an effective case to their countries populaces about the need to continue the fight in Afghanistan.
“I have not seen the kind of effort that I would have hoped for in terms of European governments trying to persuade their people that attacks such as those that took place in Madrid and London … emanated from the Afghan-Pakistani border area,” Mr. Gates said in an interview with the Financial Times.
I wrote a piece earlier this week about the other issues at this summit, which marks NATO’s 60th anniversary and the reentry of France into the coalition’s defense structure, as well as the addition of its 27th and 28th members.
Further NATO expansion to include Georgia and Ukraine was a major issue of discussion last year in Bucharest. Not this year, as the Kremlin has successfully scuttled that effort. I get into that a bit in my piece as well.
And German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier advised circumspection and care on this issue in a Der Spiegel editorial this week. No kidding, when you’re considering Russia’s invasion of Georgia last summer and the Kremlin’s control of gas pipelines into Europe.