Donald Trump faces awkward encounters at the G20, especially concerning Vladimir Putin and Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
Mr Trump has made it clear he prefers to meet alone with his counterparts. (Reuters: Kevin Lamarque)
Donald Trump — a great fan of the musical Evita — doesn’t really want to share the world stage with other national leaders over the next 48 hours at the G20 in Buenos Aires.
The US President has made it clear he prefers to meet alone with his counterparts, eschewing the idea of the multilateral organisation.
Initially the White House said he would be holding “one-on-ones” with just China, Russia, Japan and Germany as well as host Argentina. But they then added Turkey, South Korea and India to their list.
The first meeting to be cancelled was with Russian President Vladimir Putin, because, as Mr Trump tweeted, Mr Putin hadn’t returned the Ukrainian ships and sailors his country had seized earlier in the week.
Equally fascinating, Mr Trump also won’t be officially sitting down with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, despite declaring there was no hard evidence the Saudi leader was directly to blame for the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
So, it’s going to be awkward.
The three will be seated at the same G20 table and pose for the same “family” photo, raising the question of how they will interact if anyone strikes up conversation.
Donald Trump’s handshakes already make for famously uncomfortable moments.
The odd couple
Analysis by chief foreign correspondent Philip Williams
If ever there was a complicated relationship, the Presidents of Russia and the United States are the quintessential odd couple.
Their last meeting at the Helsinki Summit didn’t go so well for Mr Trump.
Even his most ardent supporters were shocked to hear him say he believed Mr Putin’s denials Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential elections, directly contradicting his own intelligence agencies.
Mr Trump was forced to make a humiliating backdown saying he “misspoke” and that of course he believed his own people.
There have long been conspiracy theories that Mr Putin has some incriminating evidence that could harm Mr Trump.
It’s why, some argue, the US leader seems so reluctant to criticise his Russian counterpart.
Many of Mr Trump’s critics say Mr Putin has played him from day one. That the former KGB chief has a strategic mind that outclasses a man with a very high regard for his own abilities.
Mr Trump’s advisers will probably be breathing a sigh of relief that the meeting between the two men won’t happen.
Saudi Arabia is another political fire that Mr Trump is watching rage on his home front. Congress is already moving to act against the American ally by reducing US military support for its war with Yemen.
“I’m pissed,” — American for angry — Republican senator Lindsey Graham declared, going on to state “the way the [Trump] administration has handled the Saudi Arabia event is not acceptable”.
So perhaps Mr Trump will feel on more stable ground when he has a Saturday dinner with China’s President Xi Jinping in the face of an escalating trade war that could provoke a worldwide recession.
The US President likes his chances of getting a deal because he’s negotiating from a position of strength, with his economic adviser Larry Kudlow telling reporters: “Most observers believe China to be in a slump, whereas the United States is in a very strong, solid position going into this summit.”
Talk about pressure on the “ultimate deal-maker”. There are no other meetings of US and Chinese officials organised.
A trade war is one thing, but the US President’s now-cancelled meeting with Mr Putin was meant to cool an actual war in eastern Ukraine.
Back on Saudi Arabia — it’s not just Trump — the reaction of other world leaders like Angela Merkel will be interesting too, given Germany has halted arms sales to the Middle East nation.
Not to mention Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has pursued the Saudis relentlessly. Mr Erdogan has made no secret of his desire to be the leading Sunni nation in the Middle East.
Meanwhile the Saudi Crown Prince is pursuing his foreign policy unabashed. It’s worth noting the G20 in 2020 is being hosted by Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh.