November 17, 2022 Wayne Northey

The war in Ukraine has paralyzed global politics

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Ishaan TharoorBy Ishaan Tharoor

with Sammy Westfall
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image above: Leaders meet during a Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, on Wednesday. (Doug Mills/Pool/New York Times/AP)

WN: We pray for peace . . .

excerpts:

This wasn’t the plan. Toward the end of last year, when Indonesia assumed the rotating presidency of the Group of 20 major economies, officials in Jakarta sensed an opportunity to show leadership on the world stage. For years, analysts have seen Indonesia as a country of immense scale and potential — the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, one of the world’s largest democracies and a budding economic powerhouse in Asia — that still punches below its weight.

Here was a chance to put an Indonesian stamp on the vexing global challenges of the day, from climate change to food security and debt relief in the wake of the pandemic. The 20-nation bloc account for about 60 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of its gross domestic product. If the U.N. Security Council upholds the outdated political architecture that emerged out of the ashes of World War II, and the Group of Seven nations represent the old boys’ club of the West (plus Japan), the G-20 is arguably a more accurate reflection of the world as it is. And Indonesia, as this year’s host, was poised to lead the way.

Western officials indicated they didn’t want to deal directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the invading antagonist. Putin eventually opted against travel [to the summit] , but real divisions endured and the far-reaching consequences of the war loomed over proceedings.

At the summit’s conclusion Wednesday, a joint communiqué hinted at wider rifts. While countries like China and India have publicly called for an end to the war, they have not taken public positions explicitly critical of the Kremlin, which instigated the conflict.

The West’s political clarity on the threat posed by Russia and desire to further deepen its economic and political isolation sat uncomfortably with the Indonesian leader’s desire not to be sucked into a Manichaean conflict between the [autocratic] West and its autocratic adversaries. That’s both in the context of the West’s confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, as well as hardening attitudes in Washington toward China.

[Indonesian President Joko] Widodo’s frustration with politics around the summit stems from Indonesia’s dogged efforts to shield Southeast Asia from great power rivalries,” wrote Sana Jaffrey, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict. “The strategy of managing its strategic interests through consensus-based regional institutions is quickly becoming outdated in the face of intensifying U.S.-China competition.”

“You can’t solve a problem of geopolitics with economic policy measures,” Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told my colleagues. “It will be very difficult to bring the level of economic cooperation to the level it should be. … Ending the war in Ukraine is the single most powerful factor to turn around the world economy.”

Similar forces are also on show in ongoing international talks over climate action, where the war in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and their downstream effects on global energy markets have arguably distracted national governments from stepping up their commitments to decarbonize their economies and transition away from fossil fuels.

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