Russia under pressure as G20 tackles war in Ukraine and soaring food prices

The United States and its allies stepped up pressure on Russia on Tuesday to end the war in Ukraine, using a G20 summit to pin painfully high global food and fuel prices squarely on the doorstep. of President Vladimir Putin.

Looking forward to a joint G20 statement condemning Russia’s eight-month invasion and threats to use nuclear weapons, US and European officials described the Bali summit as evidence of the growing isolation of Russia.

“I think you’re going to see most of the G20 members making it clear that they condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine,” a senior US official said on condition of anonymity.

“Russia’s war of aggression is condemned in the strongest possible terms,” ​​adding that many “see Russia’s war in Ukraine as the root cause of immense economic and humanitarian suffering around the world.”

It remained far from clear that Russia’s G20 allies, China, India and South Africa, would subscribe to language that so explicitly condemned Putin’s war.

Such a condemnation at the G20 would be a heavy diplomatic defeat for Moscow, which has made a point of portraying the opposition to the conflict as dominated by the West.

There was a hint of growing Chinese unease over Russia’s continuing war when Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden met on Monday night.

Both men expressed opposition to the “use or threat of use” of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, according to a report of the White House meeting.

European Council President Charles Michel said that although a draft agreement had been approved in principle, there was still work to be done.

“I am absolutely convinced that we should try to use the meeting today and tomorrow to convince all parties to put more pressure on Russia,” he told the media at the opening of the meeting. Mountain peak.

G20 leaders are meeting in Bali as soaring inflation plunges millions into poverty and pushes several countries into recession.

“Every household on the planet is feeling the impact of Putin’s war,” British officials said ahead of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s remarks.

U.S. allies hope that argument will find favor with G20 countries who, while cautious about slamming Russia, are deeply concerned about rising prices.

Argentina and Turkey, members of the G20, are among the countries most affected by food inflation, while India and South Africa have avoided criticism of Moscow.

Putin has decided to skip the summit as he faces the fallout of a string of embarrassing battlefield defeats in a war his supporters thought would be over in days.

Rubbing salt in the wound, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky – fresh from a visit to liberated Kherson – will address G20 leaders in a video message.

In Putin’s stable, Russia is represented by Sergei Lavrov, although the veteran foreign minister has made two trips to hospital in Bali in as many days for an undisclosed illness.

Moscow denied that the head of diplomacy had been hospitalized.

Although he is a seasoned diplomat and pugilist, Lavrov is not seen as part of Putin’s inner circle, meaning the chances of a diplomatic breakthrough to end the war are extremely low.

In the absence of Zelensky and Putin, “there is little chance of real peace diplomacy in Bali,” said Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group.

Yet French President Emmanuel Macron has kept an olive branch taut. He will call Putin after the G20 summit, according to a senior French official.

– Grain corridor –

An expiring deal allowing Ukraine to export grain via the Black Sea will likely be another topic of conversation.

The deal ends on November 19 and Russia has already threatened to tear it up.

On Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed hope that Russia would extend, saying the arrangement was crucial for food security.

“I am hopeful that the Black Sea Grain Initiative will be renewed,” said António Guterres.

Ukraine is one of the world’s top grain producers, and the Russian invasion had blocked 20 million tonnes of grain in its ports before the United Nations and Turkey brokered the deal in July.

“We need urgent action to prevent starvation and hunger in a growing number of places around the world,” said António Guterres.

Preparation for the summit has focused on Xi, who is on just his second trip abroad since the pandemic.

He meets French President Emmanuel Macron and Australian Anthony Albanese on Tuesday, the day after a first presidential interview with Biden.

The pair chilled Cold War rhetoric during a three-hour summit as they tried to dampen some of the heat of their superpower rivalry.

“The world expects China and the United States to handle the relationship properly,” Xi told Biden.

Former US diplomat Danny Russel described the meeting as generally positive.

“We must beware of prematurely declaring the strategic rivalry over. However, we have seen a deliberate effort to stabilize a dangerously overheated relationship.”

Edward N. Arrington