Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is high on the agenda as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with other foreign ministers from the Group of 20 largest economies, or G-20, later this week in Bali, Indonesia.
Blinken departs Wednesday for a G-20 ministerial being held in Bali July 7-8, where he will also have pull-aside meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bali.
“In addition to attending G20-related engagements, the secretary will hold a bilateral meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Among other bilateral engagements, Secretary Blinken will also meet with the People’s Republic of China [PRC] State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the margins of the G20,” said the State Department in a Tuesday statement.
Blinken will have two lengthy meetings with Wang, with the first session likely focusing on bilateral relations and second one on international issues, according to diplomatic sources.
Blinken will head to Bangkok after the G-20 ministerial. Expanding health and climate cooperation, as well as efforts to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar after last year’s military coup, are among the agenda items, according to the State Department.
While Ukraine is not a G-20 member, its foreign minister, Dymtro Kuleba, was invited to this week’s ministerial after Ukraine became a European Union candidate country. Kuleba said he has coordinated his country’s positions with the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, ahead of the ministerial.
“We both agree on the need for the seventh EU sanctions package on Russia and we are working on it,” said Kuleba in a tweet.
U.S. officials have said Russia’s war on Ukraine has caused global economic instability and that Washington will not ease pressure on the Kremlin until Russia ends its military offensive.
There is no formal meeting scheduled between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Bali.
Blinken’s meeting with the Chinese foreign minister would be their first in-person meeting since the chief U.S. diplomat, in late May, unveiled the Biden administration’s strategy to outcompete the PRC.
In his remarks, Blinken said the United States is not seeking to decouple from China and the relationship between the world’s two largest economies is not a zero-sum game.
For months, senior State Department officials have said they have not seen China providing material support to Russia for its war against Ukraine, warning of “consequences” if the Beijing government does so.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce added five companies in China to a trade blacklist for allegedly supporting Russia’s military and defense industrial base.
Some Republican U.S. lawmakers say the Biden administration’s actions are not enough.
“The (Biden) administration’s feeble concept of ‘consequences’ will do little to deter the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party’s) ongoing support for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war crimes,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee lead Republican Michael McCaul on June 29. McCaul said there should be “significant sanctions on those offending companies.”
G-20 division on Russia’s war in Ukraine
Russia’s participation at G-20 events has been a source of tension within the group that is composed of the Group of Seven leading industrialized economies, or G-7, and other large developing economies.
Many members, especially the G-7, have forcefully condemned Russia’s invasion and supported serious economic sanctions. Members such as China and India have abstained on various United Nations resolutions and refrained from publicly condemning Russia.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said that Russia should not remain a member of the G-20, but China, Brazil and South Africa have voiced their objections to removing Russia from the grouping. Those countries are also members of five large emerging economies known as BRICS and see themselves as an alternative to the U.S.-led world order.
Some G-20 members say divisions widened by Russia’s war in Ukraine should not overshadow this year’s theme of economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic.
Indonesia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of 20, says it maintains an independent foreign policy and does not side with world powers. Indonesia’s reluctance to exclude Russian President Vladimir Putin from the G-20 summit reflects its wish not to be seen as choosing a side and to focus this year’s G-20 discussions on post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo became the first Asian leader to visit Ukraine and Russia, after which he said Putin had agreed to “provide security guarantee for food and fertilizer supplies from both Russia and Ukraine” amid increasing concerns over a global food crisis.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told German broadcaster ZDF recently that Putin’s possible presence at the G-20 summit in November should not be a reason for Western leaders to boycott the meeting or “paralyze the entire G-20.”
“In my opinion, G-20 is too important, also for the developing countries, the emerging countries, that we should let this body be broken by Putin.”
This week’s ministerial will not produce an official document or communique, according to G-20 co-sherpa Dian Triansyah Djani.
“In Bangkok, Thailand, Secretary Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. He looks forward to discussing a range of issues, including building on the successes of Thailand’s APEC 2022 agenda during our 2023 APEC host year,” said the State Department.
Thailand is a key U.S. security ally in Asia. The two countries signed a landmark information exchange agreement in June, following the first joint U.S.-Thailand Strategic and Defense Dialogue in May in which the two nations agreed to expand cooperation in cybersecurity and post-COVID-19 economic recovery.
“In 2022, the U.S. remains Thailand’s leading security partner though China has emerged as a serious contender. Thailand seeks equilibrium in security cooperation between the two powers,” said Paul Chambers, an adviser for international affairs at the College of ASEAN Community Studies of Thailand-based Naresuan University.
Chambers told VOA the Thai Air Force is seeking to buy eight F-35 aircraft from the U.S. but Washington is concerned that F-35s’ advanced technology might be compromised by Thailand’s close military ties with Beijing.
The top diplomat’s visit to Bangkok was rescheduled from last December following positive COVID-19 test results involving members of Blinken’s flight crew and one traveling reporter.