Putin: Of course I'm going to the G20. Why wouldn't I?

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

When the G20 meets in October in Indonesia, things could be quite awkward. If you look at the list of members you will see that one of them is the Russian Federation. And the Russians have informed Indonesia that Vladimir Putin plans on attending as originally scheduled. Scanning through the rest of the list, you will notice that most (but not all) of the other members are currently engaged in economic warfare with Putin and Russia. Some, like Joe Biden, have openly called Putin a war criminal. And yet, it sounds as if Putin somehow thinks he’s just going to hop on a plane, fly to Indonesia, and stroll in to chat about the world economy. And while we’re on that subject, how would Putin fly to Indonesia when Russian planes are banned from pretty much the rest of the world’s airspace? (Kyiv Independent)

Russia’s Ambassador to Indonesia Lyudmila Vorobieva said Vladimir Putin intends to attend the G20 summit being hosted by Indonesia in October. The U.S. and its Western allies are assessing whether Russia should remain in the group, while China backed Russia, saying “Russia is an important member.”

Not everyone in the G20 is looking to block Putin from attending. China has already endorsed the idea of having the Russians attend. I suppose that makes sense because China has been trying to straddle the fence on the entire Ukraine situation since the beginning of the war. They abstained from the UN vote condemning the invasion rather than either favoring the resolution or rejecting it. They’ve repeatedly said they didn’t want to get dragged into any sort of sanctions fight, continuing to do some business with Russia while trying to maintain the good graces of their other, larger trading partners. I would imagine they see the G20 as an opportunity for more diplomacy rather than open conflict.

Keep in mind that the G20 meeting is still the better part of seven months away. Could the war in Ukraine actually still be going on at that point? It’s hard to imagine. Either the Russian invasion will have collapsed and failed by then and Ukraine will still be standing or Putin will have taken over the country. The other option, of course, is that some sort of partition deal will have been reached, with Ukraine still existing, but with Russia occupying more of the country than the region in the east that they already control.

Going on the assumption that the hot portion of the war will be over and one of those conditions exists, is the world supposed to simply pretend that this never happened and welcome Putin back to the conference? Will the heavy sanctions against Russia and Putin personally still be in place if he doesn’t fully withdraw? Or will the sanctions mostly be withdrawn once this is over no matter how it ends? (That would be an embarrassment for the west, but I wouldn’t rule it out.)

Keep in mind that the Kremlin has already accused the United States of pressuring the other G20 members to kick Russia out. Agreeing to have Putin attend would represent the White House flipping totally on Biden’s current position. Also, Putin is reportedly quite angry about that perceived pressure and Biden’s comments. If the full meeting goes forward, is anybody going to be checking Putin at the door to make sure he’s not bringing in a gun?

Yes, I realize that sounds provocative but I’m only half-joking here. Vladimir Putin clearly doesn’t seem to be in full control of his faculties these days. There’s literally nothing I wouldn’t put past him at this point, including thinking he might be able to cap a couple of world leaders who opposed his invasion if given the opportunity. In any event, the rest of the G20 needs to be talking this over as soon as possible. If they’re going to allow this skunk into the garden party, there will be a lot of explaining to be done.