Analysts: Jokowi’s Russia-Ukraine mission offers hope, but he must follow up

Arie Firdaus
Analysts: Jokowi’s Russia-Ukraine mission offers hope, but he must follow up Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin Palace in Moscow, June 30, 2022
[Courtesy Press, Media and Information Bureau of Indonesia’s Presidential Secretariat]

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s shuttle diplomacy to Ukraine and Russia this week offered some hope for peace but he needs to follow up with further dialogue to ensure his efforts are not a mere flash in the pan, analysts said.

While his mission to persuade Moscow to declare a ceasefire did not immediately materialize, Jokowi said Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin promised he would secure safe sea passage of grain and fertilizers from the world’s breadbaskets Russia and Ukraine, to avert a global food crisis.

Analyst Aaron Connelly said that “we will have to wait and see whether President Putin keeps any of the commitments made to President Jokowi.”

“Normally such shuttle diplomacy requires persistent follow up to ensure implementation. It is not yet clear to me whether the president or his foreign minister have any plans along those lines,” Connelly, a senior fellow at Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, told BenarNews.

Jokowi, the current chair of the G20 group of major economies, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Wednesday, and then travelled to Russia the next day to hold talks with Putin, on a trip that he has described as a peace mission.

Former Indonesian Ambassador to Russia Wahid Supriyadi said that although Russia did not seem too enthusiastic about Jokowi’s peace initiative, the trip offered a glimmer of hope.

“As a start, yesterday’s meeting was quite good, considering that we certainly cannot force Putin to immediately stop the war,” Wahid said, referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“That there is an opening of the food blockade … and there is a guarantee from Putin. These are positive signs coming out of Jokowi’s mission.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, it has blocked all of the latter’s Black Sea ports and cut off access to almost all of that country’s exports, especially of grain, sparking real fears of a global food crisis.

In its April report, the Global Crisis Response Group, set up by the United Nations secretary general, said Ukraine and Russia provide 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley, a fifth of its maize and more than half of its sunflower oil. Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter and second largest oil exporter.

Jokowi warned last week that a global food crisis caused by the war would send people in developing and poor countries into “the abyss of extreme poverty and hunger.”

‘Door has been opened’

As for the world’s view of Jokowi’s diplomatic move, Wahid said it had given Indonesia a positive image.

“Jokowi is the first Asian leader to visit the warring countries and this shows that we are not aligned with any camp,” he said, adding that Indonesia should follow up by forming a team to facilitate negotiations.

Asked about follow-up steps to ensure Russia sticks with its commitments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said, “they will be discussed first.” He declined to comment further.

Tirta Nugraha Mursitama, an international relations lecturer at Bina Nusantara University in Jakarta, said it was too early to judge the results of Jokowi’s mission.

“Most importantly, efforts have been made. The door has been opened and I am sure that many countries and international institutions will support it,” he told BenarNews.

In March, Indonesia voted for a U.N. General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s military strike on Ukraine. Despite that vote, Indonesian government leaders have not criticized Russia directly.

The United States has urged Indonesia to disinvite member-state Russia from the G20 summit, scheduled for November in Bali, but Jakarta so far has refused.

In Germany, where Jokowi attended the G7 summit of industrial nations as a guest, he reportedly said that Putin would not attend the G20 summit in person. But the Kremlin said Thursday that Russia has an invitation and will decide later whether Putin attends.

In March, U.S. President Joe Biden said Ukraine should be able to participate in the G20 summit if Russia was not expelled. Indonesia has since invited Zelenskyy to the summit as a guest.

Not everyone was optimistic about Jokowi’s trip.

Radityo Dharmasaputra, a researcher on Eastern Europe at Airlangga University in Surabaya, said Putin seemed to have taken advantage of Jokowi’s visit and used it as proof that he was not internationally isolated.

“The point is that Putin used Jokowi’s presence to show that there are still non-Western countries that are friends with Russia,” Radityo told BenarNews.

Similarly, Dino Patti Djalal, a former deputy foreign minister, described Jokowi’s initiative as “a good effort,” but suggested that Putin was not as enthusiastic as the Indonesian president about peace with Ukraine.

“In terms of results, there has been no breakthrough because the only interested person in the meetings was Zelenskyy,” Dino told BenarNews.

Dino said that Putin’s remarks after the meeting dwelled on bilateral and economic relations between Indonesia and Russia.

“In fact, as President Jokowi landed in Moscow, Russia continued to bombard Ukraine,” he said.

“It is terrible.”

Dandy Koswaraputra and Alvin Prasetyo in Jakarta contributed to this report.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.