As Russia’s war against Ukraine intensifies, US President Joe Biden and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, among others, have called for President Vladimir Putin to be excluded from the Group of Twenty (G20) annual meeting in Bali, to be held in November 2022.
This demand has put G20 host country, Indonesia, in a difficult spot. Since the beginning of the military invasion, Indonesia has been accused of having too soft of a stance on Russia, refusing for instance, to join Western sanctions against Russia. Jakarta has reiterated its position to invite all G20 country leaders with no exception – and has even invited non-G20 country, Ukraine, to attend the meeting. Yet, international pressure is mounting: after the exclusion from the G8 in 2014, should Russia be banned from the G20, too? Christopher A. Hartwell and Gautam Chikermane weigh in.
Should Russia Be Excluded from the G20?
Yes, it should.
Christopher A. Hartwell, Professor and Head of the International Management Institute at ZHAW School of Management and Law in Switzerland
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine since 2014 shows that it does not share the norms and behavioral underpinnings of the liberal Western economies. This belated realization justified Russia’s ejection from the G8 in 2014, as the (now) G7 explicitly commits itself to “pluralism and democracy.” In Putin’s Russia, obviously, there has been no such commitment.
On the other hand, Russia appears better suited to the G20, as it has more emerging market representation and eschews the “shared norms and values” approach to multilateralism of the G7. Given its economic focus, it is more interventionist, meaning that Russia fits in there better alongside Saudi Arabia and China than with the US and the European Union.
Despite this reality, Russia should still be excluded. While the G20 brings together countries which are far less friendly to market economics, it still has “financial stability” as a mission, and Russia is the antithesis of such stability. Its international actions roil global financial and commodity markets, its currency is non-controvertible, and it is a concentrated and fragile economy. Indeed, its only economic contribution to the world is oil and gas, and even this is diminishing in importance in the wake of the Ukrainian invasion and the move towards greener energy globally. Even including oil, however, Russia is a miniscule player on the global economic stage, comprising approximately only 3% of global GDP.
Finally, it would be another sanction on Russia, and Russia knows this. When pushed out of the G8 in the wake of the first invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Lavrov downplayed it by saying “All the economic and financial questions are decided in G20.” Perhaps pushing them out of the G20 will then show that they should not be privy to these questions either.
No, it shouldn’t.
Gautam Chikermane, Vice President at Observer Research Foundation (ORF), India
Since interests and principles are fleeting points on the larger landscape of ever-changing international relations, the exclusion of Russia from the G20 fails on both counts. If interests are tested, China is a bigger rogue state. However, if Beijing is not being evicted from the G20, why should Moscow be? The West’s trade and investments with China, being significantly higher than that with Russia, prevent its exclusion from the organization, despite several violations of international law. Beijing has continued to use its military clout to encroach the small and peaceful Bhutan; it has used debt trap diplomacy to impoverish, most recently, the island nation of Sri Lanka. Furthermore it supports the terrorist state of Pakistan and has intruded international waters in the South China Sea. Before Russia, therefore, it is China that needs to be evicted from the G20—and the UN.
If the argument is based on principles, it must be uniformly applied. From a military perspective, Russia’s actions in Ukraine are fundamental violations. But, on a smaller scale, so were China’s in Bhutan and India. If peace is a presumption for all other engagements, and values the mediator, we should have seen China’s G20 exclusion on the same principle, earlier on. In addition, the economic isolation of a strong nuclear nation like Russia from the high-level table of global engagement will not help end the war. A unity of interests must power the harmony of principles; everything else are rudderless, ruthless and rootless geopolitics. A new approach is needed. Until the G20 gets its interests-values balance right, Russia must remain in the G20.
Towards a G20 Minus One?
by Franco Bruni, ISPI Vice-President and Co-Head of the Europe and Global Governance Centre
Alongside meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, taken place from 18 to 24 April, Washington saw an attempt to keep the G20 working. The Indonesian presidency of the Group was not enough to avoid the Russian presence from effectively blocking any work, with a boycott by representatives from the USA and other nations that placed strong statements on record condemning the invasion of Ukraine. Since Italy held the presidency of the G20 during the previous turn, it is a member of the Troika that ensures continuity of what is done from one year to the next, working with Indonesia and India, which will hold the G20 presidency in 2023. So, Italy also has some responsibility for managing a problem that seems impossible to resolve.