Last week’s three major summits of world leaders across Asia made one thing clear: Vladimir Putin is no longer on the world stage.
Putin, whose attacks on Ukraine have crippled Europe and the global economy over the past nine months, has come under fire for refusing to attend diplomatic meetings instead as international opposition to his war grows.
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting in Bangkok closed on Saturday, citing countries’ positions in other forums, including UN resolutions, and deploring “in the strongest terms” Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. expressed. different views.
This echoes the declaration of the Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ summit in Bali earlier this week.
“Most members strongly condemn the war in Ukraine, stressing that it has brought great human suffering and exacerbated the current vulnerability of the global economy,” the document said, adding that the group had different “assessments” of the situation. is
Aside from the discussions at the summit, Putin, who is seen as launching an offensive to restore Russia’s former glory, has become increasingly isolated, with the Russian leader languishing in Moscow and showing an unwillingness to face his counterparts at major meetings. global meetings.
Concerns about possible political maneuvering against him from the capital, concern for his personal security, and a desire to avoid confrontation at the summit, especially as Russia suffers heavy battlefield losses, were all calculations that may have factored into Putin’s assessment. According to Alexander Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
At the same time, he may not want to draw attention to the few nations that remain friendly to Russia, such as India and China.
“He doesn’t want to be such a toxic person,” Gabuev said.
But even among countries that have not taken a hard line against Russia, there are signs of impatience with Russia, if not with the harms of its aggression. Now, energy shortages, food insecurity and soaring global inflation are squeezing the global economy.
Indonesia, which hosted the G20 meeting, did not directly condemn Russia’s aggression, but its President Joko Widodo told world leaders on Tuesday that “we must stop the war.”
India, a major buyer of Russian energy, also reiterated its call at the G20 meeting to “find a way back to the ceasefire” even as the West has cut back on Russian fuel in recent months. The summit’s final declaration included the phrase “There should be no war in today’s era,” echoing what Modi said when he met Putin at the Uzbekistan summit in September.
It is unclear whether China, whose strategic partnership with Russia has been strengthened by the close relationship between Xi Jinping and Putin, has changed its position in any way. Beijing has long refused to condemn the aggression, or even to call it such. Instead, the state-controlled domestic media has seen some backlash in recent months, though the Kremlin’s rhetoric has increased its stance by denouncing Western sanctions and blaming the US and NATO for the conflict.
During a meeting with Western leaders last week, Xi urged China to negotiate a ceasefire and reiterated its agreement to oppose the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. report of talks.
In an interview with Chinese state media, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated his position that “no nuclear weapons should be used and no nuclear war” during the bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden in the framework of the Group of 20. proved.
But observers of China’s foreign policy say its desire to maintain strong ties with Russia remains unwavering.
Brian Hart, a fellow at the China Energy Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said, “These statements are an indirect criticism of Vladimir Putin, but I don’t think they are intended to distance China from Russia. “Si is saying these things to an audience that wants to hear them.”
This week, however, Russia’s isolation is even more apparent in the background of Xi Jinping’s diplomatic visits to Bali and Bangkok.
The Biden administration has called Beijing, not Moscow, the “most serious long-term challenge” to the global order, but Western leaders see Xi as a valued global partner, many of whom have met with the Chinese leader for talks to improve ties. communication and cooperation.
Xi Jinping met with US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is representing the US at the APEC summit in Bangkok, during an event on Saturday. Harris tweeted that the “key message” of Biden’s G20 meeting with Xi was that “maintaining open lines of communication is critical to responsibly managing the competition between our countries.”
French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to distinguish between Russia’s actions and tensions with China as he called for peace at a meeting of business leaders on the sidelines of the APEC summit on Friday.
Referring to the US-China rivalry and the growing confrontation in the waters of the Asian region, Macron said, “This war is different in that it is an aggression against international rules. All countries are stable under international rules,” he said, before calling on Russia to once again “sit at the table” and “respect the international order.”
The idea came under fire after a Russian-made missile landed in Poland during the G20 summit on Tuesday, killing two people. Threats to Poland’s security as a NATO member state could trigger retaliation from the entire bloc.
The situation was defused after an initial investigation suggested that the missile had crashed during a Ukrainian missile defense system, but the miscalculation highlighted the potential for a world war.
A day after this situation, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pointed to what he called “split screen”.
“What we’re seeing is a stunning split screen: the world is working to help the most vulnerable, so Russia targets them; Leaders around the world have reaffirmed their commitment to the UN Charter and international rules that benefit all our people. President Putin continues to try to undermine these principles,” Blinken told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday night.
During the week of international meetings, the United States and its allies were ready to convey this message to their international peers. Despite strong messages, agreeing on this view has not been easy, and differences remain.
The G20 and APEC declaration acknowledged the split among members who voted at the UN to support a resolution “deploring” Russia’s aggression, saying that while most members “strongly condemned” the war, “there were different views and different assessments of the situation”. . sanctions.”
According to officials, it was a difficult process to make such expressions of caution during the two summits. Indonesia’s Jokowi says G20 leaders have been debating the paragraph on Ukraine until “midnight”.
Countries in the group have different geostrategic and economic relations with Russia, which affect their position. But another concern in some Asian countries is whether the move to accuse Russia is part of an American effort to weaken Moscow, said former Thai foreign minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon.
“Countries don’t want us to be just pawns in this game to weaken another power,” says Suphamongkhon, an advisory board member of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Asia-Pacific Policy (CAPP). Instead of accusing Russia of “violations of international law and possible war crimes,” he said, it would focus on aspects of the situation that “everyone here denies.”
Russia’s rebuff, along these lines, could send a message to China, which has vowed to “reunite” with the self-governing democracy of Taiwan, which has never been vetted, rejecting international rulings rejecting its territorial claims in the South China Sea. , by force if necessary.
This week’s effort may have increased pressure on Putin, but the Russian leader has experience with this dynamic: The Group of Seven (G7) was and remains the Group of Eight before Putin was ousted in 2014 over Ukraine’s annexation of Crimea. Will see if the international expression has an effect.
But if Putin is not included, the suffering will continue and holes will be left in the international system, the leaders stressed this week.
This story has been updated with new information.