Tomorrow, Barack Obama takes part in his first international conference as president, the G20 summit, a big step for him as a new player on the world stage. Sitting across from him at what we imagine will be one long table are his new peers, the leaders of the world's top economic powerhouses — each of them with their own priorities, motivations, and histories. In other words, Obama will have to approach each personality with the utmost delicacy. Here are the most important ones.
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Gordon Brown: The two are on the same page about the need for other countries to pass stimulus packages, but Obama has other problems with the British prime minister. After returning a bust of Winston Churchill that sat in the Oval Office since 9/11 and gifting Brown a set of unusable DVDs, Obama has to prove that the "special relationship" the two countries have had for generations is still strong. Unfortunately, he started off inauspiciously this morning by refusing to wish the English soccer team good luck in their match against Ukraine, an act normally punishable by hanging.
Nicolas Sarkozy: The French president is less concerned about stimulus spending and more adamant about international financial regulation in fact, annoyingly so. A couple of days before the start of the summit, Sarkozy warned that if the G20 nations didn't agree to his demands, "there'll be an empty chair — I'll get up and leave." Which would not be helpful, but also not at all out of character either. Obama should have extra lollies on hand in case Sarkozy gets hissy.
Angela Merkel: The German chancellor has made it clear that she won't abandon strict fiscal responsibility in order to pump money into the economy, something Obama has shown more willingness to do. At the same time, she also expressed certainty that the two nations will cooperate despite their differences, just as long as Obama KEEPS HIS DAMN HANDS TO HIMSELF.
Hu Jintao: China basically owns our country right now, so Obama must do everything he can to placate it in every way. Then again, China has been floating the idea of replacing the dollar as the global reserve currency, something Obama simply can't accede to. So he's making up for it in other ways, like accepting an invitation to visit Beijing by the end of the year, even though he's reeeally kind of busy, but, no it's fine, he'll shift a few things around no, no, it's fine, he'd love to.
Dmitri Medvedev: Obama has already met with the Russian president to discuss a new nuclear-arms-reduction treaty and non-proliferation efforts concerning Iran and North Korea. Of course, Obama's hand has been weakened in the wake of the embarrassing "reset"-button fiasco, which diminished our credibility for years to come. On a hopeful note, the two agreed to set aside "Cold War mentalities" but immediately narrowed their eyes and looked at each other with heightened suspicion.