NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AP) — Discord over Russia’s war on Ukraine and festering tensions between the U.S. and China are proving to be ominous backdrops for world leaders gathering in Indonesia’s tropical Bali island for a summit of the Group of 20 biggest economies starting Tuesday.
With recession looming as central banks fight decades-high inflation partly brought on by the war, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that ending the conflict would be the “single best thing that we can do for the global economy.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, writing in the newspaper The Telegraph, called Russia a “rogue state” and slammed its president, Vladimir Putin, for staying away.
“Leaders take responsibility. They show up. Yet, at the G-20 summit in Indonesia this week, one seat will remain vacant," wrote Sunak, who took office last month. “The man who is responsible for so much bloodshed in Ukraine and economic strife around the world will not be there to face his peers. He won’t even attempt to explain his actions."
Pressures have been mounting as Russian attacks destroy vital infrastructure in Ukraine, adding to miseries in damaged cities just as winter cold takes hold.
The G-20 meetings provide another opportunity for leaders to show unity in their support for Ukraine, discussions that “are inseparable from those on how we can strengthen our collective security," Sunak said.
In myriad ways, the war's repercussions have encompassed the globe as disruptions to grain shipments and energy supplies have pushed costs of living sharply higher.
“Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine is creating food and energy crises. It’s disrupting supply chains and raising the cost of living. Families are worried that they’re not going to be able to put food on the table or won’t be able to heat their homes during winter,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a business conference on the sidelines of the G-20 meetings.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met Monday ahead of the start of formal G-20 summit meetings that begin Tuesday, seeking to find common ground despite antagonisms over trade, technology and other issues.
U.S.-China relations have become increasingly strained during Biden’s presidency, though U.S. officials have downplayed the notion of any conflict.
In opening the meeting, Biden said the two countries shared a responsibility to “prevent competition from becoming anything ever near conflict, and to find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our mutual cooperation.”
Xi said he hoped they would “chart the right course for the China-U.S. relationship.”
Chinese officials have condemned the Biden administration's decision last month to block exports of advanced computer chips to China — a national security move that bolsters U.S. competition against Beijing.
U.S. officials said no joint statement was expected after the meeting with Xi and suggested policy breakthroughs were unlikely.
But even having top leaders of the two sides meet after a long hiatus during the pandemic is progress of a kind that might facilitate more productive talks in the larger G-20 meeting, which includes 19 of the largest economies and the European Union. Another 10 countries were invited as guests.
The G-20 was founded in 1999 as a forum for cooperation on economic and financial matters. In 2009, top G-20 leaders began holding annual meetings to craft a response to the global financial crisis.
The group consists of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. Spain holds a permanent guest seat.
“The G-20 was made for moments like these and built for these challenges," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the “B-20" business conference, which wrapped up on Monday.
“We can achieve far more together than we ever could alone," he said.