Syrian crisis brings Cold War thoughts in Big Mac times
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Syrian crisis brings Cold War thoughts in Big Mac times

N Madhavan, senior associate editor, is travelling with the prime minister to St Petersburg for the G20 Summit. Follow his posts to get behind the scenes of big power politics.

world Updated: Sep 04, 2013 23:53 IST
N Madhavan
N Madhavan
Hindustan Times

On board the flight to St Petersburg from Delhi, foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin kindles the imagination on the city by dropping the name of Dr Zhivago, the Oscar-winning classic made by David Lean set in the times of the Soviet Revolution that led to the city later being renamed Leningrad.

Rich in golden-domed churches and the serene Neva river, the city is back to its old name in 21st century Russia, and the story is now less about communism and more about an emerging market that has joined Brazil, India, China and South Africa to form the Brics, whose leaders will collude on the margins of the G20 summit of elite economy leaders to demand that reckless globalisation does not hurt their currencies and economies in an interconnected trading world.

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The city also reminds you of another David Lean classic this year: Lawrence of Arabia. After all, one of its haunting musical themes is "March to Damscus."

And the G20's hottest topic as President Obama gears to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is the situation in Damascus.

The powers are at odds on Washington's threatned military action against the Syrian regime led by President Assad, an old friend of Moscow.

A lot will depend on whether Obama gets Congressional approval in the US for the controversial action meant to crack down on the use of chemical weapons by Assad against rebel forces.

G20 summits are often seen more as a handshake-and-photo opportunity for the world's biggest leaders. But the Syrian developments, and the Brics concerns over currency collapses triggered by US Fed's withdrawal of an easy money policy, have made the event relatively more newsworthy.

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If we are on classic movies, may as well pause to think of "From Russia With Love" and James Bond.

But this year, the spy story is not about a British MI5 agent but US whistleblower Ed Snowden, who worked for America's security establishment and created a flutter by seeking asylum in Russia and tensing up Washington-Moscow relations.

The intended defection of sorts and the Syrian crisis, have both brought back memories of the Cold War with communist Russia and capitalist US faced off in frequent tensions.

But there are enough signs in St Petersburg to tell you that the times have changed. The pleasant drive to the city from the airport through a long boulevard has enough advertisement signs of brands such as McDonald's, Pepsi, Porsche and Costa Coffee to tell you that the world has moved on.

First Published: Sep 04, 2013 22:31 IST