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Russia Appears To Have Given Up On Participating In The G20 At The Leadership Level
The protracted NATO-Russian proxy war in Ukraine and BRICS’ historic expansion last week combined to finally push the Kremlin to give up on the G20 at the leadership level until at least 2026 in order to focus on reforming the financial order via non-Western platforms. In the process of sending this signal to the Golden Billion and Global South, however, Russia inadvertently offset India’s plan to showcase its strategic autonomy by hosting President Putin at this major event.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed on Friday that President Putin won’t visit India next month to attend this year’s G20 Summit. It marks the second consecutive time that he’s skipped participating in this event at the leadership level after deciding not to travel to Bali last November. Peskov explained that “now he really has a busy schedule. And, of course, the main focus is still the special military operation. So direct travel is not on the agenda right now.”
It was the last chance that President Putin had for at least the next three years to participate in-person at the G20 Summit because next year’s one will be held in Brazil and the following in South Africa. Those two BRICS countries remain loyal to their non-binding obligation to arrest the Russian leader in compliance with the ICC’s warrant, thus meaning that he won’t have an opportunity to travel to the next such annual event until 2026 at the earliest, but even that depends on which country ultimately hosts it.
Peskov’s announcement came one day after BRICS’ historic expansion whereby the bloc more than doubled its number of members. Observers reacted to this development by predicting that it might soon function as an alternative to the G7 despite previously denying that it has any such attempt and/or a future Global South-focused version of the G20 if it more than doubles again at next year’s summit. The back-to-back timing makes one wonder whether there’s a connection or if it was just a coincidence.
On the one hand, it made sense to clarify President Putin’s plans in the immediate run-up to this year’s G20 Summit, but it also compellingly appears to be the case that the Kremlin might have wanted to wait until the outcome of last week’s BRICS Summit before finally deciding exactly what he should do. Had BRICS not expanded the way that it just did and taken on its new form, or at least the way that its future potential is now widely perceived, then it’s possible that he might have traveled to next month’s event.
To explain, while President Putin is indeed very busy, he still took time out of his jam-packed schedule to visit some of the Central Asian Republics and Iran in the 18 months since the special operation began. Last November, he was dealing with the consequences of his armed forces’ unexpected pullback from Kherson Region and therefore couldn’t go to Bali in good conscience even if he wanted to, but nowadays Kiev’s counteroffensive failed and the front lines have been stable since the start of the year.
This observation suggests that Peskov’s claim about his boss being too busy to attend next month’s event might be a “face-saving” excuse to mitigate any hard feelings on India’s side after it prepared the past year for his in-person attendance. Officials in that country were optimistic this whole time that he’d visit, especially since they’re not party to the ICC like South Africa. Far from plotting to arrest him like South Africa was pressured to do, India was ready to roll out the red carpet and give him a hero’s welcome.
Russia is India’s decades-long special and privileged strategic partner with whom there exist no differences whatsoever on any sensitive issues, unlike the disagreements over Kashmir and the South China Sea that Russia and China responsibly manage to their credit as explained in this analysis here. The purpose in pointing this out isn’t to suggest that Russia regards India as more important than China, but simply to emphasize the strength of their relations and the deep mutual trust that characterizes them.
Accordingly, President Putin’s decision to not travel to India next month shouldn’t be spun as a snub of his close friend Prime Minister Modi’s invitation, though there’s also no denying that India is disappointed that he won’t come since the Russian leader would have received superstar treatment. These two surveys here and here prove that India is by far one of the world’s most Russian-friendly societies despite the US’ relentless anti-Russian propaganda, hence the preceding assessment.
Hosting President Putin wouldn’t have just strengthened bilateral ties and led to a celebration in the world’s most populous country, but it also would have powerfully demonstrated India’s strategic autonomy in the New Cold War. Readers can learn more about that country’s role in the global systemic transition to multipolarity here since it’s beyond the scope of this analysis, but it’s sufficient to know that it aims to lead the Global South’s balancing act between the Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente.
The vast majority of the international community doesn’t want to take sides in those two’s worldwide competition since they support the Entente’s goal of gradually reforming the global order so that it more fairly represents their interests, but they also have extensive trade ties with the West too. The appearance of siding more closely with one at the other’s expense could lead to uncomfortable pressure that makes it impossible to maintain their Indian-inspired multi-alignment between both de facto blocs.
India can still advise and informally lead fellow developing countries via its new Voice Of Global South (VOGS) platform, but it wanted to maximally flex its strategic autonomy in the New Cold War by hosting President Putin during next month’s G20 Summit. While Moscow fully supports Delhi’s grand strategic vision and the pragmatic path that its truly sovereign leadership has charted, its elite policymaking circle apparently believes that it’s better for their leader not to extend credence to the G20 for the time being.
His decision not to attend last November’s Bali Summit was probably really because of the unexpected problems that arose in Russia’s special operation at the time, but since no similar such problems exist at present and the ICC isn’t an issue like during the BRICS Summit, this year’s decision is obviously political. As was earlier clarified, this wasn’t intended to disrespect India or snub Prime Minister Modi, but was arguably connected to BRICS’ newfound potential in accelerating financial multipolarity processes.
The case can therefore be made that the protracted NATO-Russian proxy war in Ukraine and BRICS’ historic expansion last week combined to finally push the Kremlin to give up on the G20 at the leadership level until at least 2026 in order to focus on reforming the financial order via non-Western platforms. In the process of sending this signal to the Golden Billion and Global South, however, Russia inadvertently offset India’s plan to showcase its strategic autonomy by hosting President Putin at this major event.
This insight isn’t to suggest that the Kremlin’s elite policymaking circle was conscious of the de facto trade-off that ensued since they seem to have only made their final decision right after the outcome of last week’s BRICS Summit and were so excited about it that India’s interests briefly slipped their minds. Nevertheless, their well-intentioned calculations still unwittingly disappointed India, but ties will remain strong and continue growing despite any miscommunication that possibly occurred over this decision.