Call it a stroke of genius, a coincidence or a mere luck, but Indonesia’s heavily criticized initial hesitance to condemn Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, and its insistence to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to G20 summit in Bali, have provided President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo credibility and some flexibilities to play as a peace broker, or at least to be someone mutually listened by leaders of both conflicting nations.
Of course, Indonesia’s rising to global prominence is also augmented by the fact that it is the current president of the G20, a grouping of the world’s 20 biggest economies, but it also will not be achieved if Joko Widodo, or his diplomats, especially, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, refuses to accept the criticism and inputs, including from US President Joe Biden, and adjust accordingly, especially by extending invitation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the G20 Bali meeting in October, sending strong message to the latter and his Western backers that Indonesia is a trusted neutral party, willing to play it smartly and wisely.
By refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion and insisting to invite it to G20, Indonesia becomes one of few major countries that is still very highly respected by Putin. Had Indonesia condemned Russia from the beginning, and just followed the West’s pressure to cut Russia from G20, Jokowi would have lost all its respects he gets from Putin, wiping out his ability to play the mediating role. Meanwhile by listening to Biden’s input to invite Ukraine to G20, Jokowi quickly gained respect from Zelensky.
We don’t know if it’s all by designed. In any case, the universe seems to have decided to put Jokowi – who many have criticized as foreign policy illiterate – in place where he can play a global role. It seems ironic but we can’t call it any other way: This is his destiny. And to realize this destiny, this morning Jokowi has left for Germany, Ukraine and Russia.
In Germany, Jokowi as the G20 chair will attend the G7 summit of leaders of world’s seven biggest economies, and will discuss with them the best ways to end Russia-Ukraine war. “We will push G7 countries to launch a concerted effort to end war in Ukraine, and also as soon as possible find solution to global food and energy crisis. We know it’s not easy but we, Indonesia, will keep on trying,” Jokowi told a press conference before taking off.
He will then leave for Ukraine to have a talk with Zelensky, asking the latter to open room for dialogue with Russia, while stressing that the war must end one way or another, and adding that it’s crucial for Ukraine, one of Indonesia’s biggest wheat suppliers, to start open trade in helping to fix the global food supply chains. “I will then leave for Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin, and will persuade him to as soon as possible hold a cease fire with Ukraine, and stop the war.”
While it remains to be seen if he can pull this “mission impossible” off, Jokowi is the first and only world leader to do the job, and that’s by itself is a tremendous achievement any global leader want to have.
With a possibility that Jokowi can persuade both Putin and Zelensky to attend G20 and see eye to eye there later this year, and the fact that Putin has very few options – if any –on how to find way to end the war without humiliation, Jokowi’s mission is the best way for him to do it without losing face and suffering too much global humiliation – and without being seen as bowing to pressure from the Western powers.
In Jokowi’s words: This is not for Indonesia only. This is for billions of people across the developing world suffering from hunger because of high food and energy prices due to the prolonging war.
For this, the whole world – let alone Indonesians – must support, pray and wish Jokowi the biggest luck he can get to accomplish the mission.