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Diplomacy Watch: Non-aligned countries flex their muscles

Diplomacy Watch: Non-aligned countries flex their muscles

Russia and the West talk sports and diplomatic etiquette as the Global South steps up to the plate at the G20.

Europe

After a visit to Russia and Ukraine last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo returned home to host the G20 foreign ministers meeting, which will bring many of the Ukraine war’s biggest stakeholders into the same room for the first time since the war began in February.

Expectations are low going into the event. In the Washington Post, a “senior State Department official” signaled the Biden administration’s discontent over Widodo’s decision to invite Russia, and many predict that talks, held yesterday and today, will feature more chest-thumping than substantive discussions. But the presence of neutral countries like India, Brazil, China, and Indonesia reminds observers of one thing: The United States and its Western allies are not the only countries who will decide how this conflict ends.

With that in mind, welcome to this week’s edition of Diplomacy Watch, your weekly round-up of diplomatic efforts aimed at ending Russia’s war in Ukraine (or at least pushing things in that direction).

— Widodo’s back-to-back visits to Kyiv and Moscow showed the world that there is “a role for states outside the wealthy world in helping to resolve a crisis that has punished emerging markets,” according to columnist Clara Ferreira Marques of Bloomberg. Widodo left with two small victories, earning a promise from Russia to open a Black Sea shipping route for Ukrainian grain and persuading Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to attend the G20 summit in November, which could create an opportunity for talks (or at least time in the same room) with Russian officials.

— Secretary of State Antony Blinken will sit down with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the G20 meeting, according to Al Jazeera. The pair is expected to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine, which China has neither condemned nor endorsed. 

— A new documentary shows a phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. According to Politico, Macron appeared confident that he had forestalled the attack and persuaded Putin to meet with President Joe Biden. The footage drew a sharp rebuke from Lavrov, who said Wednesday that “diplomatic etiquette does not provide for one-sided leaks of [such] recordings.”

— A group of Western sports officials issued a statement Tuesday in which they reaffirmed their previous commitments to limit Russian and Belarusian participation in international sporting events. The officials also called on sport organizations to “consider suspending the broadcasting of sports competitions into Russia and Belarus.”

— In other sports-related news, NBC Newsreported that Russia may try to trade basketball star Britney Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence after falling for an elaborate sting operation in which he agreed to sell arms to “Colombian rebels” who were really American agents. Griner, who the United States considers a hostage, pleaded guilty to charges of possession of cannabis oil yesterday in a Russian court, which could land her in prison for up to 10 years. Bout’s lawyer and Russian media have confirmed the talks, but U.S. officials have yet to comment on the issue.

U.S. State Department news:

Spokesperson Ned Price defended Blinken’s decision to attend the G20 meeting despite Lavrov’s presence. “The G20 is [...] an important forum to discuss many of the issues that are at the forefront today, many of the issues that are at the forefront precisely because of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine,” Price said on Tuesday in a press briefing. “We believe we can fulfill those twin imperatives, seeing the success of this G20 summit without offering any semblance of business as usual with Russia.” Notably, Price added that he would “certainly not expect any meeting between Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov.”

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