INDONESIA’S G20 PRESIDENCY Between Hope and Reality


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch a military offensive against Ukraine on February 24, 2022, has changed the general perception of the G20. It has become increasingly political. Various parties have even pinned their hopes on President Jokowi to use Indonesia’s G20 chairmanship as the momentum to mediate peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. 

Optimism has been nurtured by top government officials and academics, even long before the summit. For example, Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan even said that Bali would be a place of peace. 

“World leaders can gather in a peaceful atmosphere. The peace between Ukraine and Russia can be realized. America and China can meet and President Jokowi will become a bridge builder to overcome these differences,” spoke Luhut of his hope. 

Unfortunately, as the summit was drawing close, Russia confirmed President Putin will not attend. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will lead the Russian delegation instead. Ukraine President Zelensky, whose country is not a member of the G20 but was invited at the initiative of Indonesia, also did not attend the meeting in-person. 

The highlight turned out to be a bilateral meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden. In Putin’s absence, it can be said that the G20 summit in Bali has become a stage for both countries to cool their fraught relationship. The meeting was used by Xi to warn Biden not to get involved in the Taiwanese matter, to which Biden responded by saying that the U.S. supports the One China Policy. 

Zelensky’s speech, delivered virtually on the first day of the conference, has dashed the hope that Bali’s G20 Summit would bring peace to Eastern Europe. Instead of discussing economic conditions and prospects for peace, Zelensky sharpened his friction with Russia and claimed victory for Ukraine. 

So, has Indonesia’s G20 presidency failed to contribute to global peace? Has President Jokowi’s highly-commended peace mission to Ukraine and Russia ended in vain? 

My answer is: No, Indonesia didn’t fail! President Jokowi’s mission is also not “to no avail”. As I mentioned above, cooperation between countries in international forums will be difficult to achieve if tensions between countries still exist. 

It’s just that the claim that Bali will become a venue for peace is too high of an expectation. The reality is, Indonesia does not have sufficient capacity to pressure the warring countries to make peace, even if Putin and Zelensky did attend in person. 

Why is this so? Indonesia’s opportunity to be able to push for concrete achievements, including for ceasefire or peace resolution, will depend on how much leverage or bargaining power Indonesia has. Zamroni Salim, an economic analyst with the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) stated in his article “Indonesia in the G20: Benefits and Challenges Amidst National Interests and Priorities” that the bargaining power of countries in the G20 meeting is determined by so-called “structural power.”