In an apparent failure of an inexperienced negotiator who wants to appease everybody in every turn to get accepted and recognized by the big boys, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made fatal mistakes only a rookie could make during his supposed mission to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine.
The decisive blow that destroyed the credibility of the mission came after the office of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a public statement to deny Jokowi’s globally quoted claim that he had a message from the Ukraine president to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and had delivered it to the latter during their meeting.
The office told Ukrainska Pravda that “if President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wanted to say something to Russian President Vladimir Putin, he would do so publicly, in his daily address”.
Has Jokowi deliberately lied to elevate himself and to get more relevant, or has he just misinterpreted what Zelenskyy told him during their meeting?
Previously in Germany, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said to the media that Jokowi told him that Putin was not coming, a statement quickly denied by Kremlin, with Putin adviser Yuri Ushakov firing back that it’s not Draghi’s decision, and that Russia had received the invitation and responded positively. With him being surrounded by leaders of the world’s largest economy of G7 in Germany, has Jokowi just said anything these Western leaders would like to hear?
Did Jokowi act like a child who told any bigger boys whatever they liked to hear just to be recognized? But has it ever crossed his mind that his statement will be verified and challenged?
Jokowi should have known, for instance, that for Zelenskyy, who has been the symbol of resistance against Russian aggression not only for Ukrainian people but also for the whole Western nations, he can’t afford to be seen as weak vis a vis Russia, and hand over part of responsibilities to a leader of a foreign country, especially if he is considered friendly to Russia.
It is a fait-accompli in Jokowi’s part, and it would always end up in humiliation.
But Jokowi’s failure to understand this nature was also stemmed from Indonesia’s initial position and assumption that the two countries – Ukraine and Russia — have an equal footing. In reality, there is nothing more unequal than those attacking and being attacked. Jokowi’s indifferent manner toward this issue possibly has created disappointment in Ukraine’s side pushing them to issue such as statement.
The second fatal blow is the subsequent revelation that from each of meetings Jokowi had with Zelenskyy and Putin, there is no evidence at all Jokowi had raised the need for both leaders to end the war, or discussed ways for dialogue for exit strategy. It turns out that there is no mission for global peace. There were only bilateral talks between Indonesia and Ukraine, and subsequently Indonesia and Russia.
Serhii Nikiforov, press secretary for the Office of the President of Ukraine, told Ukrainska Pravda that as Indonesia is one of the largest importers of grain from Ukraine, the blockade of Ukrainian ports was the main focus of the talks between the presidents in Kyiv.
There has not been any indication that Jokowi said something about how to end the war.
During the talk with Putin Jokowi also did not raise the need for Russia to have a dialogue with Ukraine, let alone persuade Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine. Meanwhile, rather than talking about the current condition of Russia-Ukraine war, Putin himself, shifted and focused the discussion on how good Indonesia-Russia bilateral relations have been along history and possibilities Russia can support Indonesia’s economic and infrastructure development.
What Jokowi obtained from Putin then was a dubious statement that Russia would open the passage for grain and wheat exports from his country and Ukraine, a statement that will be difficult to follow up and monitor.
So, the whole narratives of Jokowi being on a global peace mission the Indonesian president would like Indonesian people and international community to believe have been destroyed because of his failure to understand basic principle in negotiation and communication: never assume, never do fait accompli, or never say something on behalf of others without any proper authorization, or proof of authorization.
In all fairness, his mission should have been met with very low expectation, if any expectation at all, in the first place. This actually has been reflected by how indifferent Western media have been. They have published very few, if any, stories on Jokowi’s trips, seemingly reluctant to take it seriously.
But Jokowi himself had made it as if he was going out to save the world. Omong-Omong Media in its editorial piece prior to his take off had expressed high hope for him to make a difference.
Now, what was previously hoped to be a glorious show of great effort has turned into a globally humiliating action which will negatively impact Indonesia’s G20 leadership – if it still has any leadership left at all.