Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Bali, Indonesia, for a meeting of G20 foreign ministers that is likely to be overshadowed by Moscow’s war in Ukraine and deep divisions within the bloc over how to respond to the crisis.
The gathering will be attended by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as concern among western governments grows about the war’s impact on the cost of food and fuel, which has prompted the UN to warn of a “unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution.”
This will be Lavrov’s first meeting with counterparts from countries that are strongly opposed to the war.
Analysts question how much the G20 can accomplish, given its divisions over how to manage the Ukraine conflict and its global consequences. While Western members have accused Moscow of war crimes and imposed unprecedented sanctions, others, including China, Indonesia, India, and South Africa, have not.
On Wednesday, Lavrov urged all parties to work together to protect international law, saying, “The world is evolving in a complicated way.”
Earlier this week, China attacked the United States and NATO, claiming that Washington “follows international rules only as it sees fit.” According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, the “so-called rules-based international order is actually a family rule made by a handful of countries to serve the US self-interest.”
According to Christian Wagner, a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry, it will not be a “normal summit” or “business as usual.”
According to Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for South-East Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, who is hosting the meeting, hopes to avoid a “disastrous meeting.”
The variety of countries and perspectives at the table is “almost unmanageable,” according to Kurlantzick. “The gaps between some G20 countries are too wide to draw any meaningful conclusions about almost anything.” It will be miraculous if no one walks out, as happened during the meeting of finance ministers.”
In April the UK, US and Canada walked out of a G20 meeting.
Some Western countries threatened to boycott G20 meetings, but the US State Department announced on Tuesday that Blinken would be a “full and active participant.” It was stated that there would be no formal meeting between the US and Lavrov, and that Russia was not “serious about diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen that yet,” said Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department. “We would like the Russians to give us a reason to meet with them on a bilateral basis, with foreign minister Lavrov, but all we have seen from Moscow is more brutality and aggression against the people and country of Ukraine.”
According to US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink, Blinken will meet separately with Wang “to discuss having guardrails” in US-China relations so that competition “does not spill over into miscalculation or confrontation.”
“This will be another opportunity… to convey our expectations about what we would expect China to do and not do in relation to Ukraine,” he said.
Wang spoke with Lavrov in a bilateral meeting on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Thursday, ahead of the G20 meeting. According to a Russian foreign ministry statement, Lavrov informed Wang “about the main missions of the special military operation” in Ukraine and reiterated Moscow’s rhetoric that the goal is to “denazify” the country.
“Both parties emphasized the unacceptable nature of unilateral sanctions imposed by circumventing the UN,” according to the statement. As Western nations sought to isolate Vladimir Putin’s government, Beijing maintained friendly relations with Russia.
According to US officials, the G20 meeting will focus heavily on the global food and energy crisis.
Ukraine produces enough wheat to feed 400 million people and is a major supplier of sunflower oil and corn. However, the Russian invasion and blockade of its sea lanes have severely hampered its exports.
Jokowi, as Indonesia’s president is widely known, recently visited both Ukraine and Russia, calling for measures to allow for the resumption of exports, on which Indonesia, like many other countries, is heavily reliant.
Indonesia maintains an “independent and active” approach to foreign policy, and has sought to appear as a neutral actor that could aid negotiations.
Jokowi is likely hoping “to show himself as a world leader and to simply avoid a disastrous meeting”, said Kurlantzick.
“He probably hopes for some kind of situation in which no one walks out of the meeting, he avoids a complete disaster, and he helps keep dialogue going between all the various actors, perhaps with one goal being to get Russia to begin exporting grain again to many countries, maybe they can achieve some other minor goal as well,” Kurlantzick added.