Most G20 nations condemn Russia for war, China stays silent

Delegates arrive at the venue in Bengaluru where a meeting under India’s G20 Presidency has begun on Feb. 22, 2023.

Manjunath Kiran | AFP | Getty Images

Finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies strongly condemned Moscow for its war on Ukraine on Saturday, with only China and Russia itself declining to sign a joint statement.

India, which as chair of the Group of Twenty (G20) economies was hosting a meeting in the city of Bengaluru, was reluctant to raise the issue of the war but Western nations insisted they could not return any outcome that did not include a condemnation.

The lack of full consensus among G20 members meant that India resorted to issuing a “chair’s summary” in which it simply summed up the two days of talks and noted the disagreements.

“Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed that it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy,” it said, citing disruption of supply chains, risks to financial stability and continuing energy and food insecurity.

“There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions,” he said, referring to measures put in place by the United States, European countries and others to punish Russia for the invasion and starve it of revenues.

The outcome was similar to that of a G20 summit in Bali last November when host Indonesia also issued a final declaration acknowledging differences. The G20, formed over two decades to tackle economic crises, has increasingly struggled to reach a consensus among members.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen earlier told Reuters that it was “absolutely necessary” for any statement to condemn Russia. Two delegates told Reuters that Russia and China did not want the G20 platform to be used to discuss political matters.

Russia, a member of the G20 but not of the G7, refers to its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation”, and avoids calling it an invasion or war.

India has kept a largely neutral stance, declining to blame Russia for the invasion, seeking a diplomatic solution and sharply boosting its purchases of Russian oil.

China and India were among the nations that abstained on Thursday when the UN voted overwhelmingly to demand Moscow withdraw its troops from Ukraine and stop fighting.

Besides the G7 nations, the G20 bloc also includes countries such as Australia, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Debt negotiations

On the sidelines, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a meeting on Saturday with the World Bank, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the G7 on restructuring debt for distressed economies, but there were too many disagreements among members, said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

“We just finished a session in which it was clear that there is a commitment to bridge differences for the benefit of countries,” Georgieva, who co-chaired the roundtable with Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, told reporters.

One delegate told Reuters that some initial progress was made, mostly on the language around the issue, but restructuring was not discussed in detail.

Yellen said there were no “deliverables” from the meeting, which was mostly organizational.

Further discussions are planned around the time of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in April.

Pressure has been building on China, the world’s largest bilateral creditor, and other nations to take a large haircut loan in given to struggling developing nations.

In a video address to the G20 meeting on Friday, Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun reiterated Beijing’s position that the World Bank and other multilateral development banks should also participate in debt relief by taking haircuts.