Potential showdown between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin looming
Posted On April 30, 2022
President Joe Biden and his advisers are still in conversations about how to approach November’s Group of 20 summit, whose hosts received confirmation that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend.
Mr Biden has said Russia should be ejected from the G20. Senior members of his administration have walked out of G20 events where Russian delegates are present. And there were discussions with Indonesia, which is hosting the summit, about stepping up its condemnation of Russia.
But no decision on boycotting the leaders’ summit, still six months away, has been made. Officials said there wouldn’t likely be a decision in the near term as they weigh the downsides of skipping the event and ceding the table to Russia and China.
“The President has expressed publicly his opposition to President Putin attending the G20,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.
She said it was too early to say how the summit would look.
“It is six months away. So we don’t know how to predict, we can’t predict at this point, what that will look like,” she said, adding: “We’ve conveyed our view that we don’t think they should be a part of it publicly and privately as well.”
The White House is realistic the G20 will not collectively remove Russia from its ranks, since the decision would likely require consensus and China has been clear it doesn’t support such a move. That makes this a different scenario than when Russia was expelled from the G8 after its annexation of Crimea.
Ms Psaki said the White House’s understanding was that Indonesia invited Mr Putin to attend prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yet in a statement, the country’s President stressed unity among the member countries.
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“Indonesia wants to unite the G20. Don’t let there be a split. Peace and stability are the keys to the recovery and development of the world economy,” President Joko Widodo said in a statement from Indonesia’s Cabinet on Friday, confirming Mr Putin had accepted his invitation to attend.
Mr Widodo also extended an invitation earlier this week to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who tweeted he was “grateful” for the invite, but did not specify whether he would attend the summit.
Mr Widodo spoke with Mr Putin and Mr Zelensky in separate phone calls this week, during which he conveyed to the Russian president the importance of ending the war in Ukraine “immediately” and Indonesia’s desire to contribute to a peaceful resolution to the conflict, according to the statement.
Mr Widodo said he conveyed to Mr Zelensky Indonesia’s readiness to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine but not military assistance, which he said is prohibited by Indonesia’s constitution and its foreign policy principles.
Confirmation of Mr Putin’s attendance sets up a potentially complicated summit on the Indonesian island Bali, which is scheduled to begin in the beginning of November. White House officials have mulled a number of different scenarios, including potentially sending a lower-level delegation or participating remotely. But Mr Biden attending in person is still considered the likeliest outcome, even if Mr Putin is also there, according to officials.
Ms Psaki said there were no indications Russia was willing to engage in serious diplomacy.
“There’s a lot that could happen between now and then, but we certainly haven’t seen an indication to date of Russia’s plan to participate in diplomatic talks constructively,” she said.
“Our hope certainly is that will change because obviously diplomatic talks and conversations is the way to bring an end to this conflict and President Putin could end this tomorrow, could end this right now.”
Earlier this month, finance ministers from multiple nations, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, walked out of a closed-door G20 session in Washington when the Russian delegate began his prepared remarks, a show of protest against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
Ahead of the meeting, US officials had said Ms Yellen would not participate in certain sessions of the gathering that included Russia. And Mr Biden said during a snap NATO summit in March he would support Russia’s ejection from the G20.
Short of that, Mr Biden said Ukraine should be invited to participate. He said he’d discussed the matter with other leaders during his meetings.