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G20 opts for obfuscation on Ukraine, a symptom of Western fatigue

Ukraine suffered a major diplomatic defeat as Western weakness allowed the G20 to adopt a declaration failing to assign clear blame for Russia’s devastating war
Lavrov happy with G20 summit
Photo: Russia’s MFA
G20 opts for obfuscation on Ukraine, a symptom of Western fatigue

Making concessions on facts, the West is showing signs of fatigue.

On September 9 and 10, the G20 New Delhi Summit was held in New Delhi. Already a week before the meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, stated that Russia would block the final declaration of the G20 summit unless it reflected Moscow’s position on Ukraine and other crises.

On Saturday, the G20 nations adopted a consensus declaration that satisfied Russia’s demands.

Would Russia have wanted further concessions? Highly likely. It succeeded, however, in adapting a declaration that did not condemn Russia for the war in Ukraine.

Concerning the war in Ukraine, while recalling the discussion in Bali, we reiterated our national positions and resolutions adopted at the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly (A/RES/ES-11/1 and A/RES/ES-11/6) and underscored that all states must act in a manner consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter in its entirety. In line with the UN Charter, all states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. […]

We highlighted the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine with regard to global food and energy security, supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation and growth, which has complicated the policy environment for countries, especially developing and least developed countries which are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic disruption which has derailed progress towards the SDGs. There were different views and assessments of the situation. […]

In this context, emphasizing the importance of sustaining food and energy security, we called for the cessation of military destruction or other attacks on relevant infrastructure. We also expressed deep concern about the adverse impact that conflicts have on the security of civilians thereby exacerbating existing socio-economic fragilities and vulnerabilities and hindering an effective humanitarian response.

We call on all states to uphold the principles of international law including territorial integrity and sovereignty, international humanitarian law, and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, and efforts to address crises as well as diplomacy and dialogue are critical. We will unite in our endeavour to address the adverse impact of the war on the global economy and welcome all relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine that will uphold all the Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter for the promotion of peaceful, friendly, and good neighbourly relations among nations in the spirit of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’.”

Ukraine is, understandably, disappointed. The text is intentionally ambiguous to allow all nations to sign up for it. That leaves a text that does not reflect the realities on the ground.

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry: G20 “has nothing to boast” about its declaration on Russo-Ukrainian war

Words matter. They mark the difference between cold facts, wishful thinking, and disinformation.

President Zelensky first announced his peace formula at the G20 summit in November 2022.

The 10-point peace plan focused on crucial issues like:

  • radiation and nuclear safety, highlighting the need to restore safety around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (bearing in mind the Chornobyl catastrophe from 1986);
  • global food security;
  • energy security;
  • the release of all prisoners of war and children deported;
  • restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity and justice;
  • the prevention of ecocide; and measures to prevent the escalation of the war.

Ukraine’s formula for peace: Russia withdraws from Ukraine, returns POWs and deportees, pays reparations – Zelenskyy

None of these issues can be solved without addressing Russia’s war of aggression, its broader confrontation with the West, its weaponization of food, and its nuclear blackmail.

Naming the aggressor is the starting point for solving the war

Not naming the perpetrator of genocide, ecocide, and crimes against humanity is a failure of diplomacy.

Not naming Russia as responsible has also a huge impact on Western efforts to counter Russian disinformation. The West has been exposed to a Russian Hybrid War for more than a decade. The information war is an increasingly more important element. It’s a battle in the cognitive space, manipulating both populations and key policy and decision-makers to make decisions serving the interests of Russia. It fuels Western fear of World War 3 and a nuclear confrontation if it intervenes militarily (in what is essentially a Russian confrontation with the West). It helps promote false hopes of a diplomatic solution to the war. It undermines international cohesion and undermines the international community’s perception of Ukraine.

The information war, not least, helps cloud both media, politicians, and public perception of the war itself. It fabricates alternative arguments for its cause and justification, one being that Russia is not to be blamed.

It falsely claims that “It was forced to act,” “Russia is defending itself,” “Its actions are legitimate,” “It is not a war,” and “Russia is not guilty of atrocities”. All false but rendered credit the moment we stop holding Russia responsible.

The G20 declaration is a testimony of its effect.

The West has, until now, repeatedly held Russia responsible for its war of aggression and atrocities. The G20 declaration is possibly the first time it has not. My concern is that the concession makes it easier to leave out any references to Russia in future international forums, meetings, and summits.

No wonder Lavrov called the G20 summit in India a success.

According to the Russian Foreign Minister, the consolidated position of the global south countries, Russia managed to ensure the G20 agenda was not overshadowed by the Ukraine “conflict.” The Kremlin is, after all, falsely claiming that it is conducting a legally justified “special military operation” and denies committing any atrocities.

How can the West hope to solve global problems when it is unable to discuss the cause of the problems? Or unwilling to defend the principles of the UN Charter and international law. Or stand up for its shared values and principles.

The notion that the G20 is not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues is not only misleading but also a concession in its own right.

Firstly, the G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation, and it plays an important role in shaping and strengthening global architecture and governance on all major international economic issues. War – including economic warfare and the weaponizing of food, energy, and information – has a tremendous impact on the global economy. The last 18 months have demonstrated the impact of Russia’s war of aggression and foreign policy on the world economy. The war has caused a major blow to the global economy and will hurt growth and raise prices. By not addressing the cause of the war, the G20 is running away from its commitment.

Secondly, the decision to refrain from holding Russia responsible for the “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war takes the issue off the table for future G20 meetings.

The West has lost another tool to increase international pressure on Russia to end the war.

Making concessions on facts, the West might be showing signs of fatigue.


Hans Petter Midttun is educated at the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, the Norwegian National Defence Command and Staff College and the Norwegian Defense College, as well as education from the Federal Defence Forces of Germany. He has broad international experience from both operations and postings abroad (NATO, Germany, Spain, Belgium, and Ukraine). The service includes seven years in command of frigates and six NATO deployments. Midttun put into operation, tested and verified the operational capabilities of one of the newest frigates in the Norwegian Navy. He served at the Norwegian Joint Headquarters and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) before being posted to Ukraine as the Norwegian Defence Attache (2014-2018). Based on previous experiences, Midttun is presently publishing articles and analytic works on the security situation in and around Ukraine as a private person.
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