WITH THE G20 SUMMIT scheduled to take place in Brisbane next month drawing closer, increased debate about whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin should attend (or is even welcome) seems to reveal Australian attitudes that are split on the question. I agree that Putin is unwelcome. But I also believe he should attend, and not simply on account of notions of “inclusion” or exposure to the leader of another major world economy.
Quite a brief post from me this morning; I’ve been a bit waylaid these past few days as readers will have noticed, but I think — given this particular issue has not merely resurfaced, but will probably persist over the next month — that we should give it some attention.
I have noticed in The Australian this morning that the paper’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan has published a terse, succinct and blunt piece arguing that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be “welcomed into Australia for any reason on any pretext” in the aftermath of the murderous crime that blew a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 out of the sky above Ukraine, killing dozens of Australians in the process.
Here in this column, we too have given this obscene atrocity a great deal of consideration. Those who wish to recap can access a selection of relevant articles via this link.
I have been consistent in my condemnation of Russia and of Vladimir Putin; his excuses and obfuscations and rationalisations do not justify Russia’s culpability — nor absolve it of responsibility — over the slaughter by separatist insurgents of hundreds of people, including Australians, using armaments made and supplied by Russia for the express purpose of killing civilians.
And I agree with Sheridan that Putin is not welcome in Australia.
Yet despite my past suggestions that Russia be completely excluded from the civilised system of world affairs, I think he should attend the G20 summit in Brisbane; far from a show of embracing Russia, or extending it an olive branch, I think the Russian President should be encouraged to come here to face off with the international partners so rightly enraged by his conduct.
Putting the heat on Putin over his (and his country’s) refusal to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions will be an apt activity in the middle of a notoriously uncomfortable Brisbane summer; and with a throng of world leaders in attendance — all bristling with outrage over the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines jet — there is one forum in which Putin should be made to feel obliged to show his face.
Simply stated, the Russian leader should be corralled into a room with his counterparts and told, in no uncertain terms, that unless his country publicly accepts the blame for what transpired in Ukrainian airspace and makes some genuine attempt to redress the terrible mistake it made, then “exclusion” is precisely what Russia can look forward to from a huge proportion of the international community.
Our own Prime Minister, Tony Abbott — who, with the forceful and eloquent Julie Bishop at his side, has led the international response to the MH17 incident — is more than suited to lead a terse international rebuke of the Russian leader, behind locked doors, and on his own turf to boot.
This is the conversation Putin has studiously avoided ever since the disaster occurred.
Yes, such a course of action is replete with risk: after all, Russia is brimming with nuclear weapons, and has made barely veiled threats to use them if confronted militarily; some will argue there is no point, literally, in “poking the bear.”
But the West has made the mistake of appeasing Putin too often and for too long as it is, with the end consequence to date of the mess in Ukraine and threats of military retaliation against any use of force there. The soft option has proven utterly useless. There is no point persisting with more of the same.
Administering a swift diplomatic boot up the backside might prove more productive, and whether it does or not, too many governments have spent too long tiptoeing around Putin trying not to offend him when they should have been more actively alert to what the forces associated with him were doing.
In the end, of course he should come here — and if the truth hurts, then so be it.
But after this exercise, he should then be sent packing; there is no need to offer Russia any input into decisions that will affect hundreds of millions of others when it shows no respect for the lives of ordinary people.
And if Putin doesn’t like that, then on the ride back to Brisbane Airport he can take his pick of the city’s Gateway Bridges, instruct his driver to stop at the top of it, and take the proverbial flying jump.