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G20 not a ‘magic forum’ to solve the war in Ukraine: US diplomat

New Delhi:The G20 is not a “magic forum” for finding a solution to the Ukraine war, though the crisis triggered by the Russian invasion is not solely a European problem since it has implications for food and energy security around the world, the senior-most US diplomat in India said on Friday.

In the context of the Ukraine conflict, both the US and India support a rules-based international order even though the policies adopted by the two countries “aren’t necessarily always the same”, US chargé d’affaires Elizabeth Jones said in her first media interaction since taking over the position.

The US, she said, is “very energised” by India taking over the G20 presidency as it demonstrates to the international community India’s leadership capacity in a very complex world and at a time when all countries are grappling with challenges in areas such as climate change, health and education.

Asked if the US side would be prepared to “be in the same room as the Russians” during India’s presidency in light of the deep divisions between the two sides over the Ukraine war, Jones replied, “Yeah, my colleagues see them [Russians] regularly in various meetings. There isn’t a big effort to have meetings but also the G20 isn’t focused on solving the [Ukraine] war either.

“That’s not the goal of the G20. We shouldn’t look to that to be some kind of a magic forum for suddenly there [being] a discussion about peace in Ukraine. That I firmly believe will be done quite separately.”

The Ukraine crisis is being seen as one of the key challenges for India’s presidency, which began on December 1, especially after the crisis almost held up a joint communique at the Bali summit. Diplomatic manoeuvring by India and Indonesia helped finalise a joint statement at the last minute, though the document stated that the G20 members remain divided in their approach to the conflict. India’s approach – that today’s era is not of war – found mention in the communique.

Jones said the G20 returned to its core – economic issues – in the Bali summit after intensive discussions on Russia.

“There was clear willingness on the part of all participants to get back to the core elements of the G20 and…we understand from our Indian colleagues that India intends during its G20 presidency to really dive into the many issues that are involved in international economics, business [and] all the things that affect people’s lives,” she said.

One of the things the US and India agree on supporting a rules-based international order.

“One of the hallmarks of the [India-US] relationship…is that we’re able to have discussions about issues on which we fundamentally agree but in which the policies to get there aren’t necessarily always the same,” she added.

Jones, who worked on the last extension of Nato, said she didn’t share the perception that the Ukraine conflict is a European war. The war Russian is waging on Ukraine has affected food security, with wheat shipments stuck in Ukraine, and energy security, she said. The G7’s planned price cap for Russian crude is aimed at reducing “as much as possible the revenues that Russia earns from its oil sales so that it can’t use those revenues to increase its capacity to wage war in Ukraine”, Jones said.

“It seems to us that it’s appropriate for countries to take that into account in terms of the oil purchases that they make, but that’s a sovereign decision,” she said.

While Russia “complains about NATO and its activities”, Moscow’s actions have only made Nato stronger, and the “threat of food insecurity is a serious problem for many countries”, she added.

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