G20, APEC, ASEAN: World leaders conclude three summits in Asia — with Russia firmly on the sidelines
Putin, whose attack on Ukraine in the past nine months he has devastated European countries and upset the global economy, refused to attend any of the diplomatic gatherings – and instead found himself heavily censored as international opposition to his war seemed to tighten.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting in Bangkok closed Saturday with declaration which refers to the positions of nations expressed in other forums, including the UN resolution in which “in the strongest terms” condemns Russian aggression against Ukraine, while stating different positions.
It is a literal echo of the declaration from the Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ summit in Bali earlier this week.
“The majority of members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and emphasized that it provokes enormous human suffering and exacerbating existing instabilities in the global economy,” the document said, adding that there were different “assessments” of the situation within the group.
Summit discussions aside, the week also showed Putin – who is believed to have launched his invasion in an attempt to restore Russia’s supposed former glory – increasingly isolated, with the Russian leader stuck in Moscow and unwilling even to face colleagues in large global meetings.
Fear of potential political maneuvers against him if he leaves the capital, an obsession with personal security and a desire to avoid confrontational scenes at summits – especially as Russia faces heavy battlefield losses – were all calculations that went into Putin’s decision. , according to Alexander Gabujev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Meanwhile, he may not want to draw unwanted attention to a handful of nations that remain friendly to Russia, such as India and China, whose leaders Putin saw at a regional summit in Uzbekistan in September.
“He doesn’t want to be this toxic guy,” Gabuev said.
But even among countries that have not taken a hard line against Russia, there are signs of losing patience, if not with Russia itself, then with the negative effects of its aggression. Tight energy, food security issues and rising global inflation are now weighing on economies around the world.
Indonesia, which hosted the G20, did not explicitly condemn Russia for the invasion, but its President Joko Widodo told world leaders on Tuesday “we must end the war”.
India, which has been a key buyer of Russian energy even as the West has shunned Russian fuel in recent months, also reiterated its call to “find a way to get back on the ceasefire path” at the G20. The summit’s final declaration includes a sentence that says, “Today’s era must not be one of war” — language that echoes what Modi told Putin in September, when they met on the sidelines of a summit in Uzbekistan.
It is less clear whether China is whose strategic partnership with Russia is bolstered by the close relationship between leaders Xi Jinping and Putin, has come to a state any change of attitude. Beijing is long refused to condemn the invasion, or even refer to it as such. Instead, he denounced Western sanctions and reinforced the Kremlin’s stance by blaming the US and NATO for the conflict, although this rhetoric appeared to bounce back somewhat on domestic state-controlled media in recent months.
However, in side meetings with Western leaders last week, Xi reiterated China’s call for a ceasefire through dialogueand, according to the readings of his interlocutors, agreed to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine – although those remarks were not included in China’s story of the talks.
But observers of Chinese foreign policy say its desire to maintain strong ties with Russia likely remains unwavering.
“While these statements are an indirect criticism of Vladimir Putin, I don’t think they are intended to distance China from Russia,” said Brian Hart, a China Power Project fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Xi says these things once an audience that wants to hear them.”
Russia’s isolation, however, looks even sharper against the backdrop of Xi’s diplomatic tour of Bali and Bangkok this week.
Although the administration of US President Joe Biden is called Peking – not Moscow – the “most serious long-term challenge” to the global order, Xi has been treated as a valuable global partner by Western leaders, many of whom have met with the Chinese leader for talks aimed at increasing communication and cooperation.
Xi had an exchange with US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is representing the US at the APEC summit in Bangkok, at an event on Saturday. Harris said in a tweet after noting a “key message” from Biden’s G20 meeting with Xi – the importance of maintaining open lines of communication “to responsibly manage competition between our countries.”
And in an impassioned appeal for peace to a meeting of business leaders on Friday alongside the APEC summit, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to pull the difference between Russian actions and tensions with China.
Speaking about the US-China rivalry and growing confrontation in Asian regional waters, Macron said: “What makes this war different is that it is an aggression against international rules. All countries… have stability because of international rules,” before calling on Russia to come back “to the table” and “respect the international order”.
The urgency of that feeling is heightened after a Russian-made rocket landed in Poland, killing two people on Tuesday, during the G20 summit. As a NATO member, a threat to Poland’s security could trigger a bloc-wide response.
The situation was resolved after an initial investigation suggested the missile came from the Ukrainian side in a missile defense accident – but raised the potential for a misjudgment that would spark a world war.
A day after that situation, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pointed to what he called a “split screen”.
“While the world is working to help the most vulnerable people, Russia is targeting them; As leaders around the world have reaffirmed our commitment to the UN Charter and international rules that benefit all our people, President Putin continues to try to destroy those same principles,” Blinken told reporters Thursday night in Bangkok.
Entering a week of international meetings, the US and its allies were ready to convey that message to their international counterparts. And while strong messages were sent, gathering consensus around that view was not easy – and differences remain.
The G20 and APEC declarations acknowledge divisions over how members voted at the UN to support its resolution “deploring” Russian aggression, saying that while most members “strongly condemned” the war, “there were others views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.”
Even giving such wording with caveats was a painstaking process at both summits, according to officials. Indonesia’s Jokowi said G20 leaders waited until “midnight” to discuss the Ukraine paragraph.
“There was a lot of pressure after the G20 reached consensus on its statement,” Matt Murray, the top US official for APEC, said in an interview with CNN after the summit closed, adding that the US had been consistent during lower-level meetings “all year” on the need to address the war in the forum, given its impact on trade and food security.
“Every time we didn’t reach consensus before, it was because Russia blocked the statement,” he said. Meanwhile, “economies in the middle” were concerned about the invasion but not sure it should be part of the agenda, according to Murray, who said the statements released this week at APEC were the result of more than 100 hours of talks, personally and online.
The nations in the groupings have different geostrategic and economic relations with Russia, which affects their attitudes. But another concern some Asian countries may have is whether the measures to condemn Russia are part of a US effort to weaken Moscow, former Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said, speaking to CNN in the days ahead of the summit.
“Countries are saying that we don’t just want to be a pawn in this game to be used to weaken another power,” said Suphamongkhon, a member of the advisory board of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia-Pacific Policy. Instead of condemning Russia for its “violation of international law and war crimes that may have been committed” it would be aimed at aspects of the situation that “everyone here rejects,” he said.
Russia’s refusal to do so may also send a message to China, which has itself turned a deaf ear to an international ruling refuting its territorial claims in the South China Sea and vowed to “reunite” with the self-governing democracy of Taiwan, which it has never controlled, by force if necessary. needed.
While this week’s efforts may have increased pressure on Putin, the Russian leader has experience with such dynamics: before Putin’s ouster over his annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, the Group of Seven (G7) bloc was the Group of Eight — and it remains to be seen whether international expressions have an impact.
But without Putin in the fold, leaders stressed this week, the suffering will continue – and there will be a hole in the international system.
This story has been updated with new information.
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