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

Bangkok, Thailand

Last week’s summits of three major world leaders across Asia made one thing clear: Vladimir Putin is now sidelined on the world stage.

Putin, whose attack on Ukraine over the past nine months has ravaged the European nation and rocked the global economy, has refused to attend any diplomatic meetings – instead bracing himself for further criticism as international opposition to the war grows.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok closed on Saturday and recalled that the organization issued a statement “strongly” opposing the attack on Ukraine, referring to the position of countries expressed in other forums. Different views.

It echoes word for word the statement issued at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Bali earlier this week.

“The majority of members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine, which is causing great suffering to people and worsening the breakdown in the global economy,” the document said, adding that there were different “assessments” of the situation in the group.

Discussions at the summit showed the week Putin began his offensive to restore Russia to its former glory, as the Russian leader became increasingly disaffected in Moscow and unwilling to confront his key allies. International meetings.

Fear of political backlash against him if he leaves the capital, concern for personal safety and a desire to avoid confrontational scenes at the summit — especially as Russia is suffering heavy losses on the battlefield — were all likely factors in Putin’s assessment. According to Alexander Gabuyev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Meanwhile, he may not want to draw unwanted attention to the handful of countries that remain friendly with Russia, such as India and China, whose leaders Putin attended a summit in Uzbekistan in September.

“He doesn’t want to be this toxic person,” Gabuyev said.

But even in countries that do not have a hard line against Russia, if not with Russia itself, there are signs of impatience with the consequences of aggression. Stressed energy, food security issues and declining global inflation are currently weighing on economies around the world.

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Indonesia, which hosts the G20, has not publicly condemned Russia for its invasion, but its president, Joko Widodo, told world leaders on Tuesday that “we must stop the war.”

India, a major buyer of Russian energy in recent months as the West shunned Russian oil, reiterated its call at the G20 to “find a way to return to the ceasefire.” The summit’s final statement included a phrase that echoed Modi’s words to Putin when they met at a regional security summit in Uzbekistan in September: “Today’s era should not be war.”

It is less clear if China’s strategic partnership with Russia will come from a shift in position supported by a close relationship between leaders Xi Jinping and Putin. Beijing has long refused to condemn the raid or even refer to it as such. Instead, he rejected Western sanctions and blamed the Kremlin’s talking points for the conflict on the US and NATO, although that rhetoric has appeared somewhat dialed back in recent months in the state-controlled domestic media.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the G20 leaders via video link from his office in Kyiv.

In side meetings with Western leaders last week, however, Xi reiterated China’s call for a negotiated ceasefire and, according to sources, agreed to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine – but the talks did not include China. account of conversations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later told Chinese state media that Xi reiterated China’s position that “nuclear weapons cannot be used and nuclear war cannot be fought” during a meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G20.

Observers of China’s foreign policy, however, say that its desire to establish strong ties with Russia is likely to remain unwavering.

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

But Russia’s isolation seems even stronger against the backdrop of this week’s diplomatic tour of Bali and Bangkok.

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Although the Biden administration has called Beijing — not Moscow — the “most serious long-term challenge” to the global order, Xi has been seen as an important global ally by Western leaders, many of whom have met with the Chinese leader in talks aimed at increasing ties. Communication and cooperation.

According to Chinese state media and a White House official, Xi held talks with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who represents the U.S. at APEC, at the event on Saturday. Harris reiterated Biden’s message about the importance of keeping lines of communication open during his G20 meeting with Xi.

In an unexpected call for peace at a meeting of business leaders on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Bangkok on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to draw a distinction between Russia’s actions and tensions with China.

Referring to US-China rivalry and rising tensions in Asian territorial waters, Macron said: “What makes this war different is the attack on international law.” All countries… have stability, because before calling for Russia to come back to the “table” and “respect the international order”.

US Vice President Kamala Harris met with US allies at APEC on Friday following North Korea's ballistic missile launch.

The urgency of that sentiment increased after a Russian-made missile landed in Poland at the G20 summit, killing two people. As a member of NATO, threats to Poland’s security can be responded to from the entire bloc.

The situation has cooled after initial investigations suggest the missile came accidentally from the Ukrainian side during a missile defense system – but the miscalculation has highlighted the potential to trigger a world war.

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

“What we are witnessing is a very telling split screen: As the world works to help the most vulnerable, Russia is targeting them. Leaders around the world have reaffirmed our commitment to the UN Charter and international laws that benefit all our people. President Putin continues to try to destroy those same principles,” Blinken said. He told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday night.

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Coming into a week of international meetings, the US and its allies are ready to deliver that message to their global friends. Despite strong messages, gathering consensus around that view has not been easy—and differences remain.

The statements of the G20 and APEC both acknowledged the difference between how the members voted in the UN to support the resolution “contesting” the Russian aggression, and the majority of the members “strongly condemned” the war, “other views and different assessments of the situation” They say there were sanctions.

According to officials, even making such a statement with caveats was a difficult process at both meetings. Indonesia’s Jokowi said the G20 leaders were discussing the Ukraine article until “midnight”.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Chinese President Xi Jinping  Meet at APEC on 18 November 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The states in the bloc have different geo-strategic and economic relations with Russia, which influence their position. But another concern among some Asian countries is whether moves to blame Russia are part of an American effort to weaken Moscow, said former Thai foreign minister Kantathi Suphamongkon.

“Countries are saying we don’t want to play tricks on this game to weaken another power,” said Suphamongkhon, a member of the advisory board of the RAND Corporation’s Asia Pacific Policy Center. Instead, criticizing Russia for “violations of international law and war crimes” strikes a tone that “everyone here does not accept,” he said.

Rejecting Russia along these lines could send a message to China, which has itself rejected an international resolution rejecting its territorial claims in the South China Sea and vowed to “rejoin” Taiwan’s self-governing democracy. , if necessary by force.

While this week’s efforts have increased pressure on Putin, the Russian leader has experience with such volatility: Putin Before they annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, the Group of Seven (G7) was – and still is – eight. To see if global expressions have an effect.

But without Putin in his arms, 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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