Editorial: Welcome to Indonesia Mr. Putin, But…

Editorial Omong-Omong

4 min read

Falling into a trap of the delicacy of presiding a huge global platform such as G20, Indonesia could destroy its proud international standing it has fought to achieve since its independence nearly eight decades ago if it fails to correctly steer the world’s 20 biggest economies in dealing with Russia’s invasion into Ukraine.

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With members ranging from Western biggest nations, such as the United States, France, Germany and United Kingdom on the one end to China, India, Turkey and Russia on the other end plus countries like Japan, South Korea and Indonesia in between, it will always be an uphill task to preside such a grouping, especially when crisis, war and conflicts are taking place.

As the president of the G20, Indonesia will host a summit of the organization’s leaders in Bali this November, and since the invasion and now during the preparation for the summit it must deal with pressure from many members of the grouping who demand not to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the summit, as well as responding to demand by the Western members to expel Russia from the organization altogether.

For now, Indonesia still stands by its position to be “neutral”, and will not exclude Russia from the grouping, with Indonesia’s G-20 co-sherpa Dian Triansyah Djani stating that Indonesia’s position would be based on what had been done in the previous presidency and that it’s the duty of all G20 presidents to invite all of its members, while clearly stating that the country would remain as an impartial president. Putin, on the other hand, has expressed his willingness through Russian ambassador in Jakarta that he would attend the Bali summit.

But maintaining such a position will put Indonesia in a tricky and dangerous dilemma that could jeopardize its national interests and G20 leadership as well as its standing in global community.

US President Joe Biden, for instance, has stated that Russia should be removed from the grouping, singling out Indonesia by stating that if the current G20 president do not agree with removing Russia then Ukraine should also be allowed to attend the summit.

Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron urges in his article for the Wall Street Journal to boycott the G20 Summit if Putin is attending, stating that the leaders of G20 will be accompanied by a war criminal and mass murderer, who he refers to the Russian president.

If Indonesia presses on inviting Putin, there is a big possibility that all Western nations, or even G7 which comprises of the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Britain, will boycott the G20 Bali summit, causing the summit to lose its meaning and credibility. Or worse, Western countries and their allies will alienate Indonesia by convening a mini summit and disregard Indonesia’s presidency altogether.

In this situation, Indonesia’s incompetency will be exposed and it will go down in history as be a failed G20 president, destroying its credibility as a nation as well as decades of foreign policy and diplomatic achievements in various international forums.

We should remember that US and other Western nations have shown their willingness to go the extra miles and even have done anything when dealing with Russia, and alienating and humiliating Indonesia and disregarding its presidency will not be a big problem for them.

The fact that almost all events related to Russia, including cultural and musical shows presenting Russian icons, such composer Tchaikovsky, have been cancelled in many European countries show that the Western community are willing to fight all out against Russia’s invasion.

Putin promptly stated that Russia has become a victim of Western cancel culture, just like British author J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter author immediately distanced herself, saying that such a criticism of cancel culture came from a person who have slaughter civilians.

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If Indonesia decides to drop Russia, and not extend an invitation to Putin, it would be an embarrassingly backtracking. It will be seen by the international, and especially local public, a nation without integrity, bowing down to the pressure by the Westerners.

Either way Indonesia could be in humiliating position.

And all these dilemma and dangers began at home when incompetent people at the presidential office drew a statement to express Indonesia’s position after Russia’s invasion to Ukraine without adequate skill an training in diplomatic language, and without knowledge about the foundation of Indonesia’s diplomacy and foreign policy. Out of ignorance and inexperience while disregarding Indonesia as G20 president, they scrambled a statement that not only did it not condemn Russia’s unprovoked invasion, it did not mention word “Russia”, “attack”, “invasion”, and “aggression”.

At the absence of Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who could not be contacted at the time as she was on a plane in her trip to Europe, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo who only knows that diplomacy and international relations mean economic gains just like when he exported furniture overseas when he was still in Solo, relied on advices from some pretenders and agreed with the statement, possibly thinking nothing could go wrong with the statement not blaming Putin while blaming Russia which has billions of dollar investment in Indonesia would clearly be a mistake.

So, rather than condemning Russia’s inhumane action that kills tens of thousands people and causes around 10 million others to suffer, Indonesia hides behind empty word of “neutrality”. Indonesia whose constitution clearly condemned invasion and imperialism can’t stay neutral if a country is trying to colonised another.

That’s why many have questioned Indonesia’s sincerity and consistency toward anti-invasion and killing as a mere political interests at the domestic level, comparing it to how swiftly it could condemn Israeli action against the Palestinians. The Indonesian government and president must condemn Israel’s attacks against Muslims in Palestine because that’s what Muslims in Indonesia want, not because the suffering of the Palestinians.

When Retno could be contacted, and the foreign ministry must issue separate statement it could not deviate from what the president has issued, and just copy what has been issued. Unfortunately, such a position is stuck and dutifully followed as the Indonesia’s official position. It could have been a different story if Indonesia’s best diplomats convened to create such a statement because many Indonesia’s most able diplomats have secretly expressed regrets and disagreement on the first statement.

So, how can Indonesia get out of this dilemma?

Indonesia must take the window of golden opportunity offered by Biden: Inviting Ukraine to the summit also. This way, Indonesia can address all the problems in one move. First, beside getting the US support, Indonesia will not lose face as it maintains its plan of extending an invitation to Putin. Secondly, by announcing that majority of G20 members want the Ukrainian leader to be present at the summit, Indonesia can extend an invitation to Ukraine to attend the summit. If Putin does not want to come as he does not want to be on the same table with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or the country’s representative then it is Putin’s own decision to reject the invitation. It means the summit will proceed as plan albeit without Russia, a situation where Indonesia will be off the hook and one that will satisfy other members also.

If Putin decides to come — although this is less likely — then it could be a triumphant moment for Indonesia and Jokowi as Indonesia will preside a historic moment of a possibility to mediate peace between Russia and Ukraine under the eyes of all world’s major powers.

If this really happens Jokowi could end up being a global hero, worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. However, Indonesia needs all the luck it can get as there will be many things to happen from now until November.

Until then, Indonesia’s real diplomats — not the pretenders — must work hard to negotiate everything to create condition for it to happen.

Editorial Omong-Omong

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