Russian presence at G-20 meeting reveals fragmented global community

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The Group of 20 meets annually to discuss pressing global issues. And this year, the stakes abound, from post-pandemic economic recovery and the new global health architecture, to the ongoing transitions to sustainable energy. But all the lofty aims of the event, which will see representatives from 19 countries and the European Union meet in Bali in November, are already overshadowed by its guest list.

One likely participant seems set to make this geopolitical party very uncomfortable: Vladimir Putin.

Following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine and numerous allegations of atrocities committed by Russian troops, the inclusion of the Russian president among the attendees angered the United States and Europe. Although President Biden and other Western leaders have called for Russia’s exclusion from the event, Russian officials have said he plans to attend. It is still unclear if his detractors could arrest him.

Some experts believe the biggest impact of the dispute is not on Russian power, but on the relevance and function of the G-20 itself. Writing for Nikkei Asia last week, IISS-Asia’s James Crabtree argued that the rally in Bali would reflect the new reality of a “dysfunctional world order in which the West is pitted against China and Russia, with other major global emerging markets stuck awkwardly in the middle.”

The first test of this division took place in Washington this week. World economic leaders are in town for major meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, with G-20 finance ministers meeting on Wednesday in the world grouping’s first ministerial meeting since the invasion. Moscow Finance Minister Anton Siluanov attended – albeit virtually – despite US sanctions.

The Russian official received an icy reception, deliberately coordinated between Western allies. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and other U.S. officials left the meeting when Siluanov began speaking. Ukrainian officials, who attended the meeting as guests because the country is not a member of the G-20, also walked out, as did officials from Canada and some European countries.

In confrontation with Russia, the United States and Europe relaunch the “containment” of the Cold War

But the walkout also showed that Russia still has friends at the G-20.. Beijing offered its support to Russia last month, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin suggesting the country was an “important member” of the G-20 and saying “no member has the right to withdraw another country as a member”. At least some of the finance ministers in Washington on Wednesday did not come out.

Many countries are trying to remain neutral. Diplomats from Indonesia, the host nation this year, offered non-committal responses to calls to withdraw Russia, suggesting it was not up to them but it was an “obligation of the G20 presidency to invite all members”. And few can argue with that.

Although Russia was dropped from the Group of Eight after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, this group of wealthy countries has always been an informal club, based more on a loosely shared worldview than firm criteria for entry. . In many ways, Russia’s expulsion made more sense than his inclusion in the group in 1997.

The G-20, on the other hand, simply represents 19 of the largest advanced and emerging countries in the world. economies and the European Union. There is no requirement to be a democracy or respect human rights – members China and Saudi Arabia would likely not meet any of the criteria if they did. There’s probably only one way for a member to be forcibly expelled: if all other G-20 members agree.

No country has ever been excluded from the G-20. Instead, they were made uncomfortable. In 2014, Putin walked out of the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, shortly after hours of bullying by Western leaders over his support for separatists in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Four years later, when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended a G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires less than two months after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul by Riyadh agents, he stood on the far right of the traditional “family photo” of world leaders during the opening ceremony. “We don’t want him here, because of the murder of the journalist, because of what the Saudis are doing in Yemen, because of all these deaths,” a protester in the Argentine capital told the Post.

Putin was one of the only world leaders to greet the Saudi prince, shaking his hand enthusiastically and laughing with him.

This kind of diplomatic discomfort is often temporary. Mohammed of Saudi Arabia was center stage at the 2019 G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, literally standing in the center of the “family photo” and shaking hands with President Trump. Saudi Arabia hosted the next G-20 meeting in 2020, although it was done virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The world moved quickly from the Crimea; Putin was a key participant in the 2015 meeting in Antalya, Turkey, largely because of Moscow’s potential role in the Syrian war unfolding next door. The Financial Times noted that a meeting with the Russian president “was one of the hottest tickets in town” and that Putin had “transformed from a scolded diplomatic pariah to a would-be problem-solver that the West cannot ignore”.

Russia is now under much more diplomatic pressure – more than any major nation has received in recent memory. He faced three votes of no confidence in the United Nations General Assembly. Countries around the world are donating arms to Ukraine, the country that Russia considers a dangerous geopolitical enemy. And it is subject to unprecedented economic sanctions from the United States and its allies, with countries accounting for more than half of the global economy.

But Russia is also a much more important country than the other pariahs. Before the 2022 coup, its economy was roughly twice the size of Saudi Arabia. It is a major military power, with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. It is the largest country in the world, with the largest natural gas reserves in the world and one of the largest oil reserves.

The G-20 was formed in 1999 to create a global response to various economic crises. It’s hard to see how a truly global response to issues like pandemics or climate change could ever include Russia. Some American experts have already say that the United States and its allies could form a distinct group of countries that could tackle big problems, at least temporarily, without Russia and its allies, including China.

It could undermine the G-20. But it’s probably already mined. Neither Putin nor China’s Xi Jinping attended last year’s event in Rome or the United Nations climate summit held immediately after, citing concerns about the spread of the pandemic. Last month, when asked about the possibility of Russia being expelled from the G-20, Moscow’s official response suggested a low opinion of the multilateral summit

“Nothing terrible will happen” if Putin does not attend, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Unfortunately for the G-20, he’s probably right.

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