Framework will not function if Russia viewed ambiguously

Responsibility for the food crisis and soaring energy prices lies solely with Russia, the invader of Ukraine. If this point is not recognized unambiguously, progress cannot be made toward stability in international politics and the global economy.

The foreign ministers of the Group of 20 nations and regions met in Bali. This was the first time for the foreign ministers of Japan, the United States, other Western countries and Russia and China to convene since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The G20 framework allows leading advanced countries and emerging economies to cooperate to resolve global issues. It is disconcerting that Russia, a G20 member, unabashedly participated in the meeting while simultaneously putting the global economy at risk through its actions in Ukraine.

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven advanced nations of Japan, the United States and five other Western countries deemed it inappropriate to sit down with Russia at a social gathering, so they did not attend the G20 welcome dinner. This likely served as a message that normal relations with the Kremlin can no longer be maintained in the face of the prolonged invasion.

At the G20 talks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and other foreign ministers strongly and uniformly condemned Russia and demanded the withdrawal of that country’s troops from Ukraine.

In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended the invasion and reiterated the assertion that the deterioration of the global economy was caused by Western sanctions against Russia. Beijing is said to have concurred with Moscow.

While the confrontation between Japan, the United States and other Western countries on one side and Russia and China on the other has become increasingly tense, emerging nations such as India and South Africa have conspicuously maintained their distance from both sides, in effect dividing the structure of the G20 into three camps.

The Indonesian foreign minister, who presided over the G20 meeting, tempered his criticism of Russia and instead presented a general view that the G20 should cooperate to resolve the various issues arising from the Ukraine crisis. While this may be an attempt to prevent the G20 framework from splitting, it is unlikely to produce results if it distracts attention from where the real problems lie.

The food crisis was caused by stagnation in the maritime transportation of wheat and other commodities from the two warring countries, as Russian troops continue their encroachment in areas along the Black Sea while meeting Ukrainian resistance.

Energy prices are soaring due to growing efforts — primarily in Europe —to reduce imports of Russian crude oil and natural gas through sanctions aimed at making it difficult for Russia to generate war funds.

Emerging and developing countries must have been dealt a severe blow, and it is difficult to understand why they do not try to hold Russia accountable. It is urged to recognize that if invasions are allowed, the world will become a place where military powers control minor powers and economic growth based on international cooperation cannot be hoped for.

Japan maintains good relations with emerging countries and other nations. As such, Japan should proactively approach and seek understanding from these countries in order to prevent them from becoming trapped in the middle of a confrontation between the United States and Russia and China if Washington decides to step forward.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2022)