November 7, 2022
JAKARTA – In the next eight days, leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, the Group of 20, will meet on the resort island of Bali for a two-day annual summit, which is described by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi as one of, “if not the most difficult” G20 meetings. Indonesian people, and global citizens, hope the leaders refrain from using the precious moments during the summit simply as opportunities to criticize and attack one another.
The world is now on the brink of economic, military and security disasters and World War III is on our doorsteps. Look at the tension in the Taiwan Strait, the Korean Peninsula and the real danger of the demolition of Ukraine. Inflation is soaring and a shortage of gas is haunting many countries as winter nears, and starvation has happened in many parts of the world.
Bali provides a favorable atmosphere to discuss, among others, a graceful exit to the Ukraine war, the simmering tension on the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula crisis. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and United States President Joe Biden stand a good chance to discuss the worrying developments in the East Asian region.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Biden hopefully will meet to reduce tension between the two big powers. But there are also possibilities one or several leaders will walk out from the conference as a result of offending remarks from other leaders. It will be challenging for host Indonesia to keep everybody cool.
Biden has assured his attendance in Bali. But it is not impossible that he will not attend the whole sessions due to family matters. His first granddaughter Naomi Biden, 28, from his son Hunter Biden, will hold her wedding party with her fiancé Peter Neal, 25, on the iconic South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 19.
The results of the Nov. 8 mid-term election may also affect Biden’s mood, especially if the predictions that the Republicans will win the majority in the Senate come true. It will come as no surprise if Biden leaves Bali for Washington earlier than scheduled, although Indonesia hopes the US president will follow all the G20 agenda for the good of the world.
If the leaders, or some of them, are not willing or unable to work together to address the world’s economic and security conundrum, at least they can lower their ego so as not to worsen the suffering of many people across the globe.
For the Group of Seven leaders, please enjoy the peaceful ambience of Bali and the beautiful minds of the population there to reverse their long-standing belief they can do no wrong and therefore can force their will against smaller or poorer nations. Remember when the world peace collapses, even super-rich nations will suffer.
Reports about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to skip the G20 summit is like removing a thorn in the flesh for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Jokowi always insists as the president of the world’s 20 largest economies he must invite all leaders of the group to attend the Bali summit.
The voluntary absence from the summit looks good for the Russian leader as he would avoid a hostile reception and humiliation from particularly Western leaders. Putin has saved President Jokowi’s face, considering threats from western leaders to boycott or walk out of the summit if Putin attends the summit.
It is clear that Putin does not have any personal grudges with his Indonesian counterpart, although Indonesia joined the world’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Indonesia also supported the United Nations General Assembly’s condemnation of Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian territories.
President Jokowi has called each of the G20 leaders to confirm their attendance. President Putin reportedly thanked Jokowi for the invitation but added he would not come to Bali for the good of all. Government officials declined to confirm the report, but in private they hinted the report was true.
“Let’s wait until D-Day,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said when Reuters asked her if the Russian leader’s attendance had been confirmed.
When Indonesia took over the G20 presidency from Italy in December last year, President Jokowi unveiled the theme of Indonesia’s presidency Recover Together Recover Stronger, sending a message of optimism that the world would eventually win the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 ruined Indonesia’s dreams. The war has severely devastated the world’s momentum to regain its feet from the pandemic. The energy and food supply chain has been disrupted, because Russia is the main supplier of gas and oil for Europe and, together with Ukraine, the main exporter of wheat.
A global recession is imminent and starvation is threatening many countries across the world, especially Africa. Worse, Putin is prepared for a long war.
President Jokowi has to face a bitter situation as it is almost impossible for him to sacrifice Indonesia’s agenda at the summit. It is no longer the substance and progress of the summit that matters but how to minimize the threats of boycotts and walkouts from G20 leaders.
“I can say that Indonesia’s presidency this time, maybe it’s among the or maybe the most difficult of all G20s because of the geopolitical issues, economy and others,” Retno told Reuters last week.
Several preceding ministerial meetings failed to issue a joint communiqué, including the July foreign ministers’ meeting. So will the leaders’ summit. At best, host Indonesia will likely issue a much toned-down statement, the “leaders’ declaration, at the end of the summit.
“Whatever name it adopts will contain leaders’ political commitments. For us, we should focus on the content. In the end, the content speaks more,” Retno said.
Indonesia has and will continue to seek every path to ensure that the G20 Summit brings about good and concrete actions to address the world’s challenges.
President Jokowi has tried very hard to persuade all G20 leaders to turn up for the Bali summit. We can only hope the leaders to show their courtesy to the Indonesian people by refraining from using the gathering to quarrel and condemn one another.
The writer is a senior editor at The Jakarta Post.