The G20 and the unravelling of American power
The failure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine speaks volumes.
On the surface, this year’s G20 summit in India has achieved its main mission. Last weekend, the world’s largest and most important economies met in New Delhi, India and managed to agree on a joint statement, without a single dissenting note. ‘We are One Earth, One Family and we share One Future’, the statement says in its opening sentence.
In reality, there is little such harmony within the G20. What is significant about the cobbled-together declaration is not what it says, but what it leaves out. Despite the best efforts of Western nations, it does not condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The result is a declaration that talks nebulously about ‘the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine with regard to global food and energy security’. This stands in sharp contrast to the statement issued in Bali, Indonesia last year, which condemned ‘in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine’. Essentially, the leaders of the major Western nations failed to get India, China and representatives of the Global South onside.
For Vladimir Putin, this toothless statement is a major win. After the declaration was issued, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov couldn’t help but gloat, praising it as ‘a step in the right direction’ and an important ‘milestone’. Lavrov even told a news conference that, ‘speaking frankly’, he had not expected such a good result for Russia.
To rub salt into the wound, Lavrov cynically adopted the tone of an anti-colonial activist. He boasted that the Global South was no longer in thrall to the Western powers and that developing nations ‘don’t want to be told to follow the Zelensky formula’. For Russia to pose as ‘anti-imperialist’, while itself mounting an imperialistic invasion of Ukraine, is beyond shameless.
Yet Lavrov is right on one count. The omission of any clear reference to Russian aggression is hugely significant. It represents the growing influence of India and China, supported by the Global South. In turn, it also reveals the waning influence of the US and the West. That is why, in the end, Western leaders decided they had to accept the softened statement in New Delhi. Washington clearly understands that, while the US is still a dominant force on the world stage, it can no longer always have its way.
The G20’s softness on Russia highlights the fact that the West today, and in particular the US, lacks both moral authority and diplomatic power on the world stage. It is no longer able to impose its worldview on the rest of the world – even in a case like the barbaric invasion of Ukraine, where it is beyond any doubt who the aggressor is.
The old global order is unravelling – and the West is struggling to find its place.
Frank Furedi is the executive director of the think-tank, MCC-Brussels.
Picture by: Getty.
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