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COLUMN - The top 10 grudges in the G-20

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 7 Mar 2013 10:04 PM
Author: Reuters
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(Ian Bremmer is a Reuters columnist but his opinions are his own.)

By Ian Bremmer

March 7 (Reuters) - The G-20 is no happy family. Comprised of 19 countries and the European Union, once the urgency of the financial crisis waned, so too did the level of collaboration among members. Unlike the cozier G-7, filled with like-minded nations, the G-20 is a better representation of the true global balance of power, and the tensions therein. So where are the deepest fault lines in the G-20?

Below is a ranking of the 10 worst bilateral relationships in the G20. Russia is in four of the worst, while China is in three (although Russia and China's relationship is fine). Several countries are also in two of the worst relationships: the United States (with the two belligerents mentioned above), Japan, the UK and the EU.

1. China-Japan China and Japan have a historically troubled relationship, which has reached its most contentious point in decades as their dispute over territorial claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands has escalated, leading to renewed geopolitical tensions and possible confrontation. When the world's second- and third-largest economies are butting heads, it carries huge global ramifications.

2. Russia-US The relationship between the United States and Russia is characterized by mistrust, and the two states consistently clash on foreign policy issues, including recently on international responses to Syria's civil war and a missile defense system in Europe, as well as on domestic issues, such as the U.S. Magnitsky Act and Russia's response to ban American adoptions of Russians.

3. Argentina-UK Argentina's government has recently been emphasizing its dispute of the UK's possession of the Falkland Islands (known in Argentina as the Malvinas) in order to increase nationalist sentiment, while the UK continues to assert its right to the territory. Tensions will continue as citizens of the Falkland Islands engage in an upcoming referendum on their sovereignty.

4. China-India India and China have long-standing territorial disputes, and each is wary of the other's rise in economic and strategic influence in the broader Asian region. The countries' sheer size and development trajectories could lead to conflict. For example, China and India constitute 37 percent of the global population but have just 10.8 percent of the world's fresh water. There are still no direct flights between Mumbai and Beijing or Shanghai.

5. China-US In addition to ongoing economic disputes, the new, more nationalistic Chinese leadership will face pressure to appear tougher toward the United States, while the American "pivot" to Asia fuels Chinese skepticism about U.S. intentions. Recent evidence of Chinese cyberattacks on American companies has only made relations icier.

6. EU-Russia In addition to ongoing tensions over foreign policy in Eastern Europe, which both the EU and Russia see as their legitimate sphere of influence, the two powers have clashed in recent years about the price and security of Russia's gas supply to the EU and about the EU's nonbinding resolutions condemning Russia's human rights policies.

7. Japan-South Korea Although Japan and South Korea are both strong U.S. allies, the two countries have longstanding historical grievances with each other, including an unresolved territorial dispute over the Liancourt Rocks, a small group of islets in the Sea of Japan.

8. Russia-Saudi Arabia These two states are at odds over how to handle Syria's ongoing civil war. In the coming months they may also clash over how to manage crude oil output and therefore prices, although they tend to manage their diplomatic exchanges with more tact than many other similarly difficult relationships.

10. EU-Turkey Although Turkey is formally continuing its accession process to the EU, there is a growing sense that the country is turning east for economic and political relationships, as many politicians in the EU remain opposed to Turkey's membership and Ankara is increasingly frustrated by what it perceives as the EU's double standards.

How were the rankings compiled? We surveyed the analysts here at political risk advisory firm Eurasia Group, basing assessments on two fundamental inputs: (1) the level of animosity and conflict, weighed against (2) the bilateral relationship's global importance. If the only variable were how sour the bilateral relationship is, you would see Argentina-UK feature even higher. On the other hand, if the relationship's global importance were the only consideration, US-China would take the top spot. As it stands, both factors are weighted.

(Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm. Bremmer created Wall Street's first global political risk index, and has authored several books, including the national bestseller, The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations?, which details the new global phenomenon of state capitalism and its geopolitical implications. He has a PhD in political science from Stanford University (1994), and was the youngest-ever national fellow at the Hoover Institution.) (Ian Bremmer)

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