Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claims that Indonesia has invited him to this year’s G20 summit, following weeks of pressure for Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to disinvite Russian President Vladimir Putin following his invasion of Ukraine.
“Had talks with President @jokowi. Thanked for the support of sovereignty and territorial integrity, in particular for a clear position in the UN. Food security issues were discussed,” Zelenskyy tweeted on Wednesday. He then added, “Appreciate inviting me to the @g20org summit.”
Zelenskyy did not say whether he would accept the invitation to the November summit in Bali, and if so, whether he would attend in person or via videolink. Jokowi’s invitation has not been confirmed by the Indonesian government.
If he did show up in Bali, however, it would set up a tense meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Moscow has confirmed plans to attend the summit in the face of a likely chilly reception from the North American and European members of the economic grouping.
The Russia-Ukraine war has thrown Indonesia’s plans for its G20 chairmanship into disarray, threatening to derail an event that Jokowi and his administration have viewed as an opportunity to burnish Indonesia’s international image. In particular, it is likely to detract considerable amounts of attention from Indonesia’s planned focus on economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic under its “Recover Together, Recover Stronger” theme.
As it stands, there is a good chance that if Putin attends the summit, a considerable number of the remaining G20 leaders will decide not to attend rather than appearing in the same room as the Russian president, whose forces continue to press on into eastern Ukraine despite staunch Ukrainian resistance. Indeed, some G20 leaders have been explicit about this. Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen walked out of a meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank governors in Washington, along with her British and Canadian counterparts, when Russia’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, started to speak via video link.
As a result, Jokowi’s administration has in recent weeks faced growing international pressure to either exclude Putin from the event or to grant Ukraine a place at the table. Some Western nations are even calling for Russia to be booted out of the G20 altogether, much as it was excluded from the G8 following its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Last month, Reuters reported that the Polish government had suggested to U.S. Commerce Department officials that Russia be replaced within the G20 group and that it had received a “positive response” from American officials.
President Joe Biden said last month that he believed Russia should be expelled from the grouping, though acknowledging the decision would be up to G20 nations, which are unlikely to agree to such a step. (At least one of China, India, South Africa, or Saudi Arabia would almost certainly veto it.) But he said that if expulsion is off the table, Ukraine should be invited to attend.
So far, the Indonesian government has been reluctant to take a clear side on the Russia-Ukraine war, or to revoke Putin’s invitation to the Bali summit. Officials are holding firm to their line that the G20 is an economic and development forum, and that it is thus not the proper arena in which to address the conflict.
In this light, extending an invitation to Zelenskyy seems like a compromise decision that is designed to sidestep the more difficult decision of excluding the Russian president from the summit, and an attempt to quarantine discussions of the conflict from the rest of the summit deliberations. Whether Zelenskyy’s possible presence at the summit would assuage Western concerns about appearing in the same room as Putin, however, remains to be seen.