November 9, 2022
JAKARTA – Russian President Vladimir Putin may yet attend next week’s Group of 20 Leaders’ Summit – albeit virtually – President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo suggested on Tuesday, as host nation Indonesia inches toward the pinnacle of a year-long G20 presidency beset by the distraction of war.
Putin’s attendance at the G20 main event has become the subject of tireless speculation, ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in February in a “special operation” that had cost countless lives, split international opinion, thrust the global economy into a deeper crisis and disrupted policy making initiatives that may impact the lives of billions of people.
For its part, G20 chair Indonesia has tried to keep the forum of the world’s biggest economies intact, prioritizing international cooperation over geopolitical tensions and pressure to exclude Russia from the group’s activities.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a site visit to Tahura, Bali, President Jokowi said that based on communications with Moscow, Putin was still feeling out the situation.
“He said that he will be there if the circumstances allow it. If not, maybe he’ll ask to do it virtually,” the President said.
In his capacity as host, President Jokowi has tried to convince Putin to come to Bali, even though his Russian counterpart has left “strong impressions” of potentially skipping the event.
In an interview with The Jakarta Post last week, the President said he had spoken to Putin on the phone to confirm his attendance. Meanwhile, in an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday, he said the Russian leader impressed on him that he might not go.
The Times reported that Indonesia hoped to facilitate international dialogue between Putin and United States President Joe Biden to counter what he called a “very worrying” rise in international tensions.
Putin himself said last week that he had not yet decided whether to attend the G20 Summit, while continuing to refute accusations that Russia would use nuclear weapons in the war. He has said if he did not go to the summit, he would send a high-level Russian delegation in his place.
Meanwhile, Biden said he had “no intention” of sitting down with Putin at the G20 Summit, agencies reported.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has resulted in a global food and energy crisis, complicating collective efforts to respond to it and the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The G20 Leaders’ Summit is to be held in Nusa Dua, Bali on Nov. 15 and 16. Meetings in the lead-up to the summit have been marred by a lack of consensus among member states, some of whom have made it a point to isolate Moscow at the expense of G20 cooperation.
President Jokowi has said that 17 out of 20 leaders of G20 member states have confirmed their attendance and that he will continue to encourage all of them to come, insisting that developing countries are “really waiting” for the leaders to come up with solutions for the food and energy crises.
In Bali, he once again said that 17 leaders would be present and that, considering the “difficult” circumstances, hosting that many would count as a win in his books.
“We are ready to welcome our guests,” the President asserted.
Preparations for the summit itself would be ready in two to three days, said Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan on Monday.
The minister previously said that construction and refurbishment work for all the venues used for the summit were complete, including the Apurva Kempinski Hotel where G20 leaders would convene for two days of meetings. The work on roads connecting the venues and Ngurah Rai International Airport have also been completed.
“We have to go all out and give our best. That is President Joko Widodo’s message that he keeps repeating to his Cabinet ministers,” Luhut said.
This year’s G20 Summit will feature exceptionally heavy security on Bali to the point that some civil society groups have characterized it as repressive.
A joint team of more than 18,000 personnel from the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police will be deployed in a massive security operation to secure the summit. As many as 12 warships and four military jets will also be placed on standby for this purpose.
National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo said on Monday that security forces had prepared a special team that would use facial recognition technology to monitor registered domestic and foreign travelers.
Meanwhile, TNI commander Gen. Andika Perkasa said that while several cyberattacks have been discovered, the Indonesian Army was coordinating with the National Cyber and Crypto Agency (BSSN), the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the police’s cybercrime unit to handle those cases.
He did not elaborate on the nature of the attacks and insisted that there had been no significant security threats to the summit proceedings.
The Bali administration has also imposed special public activity restrictions (PPKM) on the local residents, including an order for people working in the vicinity of the summit to work from home.