G20 does not include Russia? After a romp by several Western countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Indonesia is developing a strategy for the November summit.
In the wake of rising calls for Russia to be barred from the G20’s November summit in Bali, Indonesia is “consulting” with other members of the group.
Some members of the group of 19 intergovernmental countries and the EU have threatened to boycott the event if Russian President Vladimir Putin and delegates from Moscow are allowed to attend, prompting Indonesian President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi and who holds this annual presidency, years, in a potentially difficult position.
“Unfortunately, that is the fate of President Jokowi,” Kosman Samosir, a senior lecturer in international law and vice dean of the law school at the Catholic University of Santo Thomas in Medan, Indonesia, told the reporters. “Of course, that has to happen now, when Indonesia is sitting in the chair, and facing the prospect of being expelled from Russia or risking a member boycott and the whole forum failing.”
The stakes could not be more significant, according to Angelo Arbil Wijaya, the head of project management and research at Y20 Indonesia, the official youth engagement group for the G20 Leaders Summit.
“Indonesia has put a lot of effort into its G20 presidency and has been preparing for this presidency for years,” he told the reporters.
“Indonesia is hoping for a successful presidency. The G20 should have at least 20 members to be successful. Of course, we want to see the G20 Indonesia succeed, not the G19 or other G combinations with fewer than 20 members.”
The group of 20 nations includes not only the established economies of the United Kingdom, United States, and Japan, which have sought to impose strong sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, but also countries like China, which have adopted a more ambiguous stance.
“It looks an unavoidable reality that Putin’s attendance at the G20 will result in a boycott by several countries.” “It’s difficult to see any level of diplomacy reversing this, short of a major transformation in the situation in Ukraine and Russia,” Ian Wilson, a professor of political and security studies at Murdoch University in Perth, told the reporters.
When representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada stormed out of a closed-door meeting of the G20 finance ministers in Washington this week as the Russian delegates began to speak, it offered some hint of what might happen next.
The meeting’s chair, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said the exit was “not a total surprise” and that it had not stopped the debate from continuing.
The boycott was not joined by China, which has not denounced the Russian incursion despite good relations with Ukraine and is a leading member of the G20 as the world’s second-largest economy. President Xi Jinping, who has forged close ties with Putin, denounced the sanctions imposed on Russia again on Thursday.
“The G20’s primary goal, and the reason for its formation, was to discuss economics and business.” “If you want to talk about war and national security, you should go to the United Nations,” law instructor Samosir remarked.
Spirit of ‘independence’
Indonesia was a founding member along with countries such as India and Egypt of the (NAM) Non-Aligned Movement of 1961 – a forum of 120 countries unofficially affiliated with or against any major power bloc during the Cold War.
The spirit of NAM continues to influence Indonesia’s foreign policy, maintaining what it calls a “bebasaktif” approach to international affairs – an “independent” stance and a role active in global governance.
Jakarta has stated that it will continue to invite all 20 members’ leaders to the summit.
Former Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told Australia’s The Age newspaper on Thursday that Indonesia should invite Ukraine to the summit not only to appease those who have threatened to boycott it but also to take advantage of a “precious opportunity” to end the conflict and deal with its economic consequences.
On this subject, the Indonesian government has stated that it will continue to discuss with G20 members and other stakeholders.
Retno Marsudi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is now working on a report for President Widodo with recommendations on how to proceed.
Indonesia was sluggish to address the violence in Ukraine at first openly but was one of 141 countries to support a UN resolution denouncing the invasion last month.
However, Indonesia’s cautious attitude toward Russia is part of a larger political picture that reflects both Jakarta’s relationship with Moscow and the role it sees for itself in the area.
“Indonesia has decided to buy advanced fighter jets from Russia, including the Sukhoi SU27 and SU30, and is in talks to buy the SU35 fighters before the plan is scrapped due to concerns about US sanctions “, said Yohanes Sulaiman, senior lecturer in international relations at Jenderal University, Achmad Yani of Bandung, told the reporters.
“Indonesia needs Russia as an alternative weapons supplier, so it won’t be completely dependent on the US.”
Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s largest economy, and Mr. Sulaiman added that in terms of the geopolitical context, the country is also concerned about the growing presence of China or the United States in a region it considers a backyard.
“Indonesia sees itself as a natural leader in Southeast Asia because of its sheer size.” “Indonesia distrusts both China and the United States because the two countries have a long history of meddling in Indonesian internal matters,” he said.
“Indonesia does not want a Russia that is fully isolated and too close to China.”
Taking lessons from the past
This is not the first time tensions have flared between Russia and other members of the G20.
Putin departed the G20 meeting in Brisbane two days early in November 2014, while Australia held the presidency after being chastised by members of the forum for his support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
He was also chastised for the deaths of 298 people on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down by a Russian-made missile in the sky above a pro-Russian separatist-controlled region of eastern Ukraine in July 2014. Moscow has denied having anything to do with the plane’s downing.
Putin said that he needed to catch up on sleep during his walkout and blamed Western countries for “switching off their minds” by imposing economic sanctions on Russia.
The invasion in February prompted even heavier sanctions.
“The present confrontation between Russia and Ukraine has had a stronger impact, and there is a greater risk of a lengthy crisis,” Dandy Rafitrandi, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies department of economics, told the reporters.
He followed by saying that Indonesia should not only learn from the 2014 disaster but also emphasize the forum’s relevance to all stakeholders to avert a boycott.
“The narrative could be that if G20 agendas such as Special Drawing Rights, the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, and plans to establish a Global Health Fund are hampered, the interests of middle and lower-income countries, which are still in the process of economic recovery, could become very costly.” “Developed countries, as resource owners, must undoubtedly contribute a lot to these concerns,” he said.
Aside from the boycott pressure, the region also deals with domestic issues, such as Myanmar’s protracted conflict. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Indonesia, has thus far been unsuccessful in reaching out to the military government.
Some may wonder if a softball approach to Russia is the right policy in light of the setback.
“The desire to retain diplomatic connections with a country currently involved in a terrible war of invasion against a sovereign state, a war virtually unanimously condemned,” Wilson stated.
“The issue and risk of an inclusive approach to diplomacy are that it can legitimize the worst of behavior while undermining international efforts, as ASEAN’s inability to adequately rebuke Myanmar’s post-coup rule demonstrates.”
Edited by Prakriti Arora