Conflict in Europe overshadows G20 summit as leaders condemn missile strikes

By BenarNews and RFA Staff
2022.11.16
Nusa Dua, Indonesia
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Conflict in Europe overshadows G20 summit as leaders condemn missile strikes U.S. President Joe Biden (right) is escorted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo before a tree planting event at the Taman Hutan Raya Ngurah Rai Mangrove Forest, on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting, near Denpasar, Indonesia, Nov. 16, 2022.
Alex Brandon/Pool/AP

Updated at 5:29 a.m. ET on 2022-11-16

World leaders participated in a ceremonial planting of mangroves Wednesday to draw attention to the global climate crisis, but the final day of the G20 summit in tropical Bali was hijacked by the cold reality of conflict in Eastern Europe.

The war in Ukraine overshadowed the two-day Group of 20 summit on the Indonesian island, with most of the grouping of the world’s largest economies issuing a strong condemnation of the conflict.

Although Russia appeared set to sign up to the G20 declaration, it launched one of its biggest missile attacks on Ukraine during the nine-month war, killing at least one person in the capital, Kyiv, on Tuesday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who represented Russia at the G20 in place of President Vladimir Putin, subsequently left the summit early.

Meanwhile, an unclaimed missile strike killed two people in a Polish village near the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden called an “emergency roundtable” early Wednesday on the summit sidelines. Poland is a member of the NATO alliance.

Biden said after the meeting that it was “unlikely” that the missile was fired from Russia, based on “preliminary information.”

Three U.S. officials told The Associated Press that preliminary assessments suggested the missile was fired by Ukrainian forces at an incoming Russian projectile.

The meeting was joined by leaders of the U.K., the European Union, Spain, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Japan.

In a joint statement issued afterward, the leaders offered support for the Polish investigation, and had stern words about the Russian barrage Tuesday against Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine, calling it “barbaric.”

They reaffirmed “steadfast support” for Ukraine and remained ready “to hold Russia accountable for its brazen attacks on Ukrainian communities, even as the G20 meets to deal with the wider impacts of the war.”

Yurii Poita, a political analyst at the Kyiv-based think-tank New Geopolitics Research Network, said the timing of the attacks as world leaders met in Bali “show that Russia is ignoring the international community and mocking their concerns.”

“Those missiles did not hit military targets but civilian ones, especially the infrastructure,” Poita told RFA, a news outlet affiliated with BenarNews. He called the attacks “an attempt to create a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Conflict and economy

All this distracted from other themes of the G20, including the world economy, digital transformation and climate change.

After the emergency meeting about the missile strike on Poland, leaders joined the summit host, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, in a ceremonial planting of mangrove saplings.

Each leader was given a baby mangrove and followed detailed instructions about using feed bags and sticking them in the ground. Jokowi hosted a tour of the nursery. Leaders heard about different species of mangroves and how they can live up to 100 years.

221116_G20_Day2_mangroves.jpg
Leaders raise hoes for a group photo during a tree planting event at the Taman Hutan Raya Ngurah Rai Mangrove Forest, on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting, near Denpasar, Indonesia, Nov. 16, 2022 [Alex Brandon, Pool/AP]

Asked by a pool reporter whether he’d been briefed on the missile strikes on Ukraine, Jokowi insisted that “G20 is an economic forum, a financial forum, and diplomatic forum, not a political forum.”

“So here we talk about the economy, said the president.

Analysts say, however, that the issues are intertwined.

“If Russia truly cared about the effect of its actions on the global economy or on its standing within the G20 or G7, it would never have violated Ukrainian sovereignty to begin with,” Nina Jankowicz, vice president at the Centre for Information Resilience, an international NGO, told RFA.

In a declaration released at the end of the summit, most G20 leaders condemned the war in Ukraine, according to a copy obtained by BenarNews.

The document states: “Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”

It also acknowledges different views among the G20, noting that, “There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.”

Commenting on the G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration, Jokowi told a press conference, “[T]here was only one paragraph that was highly debated, namely the attitude towards the war in Ukraine, until midnight we talked about this and finally, the Bali declaration was reached through consensus.”

“There was a Russian representative who was present at the summit at that time, even though it was tough, but in the end it was ratified.” 

The summit concluded with the Indonesian leader handing the rotating G20 presidency to fellow member India.

“The declaration would further isolate Russia,” said Orysia Lutsevych, manager of the Ukraine Forum in the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, a U.K.-based think tank.

“Russia’s attempt to create its own coalition and diminish U.S. leadership is failing spectacularly,” she said.

“It is also a big victory for Ukraine, as it tries to convince more countries to come forward with active support for Kyiv,” Lutsevych said.

‘Peace formula’

Russian top diplomat Lavrov appeared to have accepted the text after pushing for an inclusion of “alternative viewpoints.”

He was quoted by RIA Novosti as criticizing Western countries for politicizing the document, as “this is not at all the business of the G20.”

Lavrov left the summit on Tuesday evening on a decades-old Russian Il-96 but his team said the departure was planned, TASS reported.

The Russian foreign minister was among the delegates listening to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to the G20 on Tuesday.

221116_G20_Zelenskyy.JPG
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses a session via video conferencing during the G20 Leaders’ Summit, in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Nov. 15, 2022. [Willy Kurniawan/Pool/Reuters]

In his speech, Zelenskyy laid out what he called a “peace formula” that needs to be implemented as soon as possible. It includes safeguarding nuclear facilities and the extension of a U.N.- and Turkey-brokered grain deal that expires in a few days to enable food exports from Ukraine, which is a major global food supplier. Zelenskyy also called for the release of all prisoners and deported persons.

This is an important framework that already has building blocks. It is ambitious, but key to achieving peace,” said Lutsevych from the Chatham House.

The London-based analyst pointed out that “there are already parts of the global community that move towards this plan.”

“Victories like in Kherson demonstrate that Ukraine’s proposal is realistic. It is a collaborative approach with multilaterals as its backbone,” argued Lutsevych, referring to the recent recapture of the city of Kherson by Ukrainian troops.

Meanwhile Poita, from the New Geopolitics Research Network in Kyiv, suggested that NATO should create safe zones along the bloc’s borders to protect local populations from missile attacks, as well as NATO’s territory.

“If NATO just sits and does nothing, the war will escalate and there will be more incidents like the Poland explosion in the future,” he said, warning that “the consequences will be severe and global.”

Update: This story has been updated with comments from the Indonesian leader at the end of the G20 summit.

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