November 2022G20WorldFocus

FOCUS on Global Summits: Russia’s G20 Absence

George Slowey
Staff Writer

This year’s G20 Summit in Indonesia took place with the notable absence of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, according to France 24. Instead, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attended on behalf of Putin. Lavrov appeared increasingly ill over the course of the summit, reports Reuters, although Russian officials have denied this.

Lavrov’s attendance comes after Putin repeatedly told Indonesian President Joko Widodo over the course of several months that he would attend the critical summit. According to Reuters, many political pundits have speculated that Putin did not want to appear on the world stage as the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine enters its ninth month. By contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared for a virtual address to the G20 leaders, addressing the situation in Ukraine and how the gathered dignitaries can best help create more pressure on Russia.

A declaration that passed by most leaders at the end of the G20 Summit condemned the “aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and demands its complete and unconditional withdrawal from the territory of Ukraine”, according to CNN. Presidents Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy both asked the world leaders present at the summit to commit to sanctions to further isolate Russia, reportes Fortune. Other Ukrainian concerns were also addressed, such as food security for the major grain exporter and the energy crisis, where the coming winter promises hardships for a country which is now without most of its power grid due to constant Russian shelling.

Russia has been absent from many world events since the country invaded Ukraine in February. In addition to not appearing at the G20 summit, Russia lost the Russian Grand Prix and Champions League finals in February shortly after the start of the war, as reported by Reuters. Vladimir Putin himself has only left his country once since the start of the invasion, for a summit with Caspian Sea states in late June and early July, as reported by the Indian Express

Putin has also met with few major leaders other than his allies like Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the notable exceptions of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Indian Express continues. Rumors of poor health have also bombarded the news every time Vladimir Putin makes a public appearance or speech, with many Western analysts believing he has some sort of illness. For many countries, the absence of Russia’s leader at the G20 Summit is a sign of Russia losing allies and becoming increasingly isolationist as the Russo-Ukrainian war drags on. 

Russia’s absence at many world events and unwillingness to engage in dialogues with Western nations has impacted both the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian war and Russia’s status as a reemerging superpower. Russia has been attempting to position itself as the true successor to the Soviet Union as the regional hegemon ever since the USSR collapsed in 1991. 

The absence of Russia’s leader on the world stage shows that Putin realizes his fragile position in negotiations with the world and is removing himself from global dialogues in the hope that the rest of the world will need Russia for trade. However, this seems to have backfired, as Western countries are now turning elsewhere for new trade deals, including Ukraine and other countries to supplant the goods and services Russia provided, such as oil. In many ways, Putin’s absence at the G20 Summit is indicative of a greater absence of Russia on the world stage and all of the economic fallout that comes with it.

Image courtesy of Ninara

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