G20 fails to agree on joint statement on Russian invasion of Ukraine

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The emblem of India's G20 presidency.
Image: Government of India.

Group of Twenty (G20) finance chiefs failed to agree to a joint statement Saturday as they ended a two-day meeting in the Indian city of Bengaluru. Russia and China were the lone dissenters from a condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

India, the host, was reluctant to discuss the war, reiterating its neutrality and desire for a diplomatic solution, but Western nations indicated they would not sign an agreement not including a condemnation of Russia's actions.

In the absence of a joint statement, India issued a "chair's summary and outcome document" summarising the talks: "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 – constraining growth, increasing inflation, disrupting supply chains, heightening energy and food insecurity, and elevating financial stability risk.

"There were other views and different assessments of the situation and sanctions. Recognising that the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues, we acknowledge that security issues can have significant consequences for the global economy".

A footnote acknowledged the description of the war was "agreed to by all member countries except Russia and China".

Ajay Seth, a senior Indian official, stated during a press conference the representatives from Russia and China felt "their mandate is to deal with economic and financial issues" and opposed including the situation in Ukraine in any statement. Seth added: "On the other hand, all the other 18 countries felt that the war has got implications for the global economy".

The summit also included discussions of debt relief for poorer countries and regulation of cryptocurrency assets.

According to Reuters, nations including China, the largest bilateral creditor in the world, are coming under more pressure to reduce the value of debts owed by struggling countries.

Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun reiterated Beijing's position that multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, should also accept reductions in the value of debts in order to help alleviate issues experienced by those struggling.

India's drive for stricter restrictions on cryptocurrency gained widespread support.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had co-hosted a meeting on Saturday to discuss debt restructuring. The conference was attended by the World Bank, China, India, Saudi Arabia and members of the G7.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen described it as an organisational meeting, with no "deliverables" produced. Georgieva told reporters: "We just finished a session in which it was clear that there is a commitment to bridge differences for the benefit of countries".

Georgieva argued policymakers "should not take off the table" the option of outright bans if regulation proved ineffective, while Yellen expressed support for a strong regulatory framework instead.

Sitharaman said of difficulties faced by Ethiopia, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Zambia: "Strengthening multilateral coordination by official bilateral and private creditors is needed to address the deteriorating debt situation and facilitate coordinated debt treatment for debt-distressed countries."

At the G20's November meeting in Bali, host Indonesia issued a Leaders' Declaration in place of a communiqué after similar disagreement over the invasion of Ukraine.