In an attempt to identify shared solutions to the economic, food and energy problems that afflict the global community, the Summit of the G20 Foreign Ministers, was held last Thursday and Friday on 7-8 July, 2022, in Bali, under the motto “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”.
The Foreign Ministers G20 Summit represented a vivid expression of successful Indonesian diplomacy. Despite not having produced any joint communiqué or the traditional group picture of the Foreign Ministers, the Summit was marked by Indonesia's ability to organise the major event with full participation, in the face of the aggravating international circumstances which – directly or indirectly – involve all of the G20 members. Similarly, as the first developing country to ever hold a G20 Summit, Indonesia has availed of this opportunity “to fight for the interests of Indonesia as well as the interests of developing countries”, as President Widodo put it. Indeed, the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit represented yet another opportunity to reaffirm Indonesia’s capable and well-balanced diplomacy in the world’s eyes.
As the Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi pointed in her opening remarks, the war in Ukraine needs a diplomatic approach: “It is our responsibility to end the war sooner than later and settle our differences at the negotiating table, not the battlefield”, the Indonesian Minister stated with Minister Lavrov in the room. On the same note, Minister Marsudi added that “The ripple effects [of the war in Ukraine] are being felt globally – on food, energy and fiscal space. (…) As always, developing and low-income countries are affected the most." It should be noted that, in order to assure a perfectly balanced representation of all the parties, Indonesia invited at the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit the Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov, as well as Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who attended virtually, despite Ukraine not being a G20 member.
Clearly, the double invitation closely reflects the recent visit paid by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo to Ukraine and Russia, at the beginning of July 2022, a visit meant to facilitate the dialogue between President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and President Vladimir Putin.
Indonesia’s neutral position in chairing the G20 Foreign Ministers’ Summit, doubled by the shuttle diplomacy of President Widodo, showcases the country’s readiness to positively contribute to the peaceful resolution of the war in Ukraine, including through the bilateral meetings hosted by Foreign Minister Marsudi.
Equally important have been the five-hour long talks between the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi - the first since October last year – which sought to address the growing tensions between the world's two largest economies as well as China’s support for Russia, which the United States publicly condemned: “We are concerned about the PRC's alignment with Russia", Secretary Blinken has been quoted saying. It is not unlikely that the meeting between Blinken and Wang prepared further talks between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
According to media reports, the high-level US official seems to have avoided a direct meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister. Minister Lavrov however met Minister Wang on Thursday.
In an attempt to provide an accurate image of the economic, food and energy issues generated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell stated: “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is dramatically aggravating the food crisis. In just 2 years, the number of seriously food insecure people in the world had already doubled from 135 million before the COVID-19 pandemic to 276 million early 2022, and 323 million today. Now, with this unjustified and unprovoked, 1.2 billion people - one in six of the world’s population - are severely exposed to the combination of rising food prices, rising energy prices and tightening financial conditions." The EU high-level official then added: “Things can get worse. Russia is blocking 20 million tons of grain in Ukrainian storage facilities. This is a deliberate attempt to use food as a weapon of war, not only against Ukraine, but against the most vulnerable countries in the world. "
One could comment that, amid cross refusals to talk and bitter criticism, the hope that the G20 Summit could open a table for a truce in the war was not extinguished. The presence of the US Secretary of State in the room, while Minister Lavrov delivered his speech expresses – yet in a suble manner – the volition to find common grounds.
In this regard, based on the preliminary talks of the Foreign Ministers Summit, it seems to emerge that the spirit of dialogue and mutual collaboration which characterizes the intra-ASEAN diplomatic discourse have been instilled by Indonesia to the current G20 context. Certainly, should the Indonesian G20 next November turn into even a moderate success, Indonesia could emerge more and more as an important interlocutor both at a regional and global level, projecting itself as a prominent and decisive state not only within ASEAN, but also within the international architecture.
Definitely, the effects of the G20 Foreign Ministers Summit will not be immediate and the consequences of the economic, food and energy crisis will be felt through 2023 as well. Highly important in mitigating these effects is the November G20 Summit, which will reunite the G20 Heads of State. As the diplomatic practice goes, it is highly expected that the November Summit will touch upon the most sensitive matters of the current international situation. In this regard, the G20 Summit remains of crucial importance for the world peace, stability and economic recovery.
While the Indonesian efforts in successfully chairing the G20 this year has so far represented a diplomatic success – especially provided the complex international circumstances – the expectations from India, the next chair of the G20, are similarly high. It is not unthinkable that a closer Indo-Indian cooperation will positively impact several of the most stringent issues affecting the current international architecture. In fact, the strongest message so far conveyed by the G20 Foreign Ministers Summit is one of hope and moderation.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or view of IRSEA.