West Overcomes China-Russia Lobby at G20 To Condemn Ukraine War

Western leaders secured the support of partners in major developing economies to rebuke Russia for its war in Ukraine at the G20 on Wednesday.

"Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy—constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risks," the group's final leaders' communiqué said.

The document also cited the U.N. General Assembly's motion on March 2 to deplore Russia's aggression and demand its withdrawal from Ukraine. The resolution was adopted with 141 votes for, while Russia voted against and G20 members China, India and South Africa abstained.

Most G20 Leaders Condemn Russia's Ukraine War
President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India shake hands ahead of a session at the G20 summit in in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 15, 2022. Leon Neal/Getty Images

It was unclear who among the G20 leaders had opposed the language in the final text, but the communiqué made clear that not all were in agreement.

"There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions," it said. "Recognizing that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy."

The Russian delegation to the summit in Bali, Indonesia—led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in President Vladimir Putin's absence—would've argued strongly against the West's decision to censure it at the G20, a forum that tends to focus on international cooperation on trade and climate.

Since Putin ordered his troops into Ukraine in February, Beijing, together with the Kremlin, has objected to descriptions of the military campaign as an "invasion," and Chinese officials very rarely use the word "war."

China's representatives joined their Russian counterparts to lobby against inclusion, by the U.S. and its allies, of "war" in the communiqué, according to The Washington Post.

Most G20 Leaders Condemn Russia's Ukraine War
President Xi Jinping of China looks on as he attends a session during the G20 summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 16, 2022. WILLY KURNIAWAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Beijing's posture when negotiating the final language was largely consistent with its monthslong balancing act of not openly criticizing Moscow, its foremost strategic partnership, while trying to convince major trading partners in the West of China's principled position on the conflict.

In the end, the group's major developing countries, including next year's G20 summit host, India, appeared to help push the final draft over the line. Lavrov reportedly left the gathering before the communiqué was announced.

"The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialogue, are vital," the leaders said in a further nod to the Kremlin's nuclear saber-rattling.

"Today's era must not be of war," the document said, a public endorsement of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi's message to Putin in September.

"India played a key role in the successful negotiations of the outcome document," Vinay Kwatra, India's foreign secretary, said, according to The Indian Express.

"Naturally, the outcome document was being negotiated in a particular global context and that global context did find mention in the outcome document also during negotiations, and there I would say that Prime Minister's message that this is not the era of war, and the best way to return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy, to resolve the conflict resonated very deeply across all the delegations and helped bridge the gap across different parties and contributed to the successful outcome of the document," he said.