Biden, Putin and Xi? Good participation in the G-20, but not enough
But the hard work in preparation for the November summit has only just begun.
Indonesia, hosting the G-20 presidency for the first time this year, will no doubt have hoped for a status-enhancing mandate. It couldn’t have turned out more differently. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to threaten Europe and jeopardize the world’s food supply, and Moscow continues to actively sow divisions among emerging countries. Then there are the growing tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan and many other things. The world is on edge.
For now, the global plan — and Indonesia’s — seems to be to keep the show on the road and the G-20 together. This is important, given the deep differences that have opened up between the mostly wealthy allied governments that support Ukraine and the Global South, and the few opportunities for engagement. There is symbolism in coming together, and Indonesia has already skirted the contentious issue of Putin’s attendance by inviting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who will likely join remotely, to attend. Two-way conversations, like the potential one-on-one between Xi and Biden, can have consequences.
Whatever happens, however, simply avoiding the worst is a worrying bar.
There is certainly no real prospect that the Russian war, the biggest issue eclipsing the global agenda, will be resolved in Bali, although a lot can happen by November. It is also true that the G-20 faces a crisis that threatens to permanently divide its membership between those aligned with international sanctions and efforts to isolate Russia over Ukraine, and the others. But all actors can do better.
Indonesia, for starters. Jokowi’s State of the Nation address this week described a country that has reached “the pinnacle of global leadership”, which can serve as a “bridge of peace” between Ukraine and Russia. He must follow through on these laudable diplomatic ambitions and make far more historic political and military ties with Russia and economic ties with Ukraine. Jokowi’s trip to Kyiv and Moscow earlier this summer was a milestone – he was the first Asian leader to visit both since the conflict began – but where did it lead? Indonesia is a major importer of grain and fuel. Putin, apparently, made broad promises regarding security guarantees for the supply of food and fertilizers. Why, then, after the June shuttle diplomacy, does Jakarta appear to have played no significant role in brokering a grain deal to facilitate Ukrainian exports?
The United States, for its part, can encourage Indonesia to follow through on its intentions and maintain common ground. Indonesia was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War. Today, that stance should involve speaking out against a war that violates Jakarta’s foreign policy and pointing out that Moscow talks about food security on the one hand and bombs grain silos on the other. It hit the port of Odessa a day after the grain deal was reached. To do otherwise is to support the Kremlin narrative.
To have the credibility to make these demands, Washington must develop a much more proactive and holistic policy toward Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and the emerging world in general. It is not enough to say, as Antony Blinken did last week in South Africa, that the choices will not be dictated, which means that countries will not be forced to choose sides between China and the States -United. An alternative and coherent vision is needed – and not simply in opposition to Beijing.
Finally, there are areas where all G-20 nations can and must make progress, including climate, which is on the global agenda in November as the UN conference convenes in Egypt. . Last year the G-20 failed. Drought is hurting industries and agriculture from Sichuan to Texas, and the global energy system is creaking. Talking about democracy is laudable, but there could be no better way to demonstrate the rich world’s commitment to the rest than by ultimately paying for everyone to fight and adapt to global warming.
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
• Can Jokowi’s shuttle diplomacy influence Russia? : Clara Ferreira Marques
• On the energy markets, Putin wins the war: Javier Blas
• To save the planet, poor countries must be paid: Mihir Sharma
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Clara Ferreira Marques is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and editorial board member covering foreign affairs and climate. Previously, she worked for Reuters in Hong Kong, Singapore, India, UK, Italy and Russia.
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