G20, APEC, ASEAN: World leaders conclude three summits in Asia — with Russia firmly on the sidelines

Bangkok, Thailand

Three important meetings of world leaders across Asia this past week have made one thing clear: Vladimir Putin is now off the world stage.

Putin, whose invasion of Ukraine in the past nine months has devastated Europe and damaged the world economy, refused to attend any political meetings – instead finding himself under heavy criticism as international opposition to his war strong.

The meeting of the leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) in Bali earlier this week ended with a statement that refers to the position of various countries expressed in other meetings, including in the UN resolution saying that “in the way strong” Russian attack against Ukraine, where they see different. thoughts.

And as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting comes to an end in Bangkok on Saturday, the leaders of its 21 economies are ready to make the same statement.

On Friday, the foreign ministers of the economies agreed for the first time after months of meetings and discussions in their own joint statement, which reiterated the wording of the language laid down in Bali earlier this week – but that -pave the way for APEC leaders to do the same. as their meeting ends on Saturday.

“The majority of the members condemned the war in Ukraine and emphasized that it is causing great human suffering and worsening the fragility of the world economy,” the document said, being adding that there are different “measures” and conditions within the group.

Discussions in the parties, the week has shown Putin – who is believed to have launched his campaign to restore Russia’s former glory – as an aloof, Russian leader down in Moscow and does not even want to face the party in base. global organization.

The fear of politics could be against him if he leaves the capital, the interest in personal security and the desire to avoid the drama of conflict in the meeting – especially as Russia faces heavy losses on the battlefield – is all that counts going into the Putin investigation. , according to Alexander Gabuev, associate director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In the meantime, he may not want to reflect on the fact that a few countries remain friends with Russia, for example India and China, whose leaders Putin met at a meeting in Uzbekistan in September.

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“He didn’t want to be the guy who got killed,” Gabuev said.

But even among the countries that did not take strong action against Russia, there are signs of lost patience, if not in Russia itself, than against the knocking effect of its opposition. Stress, food security issues and global inflation are currently crippling the global economy.

Indonesia, which backs the G20, has not publicly condemned Russia for the attack, but its President Joko Widodo told world leaders on Tuesday “we will stop the war.”

India, which has been a major buyer of Russian energy even as the West has avoided Russian oil in recent months, reiterated its call to “find a way to return to the ceasefire” at the G20. The meeting’s final statement included a sentence saying, “Today will not be a war” language that echoes what Modi told Putin in September, when they met on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Uzbekistan.

It is not clear if China, whose relationship with Russia is supported by the close relationship between the leader Xi Jinping and Putin, has come to any position. Beijing has long refused to condemn the attack, or even refer to it as such. Instead, Western sanctions have been criticized and the Kremlin’s rhetoric blaming the US and NATO for the conflict has been promoted, although this claim has appeared in state-controlled domestic media in recent months.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses G20 leaders via video link from his office in Kyiv.

In side meetings with Western leaders last week, Xi reiterated China’s call for a negotiated ceasefire, and, according to documents read by negotiators, agreed to counter use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine – but those words are not in China. account of words.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later told Chinese state media that Xi reiterated China’s position in his meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G20 that “nuclear weapons cannot be used and there is no nuclear war.”

But Chinese foreign policy watchers say its desire to maintain strong ties with Russia may not be compromised.

“Although these statements are indirect criticism of Vladimir Putin, I don’t think they are intended to alienate China from Russia,” said Brian Hart, a China Power Project fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Xi is speaking to an audience that wants to hear these things.”

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The Russian withdrawal, however, shows more clearly the background of Xi’s foreign trips to Bali and Bangkok this week.

Although the Biden administration has called Beijing – not Moscow – “a serious long-term challenge” to the global system, Western leaders have treated Xi as a valuable global partner, many of whom have met with the Chinese leader. for increased discussion. communication and cooperation.

Xi held talks with US Vice President Kamala Harris, who represents the US in APEC, at the ceremony on Saturday, according to Chinese state media and a White House official. Harris reiterated Biden’s message about the need to keep the lines of communication open, expressed during the G20 meeting with Xi, the official said.

In an impromptu call for peace delivered at a meeting of business leaders on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bangkok Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron drew a contrast between Russia’s behavior and the conflict with China.

Speaking about the US-China rivalry and the escalating tensions in Asian territorial waters, Macron said: “What makes this war different is that it is against international law. All countries … have stability because of international law,” before calling on Russia to come back “to the table” and “respect the international order.”

US Vice President Kamala Harris and US allies meet at APEC after North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Friday.

Discussions of that effect were heightened after a Russian missile strike in Poland, killing two people on Tuesday, during the G20 summit. As a NATO member, threats to Polish security can trigger a response from the entire sector.

The situation ended after an initial investigation suggested the missile came from the Ukrainian side and an accident during missile defense – but showed intelligence potential that could trigger a world war.

A day after the incident, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pointed to what he called a “cracked screen.”

“What we see is a very divided screen: as the world works to help the vulnerable, Russia targets them; as leaders around the world reiterate our commitment to the UN Charter and the constitution the world benefits all of our people. President Putin continues to try to undermine those same principles,” Blinken told reporters Thursday night in Bangkok.

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Coming into the week of international meetings, the US and its allies are ready to present the message to their international peers. But while a strong message has been sent, gathering consensus on the idea is not easy – and differences exist.

The G20 statement and ministerial statement from APEC acknowledges the division between the group of members who voted at the UN to support its resolution “regretting” Russia’s provocation, and said that while many members “condemn ” the war, “there are other opinions and different analysis of conditions and restrictions.”

Even making such a statement with caveats is a difficult process in both parties, according to officials. Indonesia’s Jokowi said the G20 leaders were up until “midnight” discussing the paragraph on Ukraine.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met at APEC on November 18, 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The countries in the group have different geo-strategic and economic relations with Russia, which affects their situation. But another concern some Asian countries may have is whether the process of criticizing Russia is part of what the Americans are doing to undermine Moscow, said former Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon.

“Different countries say that we do not want to be a player in this game to be used to weaken another power,” Suphamongkhon, a member of the advisory board of the RAND Corporation Center for Asia Pacific Policy (CAPP) said. Instead of condemning Russia for “violations of international law and possible war crimes” it would fall to the sidelines of the situation that “everybody rejects here,” he said.

Russia’s rejection of those lines could also send a message to China, which itself has violated international law challenging its territorial claims in the South China Sea and sworn allegiance to the democratically-ruled Taiwan. himself, which is uncontrolled. , by force if necessary.

Although this effort this week may raise pressure on Putin, the Russian leader has experience in such changes: before Putin was expelled for his annexation of Crimea in Ukraine in 2014, the Group of Seven (G7) bloc was Eighth group – and still is. let’s see if the international issue will have an impact.

But without Putin in the camp, leaders stressed this week, the suffering will continue — and there will be a vacuum in the international system.


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