The White House said it had not received confirmation from Indonesia – chair of this year’s Group of 20 (G-20) economic forum – that it had invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to its summit November in Bali.
“We have seen the reports that President Zelenskyy has been invited to the G-20 and we certainly welcome that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday. “As you know, President Biden said last month that Ukraine should be able to participate. But we don’t have any other confirmation beyond the news reports, which we certainly think are positive.
Zelenskyy tweeted on Wednesday that he had discussions with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and thanked him for his support for “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially for a clear position at the UN”. .
“Appreciated for inviting me to the G-20 summit,” he said.
In a tweet about the conversation on Thursday, Widodo did not mention an invitation.
“I spoke to President Zelensky of Ukraine yesterday,” Widodo posted. “I reiterated Indonesia’s support for all efforts for the success of the peace negotiations and I stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance.”
In March, Indonesia backed two resolutions at the UN General Assembly condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but abstained on the third resolution, along with 57 other UN members, to expel Moscow of the UN Human Rights Council.
Analysts have pointed out that Widodo’s government is stuck with the impossible task of trying to reach consensus on the world’s most pressing economic issues while navigating new geopolitical rivalries sparked by Putin’s invasion.
While Moscow was expelled from the Group of Eight (G-8), now known as the Group of Seven (G-7), following its annexation of Crimea in 2014, the G-20 is a group much broader with many more competing interests. It includes China, which supports Russian involvement.
“I think Indonesia is trying to split the baby here,” said Gregory Poling, who studies US foreign policy in Asia-Pacific at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“They don’t want the United States and other G-7 members not showing up. They also don’t want to be put in a position to disinvite Putin,” he told VOA.
After meeting NATO members and European allies in Brussels last month, US President Joe Biden suggested that Kyiv could attend G-20 meetings as an observer if other members were not present. agree to expel Russia.
Biden, who is building a global coalition against Putin beyond Europe, has not said he would boycott the G-20 summit if the Russian leader attends, but insists the forum cannot be “business as usual”. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison have also raised concerns about Putin’s participation.
Earlier this month, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen skipped several G-20 ministerial meetings to protest the presence of Russian officials. Other Western officials have done the same.
Jakarta’s dilemma is symptomatic of Moscow’s considerable influence in the world, including its energy and military ties with Indonesia.
Last month, following intense Western pressure, Indonesia suspended plans for the state oil and gas company to buy cheap Russian crude oil amid soaring global energy prices. . Moscow has a glut of oil which it offers at a very favorable price to countries ready to defy Western sanctions, notably China and India.
Senior Indonesian officials have pushed back against Western pressure on the G-20 issue.
Member states must work in unison to jointly create stability and prosperity, Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told the VOA Indonesia Service last week.
“It is one of the most important [thing] for us — to support the idea of a cooperation which must be maintained and should not [be] characterized in such a simple and very binary way,” she said.
So far, Moscow has not announced any changes to Putin’s plans to attend the summit in person.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration signaled that it wanted the G-20 to discuss the international economic repercussions of the Russian invasion and potentially rebuilding Ukraine. This idea is likely to create new divisions in the economic forum.
Earlier this week, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs, told VOA’s Indonesian service that his government “will see what happens”.
“Nobody loses face,” he said. “It is, I think, the best.”
Eva Mazrieva and Virginia Gunawan of VOA Indonesia Service contributed to this report.