G20 Host Indonesia Tries to Keep Ukraine War from Dominating Summit

Joko Widodo (l), President of Indonesia, welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD, 2nd
Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images

President of Indonesia Joko Widodo demanded his audience “end the war” and “not divide the world into parts” during his speech to the G20 summit on Tuesday – refraining from naming Russia and Ukraine in particular and appearing to hedge against member states allowing the topic to dominate the conference.

The G20, which Indonesia is hosting in Bali this week, brings together the world’s 20 largest economies, the European Union represented as one of the 20 entities separate from G20 members France, Germany, and Italy. Many of the countries on the guest list are directly implicated in the eight-year-old Russian invasion of Ukraine – Russia and Ukrainian allies such as France, Germany, and America. Others have painstakingly avoided taking sides in defense of either Kyiv or Moscow, prominently including the host country as well as Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Turkey. China, a longtime Russian government ally, has also avoided wholeheartedly supporting the invasion as the Communist Party maintains major business investments in Ukraine.

Jokowi personally invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to address the forum despite Ukraine not being a G20 member nation and expressed hope that Russian leader Vladimir Putin would attend the event in person until the Kremlin confirmed last week that he would skip the event. Putin sent Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov to represent Russia in his stead.

Participating European states, along with America, are reportedly working on a joint G20 declaration condemning Russia’s invasion.

Joko Widodo, referred to commonly as “Jokowi,” expressed concerns prior to the summit that it would become a forum to litigate the Ukraine invasion rather than discussing infrastructure or economic development.

On Tuesday, Jokowi admonished fellow G20 members to be “responsible” to allow the rest of the world to enrich itself in peace.


15 November 2022, Indonesia, Nusa Dua: Wearing traditional shirts, Giovanni Infantino (l-r), Fifa president, an unidentified participant, Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, Rishi Sunak, prime minister of the United Kingdom, and another participant attend dinner on the sidelines of the G20 summit. The group of G20, the strongest industrialized nations and emerging economies, is meeting for two days on the Indonesian island of Bali. (Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“Being responsible means creating not zero-sum situations, being responsible here also means that we must end the war,” Jokowi said, according to the Jakarta Post. Jokowi did not name the war he proposed to end, though most reports are interpreting his statement as referring to Ukraine.

“We should not divide the world into parts. We must not let the world fall into another cold war,” the South China Morning Post quoted the president as saying. The Post also noted that Jokowi addressed concerns with food supplies and fertilizer, a problem the invasion of Ukraine has greatly exacerbated nationwide, threatening food supplies particularly in the Middle East and Africa.


Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman rides a buggy during the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali. (AFP)

“Don’t underestimate the problem of fertiliser,” Jokowi warned. “If we don’t immediately take steps to ensure sufficient availability of fertiliser at an affordable price, then 2023 will be a more dismal year. The current high food prices could worsen by becoming a food supply crisis. Fertiliser scarcity will cause crop failure in various parts of the world.”


Ukraine’s eastern city of Severodonetsk was a target for heavy shelling by Russian forces. (AFP)

“Success will only be achieved if all of us, without exception, are committed, work hard, put aside our differences to produce something concrete, something that is beneficial to the world,” the president insisted.

The Financial Times quoted Jokowi before the G20 began lamenting that the parties may wish to allow the Russian invasion to dominate the agenda, insisting Russia was welcome to the event as a G20 member and that development and trade were topics of more universal impact to the parties.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky participates in a flag-raising ceremony in the center of Kherson, a port city in Ukraine recently liberated from Russian occupying forces, on Monday. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/UPI)

“The G20 is not meant to be a political forum. It’s meant to be about economics and development,” he insisted.

In an analysis published on Monday, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace observed that Jokowi had invested heavily throughout the year in elevating Indonesia’s status as a top international player. The G20, the Carnegie Endowment’s Sana Jaffrey wrote, was “a chance to leverage Indonesia’s growing clout and seek international support for his ambitious development agenda that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.”


Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to skip this week’s G20 meeting in Bali. (AFP)

Jokowi made a personal attempt to end the Russian invasion in July, visiting both Zelensky in Kyiv and Putin in Moscow in succession.

“The Indonesian constitution mandates to contribute to the creation of world peace. It is in this context that I visited Kyiv and Moscow,” Jokowi explained during his visit to Ukraine, adding in talks with Putin later that concerns that the war would hurt food and fertilizer supplies was a global problem.

“Hundreds of millions of people have been affected by disruptions of the food and fertilizer supply chains — particularly in developing nations,” Jokowi said in Moscow.

The visit ultimately did not appear to make any substantive changes in the status of the war.

Jokowi inviting Zelensky to address the summit was another sign that, while complaining that the war would overshadow economic issues, the Indonesian president clearly sought to influence the outcome of that war. The South China Morning Post reported that G20 members watched a video message from Zelensky on Tuesday in which he urged them to help end “the Russian destructive war” in the short term.

Reports citing unnamed officials indicate that the G20 parties are discussing publishing a statement condemning Russia for invading Ukraine at the summit. The Ukrainian state news site Ukrinform, citing Bloomberg, claimed on Tuesday that some consensus had formed around issuing a statement, but diplomats were still fighting over the tone and content of the communique.

“To agree on the draft statement, negotiators had to devise language that walked the line between acknowledging Russia’s concerns and extracting concessions from it,” Ukrinform claimed. “One diplomat cautioned that things were not completely ironed on with the full draft still not circulating even as a verbal understanding was reached, and with leaders yet to approve the language.”

The Jakarta Post similarly reported the existence of a willingness to address the invasion.

“I think you’re going to see most members of the G20 make clear that they condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine,” an anonymous “senior US official” told the Post. “Russia’s war of aggression is being condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.



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