‘Ending Ukraine war best thing to mend world economy’

Agence France-Presse

NUSA DUA – US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen heaped pressure on Russia yesterday ahead of the G20 summit in Indonesia, saying the best way to end world economic tumult was to stop the Ukraine war.

“Ending Russia’s war is a moral imperative and the single best thing we can do for the global economy,” Yellen told reporters as she met French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Nusa Dua, on the resort island of Bali.

High fuel and food prices are among the top issues set to be discussed at the summit and few G20 countries have escaped the economic pain.

Yellen will hope to build diplomatic pressure for an end to the war by blaming Russia.

Host Indonesia has called for talks and a peaceful resolution to the conflict but, like fellow G20 members China, South Africa and India, has largely avoided criticising Russia directly.

The summit is also expected to discuss the need to extend a Turkish and UN-brokered agreement allowing vital Ukrainian grain and fertiliser exports to transit safely through the Black Sea.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest producers of both products. Russian President Vladimir Putin had appeared to walk away from the agreement but faced a sharp backlash from developing countries.

The current agreement expires on Nov. 19. Le Maire underscored the need to counteract the effects of Russia’s invasion, namely on soaring fuel prices in Europe.

“I really think that the first issue that we have on the table is how to bring down energy prices and how to get rid of inflation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the last time Russian President Vladimir Putin found himself isolated at a G20 summit was in 2014, soon after he seized Crimea – and he was so shunned that he left early.

Eight years later, after launching a full-scale offensive in Ukraine in February and threatening the West with nuclear weapons, the 70-year-old Russian leader chose to skip this week’s G20 meeting on the tropical island of Bali altogether.

Observers say the Kremlin is seeking to shield the Russian leader from a storm of condemnation in Indonesia but Putin’s no-show risks further isolating a country already battered by unprecedented Western sanctions.

Alexei Malashenko, chief researcher at the Dialogue of Civilizations Institute, said Putin did not want to be publicly humiliated once again, recalling that at the Brisbane summit in 2014 Putin was placed at the far flank of the traditional family photo.

“At the summit, you have to talk to people and be photographed,” said Malashenko.

“And who is he going to talk to and how exactly will he be photographed?”

The G20 gathering will inevitably be overshadowed by Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine, which has shocked global energy markets and aggravated food shortages.

Fyodor Lukyanov, a foreign policy expert close to the Kremlin, indicated that Putin was not ready to budge over Ukraine.

“His position is well known, it will not change. The other side’s position is also well known,” said Lukyanov, editor of the Russia in Global Affairs journal. “What’s the point of going?”

The Kremlin blamed Putin’s absence on scheduling conflicts, without specifying what prompted the Russian leader to skip one of the highest-profile global summits.

The Kremlin said that Putin would not even address the summit by video link.

By comparison, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who will attend the gathering virtually, is expected to lobby global leaders for a stronger response to Russia’s assault.

The Russian delegation will be headed by Moscow’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov.

The pugilistic foreign minister walked out of a G20 meeting in Bali in July after Russia’s offensive in Ukraine was condemned, and he can expect another icy reception.

Political analyst Konstantin Kalachev said Putin’s refusal to travel to Bali reflected “a sense of a dead end” over Ukraine.

“He’s got nothing to say,” Kalachev said. “He has no proposal on Ukraine that could satisfy both sides.”

Despite mobilizing hundreds of thousands of reservists in September, the Russian armed forces have suffered setback after setback in Ukraine.

In September, the Russian army had to withdraw from the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

On Friday, Russia announced it was pulling its forces from the strategic southern port city of Kherson in a new humiliation for the Kremlin. Peace talks have been put on ice.

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