This week in St. Petersburg, Russia, the leaders of the 20 largest economies (hence the name, G20) got together to drink vodka and chat macroeconomics. Not surprisingly, things got off topic though, considering the situation in Syria. President Barack Obama took the summit as a chance to pitch his plan to intervene against Bashar al-Assad's government after it allegedly used chemical weapons. Obama, who will make his case in a speech to the American people next Tuesday, tried to get a consensus among world leaders that military action was necessary, but the G20 summit ended without such an agreement.
According to the New York Times, a debate during Thursday night's dinner, ended in the early morning hours Friday and resulted in no clear plan. The heads of states sat down to a luxurious banquet at the Peterhof Palace. The palace is known as the Versailles of Russia, and elaborate fireworks, the decadent setting, and actors who were dressed in Marie Antoinette-inspired costumes made extravagance the unofficial theme of the night. Even so, it appears it was a working, if not productive, dinner.
President Obama is likely disappointed that he failed to get momentum on his Syria plan, but he's already argued that America has the moral authority to take action in Syria without approval from the entire international community, especially considering Russia and China are opposed. Obama had previously canceled a formal sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin after Russia granted asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden. But that didn't keep the two men from getting some face-to-face time on the sidelines on Thursday. Despite the smiles and polite words, no progress was made on Syria or Snowden. Putin said: "We understand each other. We listen to each other. We do not agree."