G20 Summit: Changes to Declaration Wording Doesn’t Signify Acceptance of Russian Aggression

Even though Russia was not condemned by name, it is clear that aggression against Ukraine was disapproved of. Nations must push Russia to enter a ceasefire and withdraw its troops in line with the spirit of the leaders’ declaration for the Group of 20 major economies.

The leaders’ declaration was adopted at the G20 summit held in India. The declaration stated that all states must refrain from the use of force to seek territorial acquisition, adding, “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

Last year’s leaders’ declaration included the phrase “aggression by the Russian Federation,” citing a U.N. General Assembly resolution, and included the sentence, “Most members strongly condemned” the war.

In the latest declaration, the word “aggression” was dropped and the phrase “war in Ukraine” is used. The word “condemn” also disappeared. It is undeniable that pressure on Russia has weakened. It is understandable that Ukraine criticized the declaration as “nothing to be proud of.”

The failure to follow through on the previous declaration’s wording was largely due to the fact that India, which now holds the rotating G20 presidency, took its traditional friend Russia into consideration. In the end, the United States, Europe and Japan, from their standpoint of placing importance on strengthening ties with India, likely compromised, even though they were dissatisfied with the content of the declaration.

If the leaders’ declaration had not been issued, it would have been the first time since the inauguration of the G20 framework. The fact that the G20 avoided a situation that would have resulted in a definitive split and hollowing out of the grouping at the very last minute is of no small significance.

At the summit, it was decided that the African Union, which comprises 55 African countries and regions, will participate in the G20. It is certain that the so-called Global South of emerging and developing countries will have a stronger voice in the G20.

If the African Union’s participation in the G20 increases the influence of the group, it will give momentum to the creation of international public opinion on food and energy issues. Many expect, however, that advanced economies and the Global South will be at odds with each other, making it difficult to reach consensus.

Japan has long provided aid to the Global South and built good relations with those nations. As a bridge between the West and developing countries, Japan needs to work to maintain the functioning of the G20.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were absent from the latest G20 summit and sent their deputies.

This is the second consecutive year that Putin has been absent from the G20 summit. In addition to his wish not to face accusations over the aggression against Ukraine, his growing isolation due to the issuance of a warrant for his arrest by the International Criminal Court on suspicion of war crimes was likely the major reason to skip the summit.

Many leaders of the G20 also do not want to sit down with Putin and hold talks with him. It is Putin himself who has created a situation in which he cannot conduct summit diplomacy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 12, 2023)