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At G20, divisions hamper attempts to blame Russia for inflation crisis

At the G20 summit in Indonesia, the United States and its allies insist that Russia and its war in Ukraine are to blame for the global cost-of-living crisis.

But the effort to hold Moscow accountable for the food security and inflation crises plaguing the world economy faces challenges in Bali amid palpable divisions over the war.

Even with inflation at 40-year highs and the threat of a global recession, the club of major economies is far from united in a response, with many non-Western members reluctant to openly side against Moscow.

In addition to refusing to join the Western-led sanctions campaign against Russia, China, India and South Africa abstained in United Nations votes condemning Russia’s invasion and subsequent votes to annex parts of Ukraine.

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China, which declared “unlimited friendship” with Russia shortly before the outbreak of the war, has gone so far as to denounce the sanctions as “counterproductive” and “illegal and one-sided.”

Among the other G20 members, summit host Indonesia, Argentina, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have also refrained from imposing sanctions on Russia.

Saudi Arabia has also been accused by Washington of helping finance Russia’s war effort by driving up oil prices through its OPEC+ membership.

“Actually, I don’t think we have any condemnation of Russia’s role in the food security crisis,” Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief Asia Pacific economist at Natixis in Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera.

“Even if Putin is not there, China will basically follow Russia’s position and surely will basically control the statement to avoid condemnation.”

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“It’s not just China,” Garcia-Herrero said. “We already know that several countries have opposed any conviction.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin skipped the G20 leaders’ summit [File: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik via Reuters]

Before the start of the top leaders’ summit, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters Monday that ending the war was “the best thing we can do for the world economy.”

With food and energy prices already soaring around the world, the summit will take place just days before the November 19 expiration of a United Nations-brokered deal guaranteeing safe passage for ships. of grains through the Black Sea.

Russia, which briefly withdrew from the deal before rejoining it earlier this month, has warned that the deal cannot be renewed unless the country is given greater access to the international financial system, which has been hampered by the sanctions.

Washington has insisted that the majority of the G20, which includes 19 countries and the European Union, is prepared to condemn Russia’s war.

At a briefing with reporters in Bali on Tuesday, a US official said G20 members would sign a statement condemning the war before the end of the week and agreed that the conflict was “the main source of immense suffering.” economic and humanitarian in the world. .”

The official, who was quoted anonymously, declined to be outlined about which countries would or would not support the statement, according to media reports.

According to a draft communiqué seen circulating in the media, the G20 members would say they have witnessed the war “negatively affect the world economy” and that “the majority of members” condemn the war, while while pointing out that members reiterate their “national positions” and the G20 “is not the forum to solve security problems.”

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who has stressed the summit’s neutrality and rejected calls to exclude Russia, opened the summit on Tuesday with a call to reject “zero-sum situations” and “end the war.”

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“If the war doesn’t end, it will be difficult for the world to move forward,” Widodo said.

But with Russian President Vladimir Putin missing the summit and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is participating via video link, rejecting Russian proposals for Kyiv to adopt a non-aligned status similar to Sweden or Austria, hopes for a peace deal negotiated or a ceasefire seem slim.

In her speech to the summit, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, called on the G20 to lower trade barriers, help developing economies with their debt burden and invest in climate-resilient agriculture.

But Georgieva did not address the need to end the war, which she pointed to as one of the factors behind the “abrupt slowdown” in the global economy, or hold Russia responsible.

“We are seeing a reversal of everything we had been fighting for: reduce poverty, reduce hunger,” Georgieva said. “We now have 345 million people suffering from a food crisis.

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William Chen, director of NTU Singapore’s food science and technology program, said G20 members could focus on ways to improve food security through increased investment in agriculture.

“I am of the opinion that many external factors can affect food security. And sometimes these are out of our control, but we can take them as a wake-up call for us to change current practices for the better,” Chen told Al Jazeera.

“The way forward would be to mount a global and collective effort to turn crises into opportunities by making current farming practices more efficient,” Chen said.

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“This can be done by improving agricultural yields, relying less on chemical fertilizers, and developing urban agriculture for alternative sources of food.”

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