Empty chairs and blank canvases at the G20 in protest against Russia. When Moscow Finance Minister Anton Siluanov takes the floor, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and her Ukrainian counterpart Serhiy Marchenko get up and leave the room, followed by several ministers and governors, including the president. of the ECB, Christine Lagarde. Others present practically turn off the cameras on their screens. The European Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, also leaves the table. The Italian delegation, made up of Minister Daniele Franco and Governor Ignazio Visco, remained to play its institutional role as a member of the troika along with Indonesia and India. A stay that was an opportunity to publicly blame Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Other countries followed Italy’s path and listened to Moscow. Among them were Japan and Spain, while for Germany, president of the G7, he remained as finance minister. Christian Lindner himself explained his choice to remain as dictated by the desire not to leave Russia a platform to “spread its propaganda and its lies”.
A reaction, therefore, in no particular order, that of the G20 in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The protest choices of individual countries risk driving the forum into a deep crisis. Returning to fashion in 2008, the G20 format has been consolidated for years as a privileged stage capable of better representing the new world economy in relation to the brothers of the G7 and G8. The war, however, changed the cards on the table, splitting it and creating rifts that many observers wonder can be healed or not. The request to expel Russia from the forum, made by US President Joe Biden, fits exactly into this picture of tensions, with Western countries intent on isolating and punishing Russia and President Vladimir Putin for the war. And a high cost for Moscow is on the horizon, that of the first default since 1998. According to the Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee, the international agency called upon to comment on debt issuers’ defaults, Russia is in ‘potential default’ and could fall entirely soon, that is, on the expiration of the grace period for the non-payment of two two billion dollar bonds on April 4th. Indonesia, the current president, defends the role of the G20.
“All members consider it to be the first forum for cooperation”, stressed the Minister of Finance, Sri Muyani Indrawati, at the end of the meeting. The protest, he specified, was not a surprise: “many members condemned the war” and agreed that the invasion complicates the global economic recovery. “I am confident that the war does not erode the role and cooperation of the G20,” he added. “War is incompatible with cooperation,” thundered French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire as he inaugurated the works in Washington, the first since the beginning of the invasion. Le Maire was one of the delegates to leave the job along with Fed Chair Jerome Powell, representatives from Great Britain and Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. Kristalina Georgieva, who estimated the needs of the Ukrainian economy at $5 billion a month, is much more cautious. Pressed on the effectiveness and usefulness of the G20, the director of the International Monetary Fund said: “cooperation must and will continue” also because the world is so interdependent and the challenges are so vast that no country can face them or find solutions to by myself. In her role as number one at an institution in 190 countries, Georgieva admits, however, that when there are tensions, collaborating is “more difficult, but not impossible.” She warns, therefore, of the risks of a geopolitical fragmentation that would risk burning all the progress of the last 75 years. Real fears that, however, almost 60 days after the start of the invasion and the start of the second phase of Putin’s offensive, will not be able to quell the anger and indignation at the shocking images of Bucha and Mariupol. And the willingness to make Moscow pay a high price, despite the cost to the global economy.
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