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Russia's War in Ukraine High on Agenda of G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 6, 2022, as he departs for travel to Bali, Indonesia, and Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / POOL / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 6, 2022, as he departs for travel to Bali, Indonesia, and Bangkok, Thailand. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / POOL / AFP)

Russia's aggression against Ukraine is high on the agenda as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with other foreign ministers from the Group of 20 largest economies, or G-20, this week in Bali, Indonesia.

Blinken departed Wednesday for the ministerial, where he will also participate in bilateral meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

On the agenda of the meetings between top U.S. and Chinese diplomats is possible cooperation on climate change, global health, counternarcotics and the situation in Myanmar, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink.

The U.S. wants to responsibly manage its "intense competition" with China, and there is a need to establish "guardrails" to avoid unintended conflicts, he told reporters during a Tuesday phone briefing.

Blinken will have two lengthy meetings with Wang, with the first session likely focusing on bilateral relations and the second focusing one on regional and international issues, according to diplomatic sources.

After the G-20 ministerial, Blinken will head to Bangkok, where he is expected to discuss the situation in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

"The subject of Burma will feature prominently” both in meetings and on the margins of the G-20 and in Bangkok, Kritenbrink said, adding the U.S. would continue to "condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the Burmese military regime's brutal actions since the coup d'état, the killing of nearly 2,000 people and displacing more than 700,000 others."

Over the weekend, Wang visited Myanmar, his first visit to the country since the military seized power last year.

While Ukraine is not a G-20 member, its foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, was invited to this week's ministerial after Ukraine became a European Union candidate. Kuleba said he had coordinated his country's positions with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell ahead of time.

"We both agree on the need for the seventh EU sanctions package on Russia and we are working on it," Kuleba said in a tweet.

According to U.S. officials, Russia's war on Ukraine has caused global economic instability, and Washington will not ease pressure on the Kremlin until Russia ends its military offensive.

No formal meeting has been scheduled between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Bali. The U.S. is not ruling out the possibility of a walkout to protest Lavrov's presence at the G-20.

"[I am] not going to speak at this stage to choreography, but we expect the secretary can be a full and active participant while also staying true to another overriding objective, and that is the fact that it cannot be business as usual with the Russian Federation," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday.

US and China

Blinken's meeting with the Chinese foreign minister would be their first in person since the chief U.S. diplomat unveiled the Biden administration's strategy to outcompete the rival superpower.

In his remarks at the time, Blinken said that the U.S. was not seeking to decouple from China and that the relationship between the world's two largest economies was not a zero-sum game.

For months, senior State Department officials have said they have not seen China providing material support to Russia for its war against Ukraine, and they have warned of "consequences" if the Beijing government does.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce added five companies in China to a trade blacklist for allegedly supporting Russia's military and defense industrial base.

In the U.S., some Republican lawmakers said the Biden administration's actions were not enough.

"The [Biden] administration's feeble concept of 'consequences' will do little to deter the CCP's [Chinese Communist Party's] ongoing support for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's war crimes," said Representative Michael McCaul, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on June 29. There should be "significant sanctions on those offending companies," he added.

G-20 division over Russian war

Russia's participation in G-20 events has created tension within the group, which comprises the Group of Seven leading industrialized economies, or G-7, and other large developing economies.

Many members, especially those in the G-7, have condemned Russia's invasion and supported serious economic sanctions. Members China and India, however, have abstained on various United Nations resolutions and refrained from publicly condemning Russia.

U.S. President Joe Biden has said that Russia should not remain a member of the G-20, but China, Brazil and South Africa objected to removing Russia from the grouping. Those countries are also members of five large emerging economies known as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and see themselves as an alternative to the U.S.-led world order.

Some G-20 members say divisions widened by Russia's war in Ukraine should not overshadow this year's theme of economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.

Indonesia, which holds the rotating presidency of the G-20, says it maintains an independent foreign policy and does not side with world powers. Indonesia's reluctance to exclude Putin from the G-20 summit reflects its wish not to be seen as choosing a side and to stay focused on the COVID-19 theme.

"As the world is recovering from the damaging effects of the pandemic, we must collaborate and do our part to contribute towards economic recovery," Rosan Perkasa Roeslani, Indonesia's Ambassador to the U.S., told VOA on Tuesday. "A war in Europe is certainly detrimental to that goal. The G-20 is the forum to talk about major economic issues and contribute meaningfully in addressing them."

Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first Asian leader to visit Ukraine and Russia, after which he said Putin had agreed to "provide [a] security guarantee for food and fertilizer supplies from both Russia and Ukraine" amid increasing concerns over a global food crisis.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster ZDF recently that Putin's possible presence at the G-20 summit in November should not be a reason for Western leaders to boycott the meeting or "paralyze the entire G-20."

"In my opinion, G-20 is too important, also for the developing countries, the emerging countries, that we should let this body be broken by Putin."

This week's ministerial will not produce an official document or communique, according to G-20 co-sherpa Dian Triansyah Djani.