G20 Summit: Ukraine war and tensions with China loom over big Bali summit

President Joe Biden arrives in Indonesia for the G20 economic summit.

By Adam Schreck and Elaine Kurtenbach | The Associated Press

 

NUSA DUA, Indonesia >> A showdown between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin isn’t happening, but fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing tensions between China and the West will be at the fore when leaders of the world’s biggest economies gather in tropical Bali this week.

The Group of 20 members begin talks on the Indonesian resort island Tuesday under the hopeful theme of “recover together, recover stronger.” While Putin is staying away, Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and get to know new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italy’s Giorgia Meloni.

The summit’s official priorities of health, sustainable energy and digital transformation are likely to be overshadowed by fears of a sputtering global economy and geopolitical tensions centered on the war in Ukraine.

The nearly 9-month-old conflict has disrupted trade in oil, natural gas and grain, and shifted much of the summit’s focus to food and energy security.

The U.S. and allies in Europe and Asia, meanwhile, increasingly are squaring off against a more assertive China, leaving emerging G-20 economies like India, Brazil and host Indonesia to walk a tightrope between bigger powers.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has tried to bridge rifts within the G-20 over the war in Ukraine. Widodo, also known as Jokowi, became the first Asian leader since the invasion to visit both Russia and Ukraine in the summer.

He invited President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, not a G-20 member, to join the summit. Zelenskyy is expected to participate online.

“One of the priorities for Jokowi is to ease the tension of war and geopolitical risk,” said Bhima Yudhistira, director of the Center of Economic and Law Studies in Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta.

Last year’s G-20 summit in Rome was the first in-person gathering of members since the pandemic, though the leaders of Russia and China didn’t attend.

This year’s event is bracketed by the United Nations climate conference in Egypt and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Cambodia, which Biden and some other G-20 leaders are attending, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Thailand right afterward.

The American president vowed to work with Southeast Asian nations on Saturday, saying “we’re going to build a better future that we all want to see” in a region where China is working to grow its influence. On Sunday, Biden huddled with the leaders of Japan and South Korea to discuss China and the threat from North Korea.

One question hanging over the Bali summit is whether Russia will agree to extend the U.N. Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is up for renewal Nov. 19.

The July deal allowed major global grain producer Ukraine to resume exports from ports that had been largely blocked for months because of the war. Russia briefly pulled out of the deal late last month only to rejoin it days later.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday called for more pressure on Russia to extend the deal, saying Moscow must “stop playing hunger games with the world.”

As leaders contend with conflicts and geopolitical tensions, they face the risk that efforts to tame inflation will extinguish post-pandemic recoveries or cause debilitating financial crises.

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