At the G20, The Associated Press and others took note of President Biden’s “hearty handshake” with Mohammed bin Salman after the lesser and more ambiguous fist bump of over a year ago, which at the time was supposed to represent some degree of greater distance between the US and the Saudi crown prince, who has long stood accused of ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
“Biden warmly greeted Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, after they appeared together along with several other leaders at the Group of 20 summit Saturday in New Delhi. The leaders had gathered to announce an ambitious plan to build a rail and shipping corridor linking India with the Middle East and Europe,” the AP wrote. Smiles and warmth all around, as India’s Modi also draped his hand over the pair…
But what the mainstream press has so far been largely silent about is the deeply awkward moment where Biden stumbled through the names of world leaders, and struggled to speak coherently while mumbling through some brief written remarks.
While it would perhaps be funny and ironic if done on purpose (to shame Riyadh at a moment of continued tensions with Washington over oil output), he specifically butchered the name of Mohammed bin Salman.
Watch as the US president—who is often dubbed in international press “the leader of the free world”—messes up not only the Saudi prince’s name but also mispronounces European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s name.
JOE BIDEN: “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salam, excuse me, Mohammed bin Salman … and since he’s not speaking today, I wanted to — well maybe he is speaking today. I had a note he wasn’t speaking. Any rate, I’m gonna stop there.”
We Pity You America. pic.twitter.com/rkeHgoRymi
— The Jaipur Dialogues (@JaipurDialogues) September 9, 2023
One might say MbS certainly deserves it, but again it didn’t appear purposeful, and a flummoxed Biden soon after just seemed to give up in saying, “I wanted to… well maybe he is speaking today. I had a note he wasn’t speaking. Any rate, I’m gonna stop there.”
Never mind the 2024 presidential election which is just around the corner, but how will Biden get through this G20 summit weekend in New Delhi? Things are off to a rough start.
Another important development has been the G20’s inability to produce a statement condemning Russia and its invasion of Ukraine. This was somewhat expected, but Biden has so far failed to rally allies especially among BRICS and global south countries.
“Diplomats had been working furiously to draft a final joint statement in the lead-up to the summit but hit snags on language to describe the Ukraine war,” CNN observed Saturday. “The eventual compromise statement amounted to a coup for the summit’s host, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but still reflected a position far softer those the United States and its Western allies have adopted individually.”
The section of the G20 declaration where the US, UK and Europe hoped to include more teeth failed to so much as mention Russia at all. “All states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition,” it reads. And the declaration added more mutedly: “there were different views and assessments of the situation.”