"There is room for convergence to push Russia towards de-escalation," said Emmanuel Macron at the end of the G20 summit in Bali. The French president's impressions were not at all misguided. The G20 had agreed the day before to issue a communiqué condemning "in the strongest terms" Russia's aggression in Ukraine and demanding the "complete and unconditional" withdrawal of Kremlin troops from Ukrainian territory. And so it happened.
The 16-page joint statement, signed by "the majority of G20 leaders" on Wednesday, noted the severe economic damage caused by the war, and described Russia's veiled threats to use nuclear weapons on Ukrainian soil as "unacceptable". "The current era must not be one of war," said the select club of the world's 20 most powerful economies in a text that marked the summit of heads of state and government in Indonesia.
The leaders dedicated some space to the state of the world economy, the usual topic of discussion that usually forms the backbone of the annual G20 meetings. The war in Ukraine exacerbated the emerging global energy and food crises, which in turn triggered record inflation in the United States and the eurozone. As a result, central banks implemented drastic interest rate hikes that have significantly increased the risk of falling into recession. As a result, leaders agreed to moderate these hikes.
But the debate revolved around the situation in Ukraine. The text accommodated the different assessments of member states, acknowledging the existence of "other views and different assessments" in the process. The Western partners managed to persuade the Global South countries that are members of the club, especially India, whose strategic weight served to tip the balance. In the end, the joint statement was "unanimous".
Despite the clarity of the G20 members, the text does not set out concrete measures to end the war. The intention of the Western allies was to amplify international isolation and tighten the diplomatic siege to which Russia has been subjected since 24 February. Only China defended its ally, albeit without the forcefulness shown on previous occasions. Beijing also prefers the war to end as soon as possible.
The issuing of a communiqué condemning Russia in condemnatory terms was hardly feasible before the summit, so it can be considered a symbolic victory for Western diplomacy to get countries that were initially far removed from the context of the invasion of Ukraine, such as Argentina, Brazil or Indonesia, the host of the summit, to sign the text.
"The discussion about it was very, very tough and in the end the G20 leaders agreed on the content of the declaration, which was the condemnation of the war in Ukraine because it has violated the borders and the integrity of the country," acknowledged Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who sought to focus the debate on the economy and leave the thornier issues behind for other multilateral meetings.
The G20 leaders went so far as to acknowledge in the communiqué that the forum does not seek to resolve "security issues", but concluded that such issues "can have significant consequences for the global economy".
Russia, for its part, maintained its defiant rhetoric and again justified its aggression over Ukraine. "Yes, there is a war in Ukraine, a hybrid war that the West has unleashed and has been preparing for years," said veteran Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov. The foreign minister, Moscow's top representative in place of the absent Vladimir Putin, walked out of the summit on Tuesday after accusing the organisers of "politicising" the summit.
The joint statement was issued a day after two Russian-made missiles fell on Polish territory. Two people were killed in the rural town of Przewodów, near the Ukrainian border. The event set off alarm bells in NATO offices and prompted an emergency meeting of G7 members in Bali. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday morning that the missile was Ukrainian but had been launched to intercept a Russian one.
The Norwegian diplomat ultimately blamed Russia. If it had not attacked Kiev and western Ukraine, this incident would not have taken place. "While all world leaders were working together to address the greatest challenges facing our peoples, Putin was launching indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Ukraine," Britain's new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said from Bali.