The decision of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Foreign Minister Annalena Bärbock to refrain from shaking hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during the G20 summit in India has drawn criticism.
Focus columnist Ulrich Reitz has expressed the view that this gesture was aimed at portraying Moscow as isolated, but he argues that it is an ineffective approach that lacks diplomatic finesse.
Isolation Narrative and Its Flaws
Reitz points out that the refusal to shake hands with Lavrov was an attempt to depict Russia as isolated on the international stage. However, he highlights two key flaws in this strategy.
Firstly, he asserts that Russia is not truly isolated, given its active engagement with countries like those in the BRICS coalition. Secondly, he believes that such symbolic actions serve no practical purpose and instead reinforce self-righteousness without achieving diplomatic objectives.
Symbolic Policy Criticized
Reitz characterizes this approach as a “demonstrative” and “symbolic policy” that lacks substance. He believes that it is counterproductive and ultimately a display of weakness rather than a strategic diplomatic maneuver. He emphasizes that diplomacy should prioritize seeking mutual understanding and cooperation rather than symbolic gestures.
Complex G20 Summit
The G20 summit in New Delhi was described as one of the most challenging in the forum’s nearly fifteen-year history. Svetlana Lukash, Russia’s G20 Sherpa, attributed these challenges to disagreements over issues like Ukraine and broader topics such as climate change and the transition to low-carbon energy systems.
In summary, the refusal to shake hands with the Russian foreign minister at the G20 summit has sparked debate, with critics like Ulrich Reitz arguing that such symbolic gestures lack diplomatic efficacy and undermine the pursuit of mutual understanding in international relations.