Indonesia will pleased that the G20 Summit released a joint communique despite firm Russian resistance. Image: Facebook

JAKARTA – Stung by the loss of the strategic city of Kherson, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s concerted missile barrage on Ukraine the previous night appears to have been responsible for the surprisingly strong final declaration emerging from the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Bali on Wednesday.

With Moscow’s delegation leader, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, abruptly flying out of the island resort the night before, the leaders condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the Russian invasion and its impact on global food and energy supply lines.

President Joko Widodo said negotiating the declaration had been extremely difficult, with diplomats working until midnight on the wording. But he hailed the 52-paragraph accord for condemning the war “because it has violated borders and the integrity of the region.”

A communiqué is slightly more nuanced than a declaration, but in both cases they seek to capture the sense of an event. As one diplomat put it: “Indonesia will come away from this feeling very pleased with themselves. It is absolutely more than they thought it could get.”

Point 3 of the Bali document referred to the March 2, 2022, United Nations General Assembly resolution, passed in a majority vote, that deplored Russian aggression against Ukraine and demanded its complete and unconditional withdrawal.

“Most members strongly condemned the war,” it says. “It is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing frailties in the global economy, constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity and elevating financial stability risks.”

The declaration acknowledged there were “other views and different assessments of the situation and related sanctions,” but added: “Recognizing that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledged that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy.”

It said upholding international law and the multilateral system was essential to safeguarding peace and security, including defending the principles and purposes in the UN Charter and adhering to international humanitarian law – along with the protection of civilians and infrastructure.

“The use of or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible,” it went on. “The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as dialogue and diplomacy are vital. Today’s era must not be of war.”

The leaders called on Russia to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which has so far allowed the export of 11 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he planned to meet with Putin to help avert a looming global shortage of chemical fertilizers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov left the Bali G20 Summit early. Image: Twitter

With Brazil and Mexico missing from the summit meeting altogether, Widodo said the 17 remaining leaders adopted the declaration unanimously – despite what he called “heated debate” and widespread reports that Lavrov had rejected the draft from the start.

Diplomatic sources say that suggests his replacement, veteran Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, eventually rolled over on the wording instead of “blowing up” the whole process, as has happened at some previous summits where contentious issues have arisen.

For Chinese President Xi Jinping, the overnight strikes may have been the last straw. In recent weeks, there have been signs he is growing increasingly unhappy with Putin’s nuclear rhetoric and the impact of the war on the global economy.

But he did get in a few jibes against the West. Clearly addressing the US, Xi declared: “Drawing ideological lines or promoting group politics and bloc confrontation will only divide the world and hinder global development and human progress.”

“No one should engage in beggar-thy-neighbor practices, building a ‘small yard with high fences,’ or creating closed and exclusive clubs,” he said in a reference to security pacts created over the past year between Washington and its Asian allies.

On Monday, China was also among 14 countries that voted against a UN resolution calling for Russia to be held responsible for paying reparations for the damage caused during the war. Indonesia and three other G20 nations abstained.

The sources believe Indonesia’s independent foreign policy, the obvious goodwill shown toward the hosts as they sought to steer a path through the geopolitical minefield – and Bali’s ambiance – contributed to the success of the summit. 

It was not without the want of trying. Guided by Dian Triansyah Djani, a former ambassador to the UN and special adviser to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, the G20 diplomats had actually started their work five days before the summit convened.  

Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi is widely seen as one of Southeast Asia’s most seasoned and credible diplomats. Image: G20 Website

His forces unable to make inroads on the ground, Putin has in recent weeks increasingly turned to a scorched-earth strategy aimed at destroying Ukraine’s power stations and other infrastructure as the bitterly cold winter months approach.

Immediate attention focused on a Russian-made missile landing in Poland, but after an emergency meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanual Macron, US President Joe Biden said it wasn’t clear it had come from Russia.

US officials thought it may have been a Ukrainian anti-aircraft rocket fired at an incoming Russian missile, one of more than 100 that rained down on cities in the west, east and south and left half of Kiev, the capital, without power.

“I call on all parties to refrain from escalating tensions,” President Joko Widodo said in his closing statement. “I have always said that war will only bring devastation, therefore we must stop the war.”

Cast in the unfamiliar role of statesman, Widodo made the same appeal in his opening remarks on Tuesday, effectively conceding that the war had spoiled Indonesia’s efforts to make the gathering a showcase for attracting more foreign investment.

Where it did score points was on the sidelines of the summit, where state-owned utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara and the Asian Development Bank agreed to a deal in which they will refinance and retire a 660-megawatt coal-fired power plant on Java’s north coast.

The 10-year-old station, owned by a Marubeni Corp-led consortium, is the first to be earmarked for early closure under a regionwide ADB Energy Transition Mechanism to help phase out coal, which contributes to more than half of Indonesia’s power generation.

Indonesia will benefit from a US$20 billion climate finance package, pledged by the eight-nation Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) that will reduce emissions, expand renewable energy and support workers most affected by the transition away from coal.

Indonesia is looking to burn less coal. Image: Facebook

According to a JETP statement, the aim is to have renewables contribute 34% of all power generation by 2030 and to ensure the sector reaches net zero emissions by 2050, a decade earlier than the government has targeted.

Indonesian commentators were also quick to home in on one article in which the G20 countries agreed to do more to implement an agreement made in 2009 to phase out and rationalize subsidies that it said only encouraged more wasteful fuel consumption.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who played a prominent role in some of the summit’s side meetings, has said that the cost of Indonesia’s energy subsidies and compensation could surpass this year’s budgeted US$34 billion, despite a recent increase in fuel prices.