Russia’s isolation at G20 summit on Ukraine puts China and India in the spotlight


Bali, Indonesia

Russia’s international isolation deepened on Wednesday as world leaders sought unanimous support to condemn its war in Ukraine that has killed thousands and rocked the global economy.

At the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, the focus shifted to China and India as Western countries pushed for a strong denunciation of the war in a closing statement due to be released shortly. just hours after Poland said a « Russian-made missile » had landed in a village near its border with Ukraine, killing two people.

We still don’t know who fired that missile. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces used Russian-made munitions during the conflict, with Ukraine deploying Russian-made missiles as part of its air defense system. But whatever the outcome of the investigation into the deadly strike, the incident has underscored the dangers of miscalculation in a brutal war that has been going on for nearly nine months and is in danger of escalating further and train great powers.

Waking to the news, US President Biden and G7 and NATO leaders called an emergency meeting in Bali to discuss the blast. The incident is now upping the ante in an effort by the United States and its allies to end the G20 summit with a joint statement denouncing Russia’s war.

Passing the statement would require buy-in from leaders who share close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and who have so far seemed reluctant to outwardly criticize his invasion — notably Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has declared a friendship. » without limits ». between their countries weeks before the invasion, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With the summit due to end on Wednesday afternoon, all eyes are on what the final declaration will look like and which countries will sign it.

While India appears to have distanced itself from Russia, it is less clear that there has been a change of position on the part of China. Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for a ceasefire and agreed to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in a series of bilateral meetings with Western leaders on the sidelines of the G20, but gave no public indication of any commitment to persuade his « close friend » Vladimir Putin to end the war.

What is certain is that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will not be there to see him – he left Bali on Tuesday evening, according to the Russian news agency TASS.

A draft declaration, which is still subject to modifications, “deplores in the strongest terms the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from Ukrainian territory”.

But it also recognizes the divide between member states. « Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy, » he said. « There were other points of view and different assessments of the situation and the sanctions. »

It is obvious where the differing opinions and assessments come from. Since Russian tanks entered Ukraine in February, Beijing has refused to call the military aggression an « invasion » or a « war » and has amplified Russian propaganda blaming NATO and the United States for the conflict while denouncing the sanctions.

When discussing Ukraine with American, French and other leaders, Xi invariably stuck to terms such as « the Ukrainian crisis » or « the Ukrainian question » and avoided the word « war », according to Chinese readings.

In these meetings, Xi reiterated China’s call for a ceasefire through dialogue and, according to the readings of his interlocutors, agreed to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine – but these remarks are not included in China’s account of the talks.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later told Chinese state media that Xi had reiterated China’s position that « nuclear weapons cannot be used and nuclear war cannot be waged » during his his meeting with Biden.

In a meeting with his Russian counterpart Lavrov on Tuesday, Wang praised Russia for occupying the same position. « China has noticed that Russia has recently reaffirmed the established position that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought,’ which shows Russia’s rational and responsible attitude, » Wang said. quoted by the official Xinhua news agency.

Wang is one of the few – if not the only – foreign official to sit down for an official meeting with Lavrov, who faced isolation and condemnation at a summit where he replaced Putin.

On Tuesday, Lavrov attended the opening of the summit listening to world leaders condemn Russia’s brutal invasion. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is hosting the G20 summit, told world leaders « we must end the war ». « If the war does not end, it will be difficult for the world to move forward, » he said.

Xi, meanwhile, made no mention of Ukraine in his opening speech. Instead, the Chinese leader made a thinly veiled criticism of the United States – without mentioning it by name – for « drawing ideological lines » and « encouraging group politics and bloc confrontation ».

Compared to China’s ambiguous position, observers have noted a more obvious shift from India – and the greater role Delhi is willing to play in engaging all parties.

On Tuesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on leaders to « find a way to return to the path of ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine » in his opening speech for the summit.

The draft joint statement also includes a sentence: “The era of today must not be one of war. The language echoes what Modi told Putin in September, on the sidelines of a regional summit in Uzbekistan.

« If the Indian language has been used in the text, it means that Western leaders listen to India as a major player in the region, because India is a country close to both the West and the Russia, » said Happymon Jacob, an associate professor of diplomacy and disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

« And we see India delinking from Russia in many ways. »

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