The Russian president will not attend the conference, but he will be the subject of much discussion. What else you need to know about the G20 meeting in Bali.
The context of this G20 summit could hardly be more inappropriate. A 5-star luxury hotel with a 60-meter long outdoor pool that stretches onto a dreamy white beach with turquoise waters lined with sprawling palm trees. This secluded holiday idyll really has absolutely nothing to do with the state of the world, which the most powerful heads of state and government will face in the next few days on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali.
Russia has been at war with Ukraine for almost nine months. China has threatened to invade Taiwan. Energy shortages and inflation are rocking the global economy. The hunger crisis in Africa and Asia is looming large. Even the threat of nuclear war is real again. And the G20, the group of states established to deal with global crises, is more fractured than at any time in its 23 years of existence. The summit in Bali will now show whether he can still achieve anything. But someone who isn’t there will cast a long shadow from Moscow to Indonesia: Vladimir Putin.
Invitation to Ukraine as a compromise
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine calls into question the whole point of this year’s Group of States summit. Westerners have ostracized Russia since President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of the neighboring country. However, Russia has allies in the G20 of leading economic powers, above all China. But India and South Africa did not condemn Russia’s war of aggression even in the UN General Assembly.
Excluding Russia from the group as a punitive measure was therefore out of the question. Nor are there boycotts by EU and NATO countries. The West wants to show that it is not backing down from a verbal confrontation with Russia. The motto is to not allow Russia to destroy the G20 as an important forum for global issues and problems.
Canceled at short notice by Putin after a series of defeats
As a compromise, the G20 chairman, Indonesian President Joko Widodo also invited Ukraine as a guest country. President Volodymyr Zelensky connected via video. Whether Putin is coming or not has been the hotly debated question for months leading up to the summit. The Russian president answered them just a few days ago – no. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the decision was related to the president’s “schedule.”
It is certain that the timing of Putin’s meeting with his Western adversaries will be extremely unfavorable for him. After the military defeat in Ukraine and the recapture of the southern Ukrainian city of Cherson, Putin probably didn’t want to show any weakness in Bali. The 70-year-old won’t win anything there – and so is sending Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. He had already caused a scandal in July by leaving the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting early.
And it will still be the main topic in many conversations. It is not just about the war in Ukraine, but its impact on the global economy and international security.
The summit of the two most powerful men in the world
The first heads of state and government, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz, will arrive on Monday. Perhaps the most important event happens before the summit begins: On Monday, US President Joe Biden will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since taking office. “We just have to figure out where the red lines are,” Biden said Sunday in Phnom Penh. “I know him well. He knows me,” Biden said, referring to his previous meeting with Xi Jinping. And perhaps they will also talk about China-Russia relations.