G20, APEC, ASEAN: World leaders conclude three summits in Asia — with Russia firmly on the sidelines

Bangkok, Thailand

Three summits of world leaders in Asia over the past week have made one thing clear: Vladimir Putin is now marginalized on the world stage.

Putin, whose attacks on Ukraine have devastated the European country and roiled the global economy for the past nine months, has refused to attend any diplomatic gatherings — instead, he has found himself under harsh pressure as international backlash against his war seems to intensify. condemnation.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders closed their Bangkok meeting on Saturday in a statement that referred to positions expressed in other forums, including condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine “in the strongest possible terms” in a U.N. resolution , while pointing out different opinions.

It echoed verbatim statements made at the G20 leaders’ summit in Bali earlier this week.

“A majority of members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it was causing enormous human suffering and exacerbating existing vulnerabilities in the global economy,” the document said, adding that there were mixed “assessments” of the situation within the group .

In addition to discussions within the summit, this week showed that Putin – who is believed to have launched the invasion to restore Russia’s supposed former glory – is increasingly isolated, with the Russian leader holed up in Moscow, unwilling to even face a major global adversary. Meeting.

Fears of political tactics that could be stacked against him if he leaves the capital, an obsession with physical safety and a desire to avoid confrontational scenes at the summit — especially as Russia faces heavy losses on the battlefield — could all be Putin Considerations for the assessment, according to Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

At the same time, he may not want to draw unnecessary attention to the few countries that remain friendly to Russia, such as India and China, whose leaders Putin saw at a regional summit in Uzbekistan in September.

“He didn’t want to be this toxic guy,” Gabuev said.

But even among countries that have not taken a hard line on Russia, there are signs of impatience, if not with Russia itself, but with the knock-on effects of its aggression. Tight energy, food security concerns and rising global inflation are squeezing economies around the world.

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Indonesia, which hosts the G20 meeting, did not explicitly condemn the Russian aggression, but its President Joko Widodo told world leaders on Tuesday that “we must end the war”.

While the West has shunned Russian fuel in recent months, India, which has been a major buyer of Russian energy, reiterated calls at the G20 meeting to “find a way back to a ceasefire path”. The summit’s final declaration included the phrase, “Today’s time must not be war” — echoing what Modi said when he met Putin on the sidelines of the Uzbekistan summit in September.

China’s strategic partnership with Russia is underpinned by the close relationship between leaders Xi Jinping and Putin, and it is unclear whether there has been any shift in China’s stance. Beijing has long refused to condemn the invasion or even call it that. Instead, it denounced Western sanctions and amplified the Kremlin’s talking points, blaming the U.S. and NATO for the conflict, though such rhetoric appeared to have softened in recent months in its state-controlled domestic media.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed G20 leaders via video link from his office in Kyiv.

However, during a sideline meeting with Western leaders last week, Xi reiterated China’s call for a ceasefire through dialogue and, according to what his interlocutors read, agreed to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine — though those remarks did not included in China’s statement. A record of the meeting.

But Chinese foreign policy watchers say China’s desire to maintain a strong relationship with Russia may remain unwavering.

“While these statements are indirect criticism of Vladimir Putin, I don’t think their purpose is to alienate China from Russia,” said Brian Hart, a fellow at the China Power Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Xi Jinping is speaking these words to an audience that wants to hear them.”

However, Russia’s isolation looms even greater against the backdrop of Xi Jinping’s diplomatic visits to Bali and Bangkok this week.

While U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has named Beijing — not Moscow — the “most serious long-term challenge” to the global order, Western leaders still see Xi Jinping as a valuable global partner, many of them with the Chinese leader The meeting aims to achieve goals in terms of strengthening exchanges and cooperation.

At Saturday’s event, Xi spoke with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is representing the U.S. at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok. In a tweet, Harris said she took note of the “key message” of Biden’s own G20 meeting with Xi — the importance of keeping lines of communication open “to responsibly manage competition between our countries.”

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In an impassioned call for peace at a meeting of business leaders on the sidelines of the APEC summit on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to draw a line between Russia’s actions and tensions with China.

Referring to the U.S.-China rivalry and growing confrontation in Asian regional waters, Macron said: “What makes this war different is that it is an aggression against international rules. All countries … are stabilized by international rules,” and then Called on Russia to “come back to the negotiating table” and “respect the international order”.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris met with U.S. allies at APEC after North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Friday.

The urgency of that sentiment was heightened Tuesday when a Russian-made missile landed in Poland, killing two people, during the G20 summit. As a NATO member, a threat to Poland’s security could trigger a reaction across the bloc.

Preliminary investigations that the missile was accidentally fired from the Ukrainian side during missile defense eased the situation but highlighted the possibility of miscalculation triggering a world war.

The day after that happened, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pointed out what he called “split screen”.

“As the world strives to help the most vulnerable, Russia targets them; world leaders reaffirm our commitment to the UN Charter and international rules that work for us all. President Putin continues to try to crush the same principles, ’ Blinken told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday night.

Heading into a week of international meetings, the United States and its allies are poised to deliver that message to their international counterparts. Despite the powerful message, reaching consensus around this view has not been easy — and differences remain.

Both the G20 and APEC statements acknowledged differences in how members voted at the UN for a resolution it “condemns” Russian aggression, and said that while most members “strongly condemn” the war, “there are other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions.”

At the two summits, officials said, even making such a warning was an arduous process. Indonesia’s Jokowi said G20 leaders had been discussing the Ukraine paragraph until “midnight”.

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Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at the APEC meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, November 18, 2022.

Matt Murray, a senior APEC U.S. official, told CNN in an interview after the summit that “there was a lot of pressure after the G20 agreed on the communique,” adding that the U.S. had been keeping its head down at lower-level meetings. Unanimously, war issues need to be addressed in the forum “all year” given its impact on trade and food security.

“In every instance where we failed to reach an earlier consensus, it was because Russia blocked the statement,” he said. Meanwhile, “intermediate economies” expressed concern about the invasion but were unsure whether it should be part of the agenda, said Murray, who said this week’s statement at APEC was the culmination of more than 100 hours of talks, both personally and online.

Countries in these blocs have various geostrategic and economic ties to Russia that affect their positions. But another issue that some Asian countries may worry about is whether the steps to condemn Russia are part of a U.S. effort to weaken Moscow, former Thai foreign minister Ganthati Supramunkhun told CNN days before the summit .

“Countries are saying we don’t want to be pawns in this game, used to weaken another great power,” said Suphamongkhon, a member of the advisory board of the RAND Corporation’s Asia-Pacific Policy Center. Blaming Russia for “war crimes” touches on a situation that “everyone here refuses to accept.”

Russia’s refusal on these fronts could also send a message to China, which itself is ignoring international rulings, refuting its territorial claims in the South China Sea and vowing to “unify” with democratic self-governing Taiwan, which it never controlled, by force if necessary .

While this week’s efforts may have ratcheted up the pressure on Putin, the Russian leader has lived through the dynamic: Before Putin was expelled for his annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, the G7 It remains to be seen whether the bloc is the G8 — and still the international expression — will make a difference.

But without Putin, the leader emphasized this week, the suffering will continue — and there will be holes in the international system.

This story has been updated with new information.


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