OPINION: Zelenskyy all wrong for boycotting G20 to avoid meeting Putin

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has threatened to boycott the G20 Bali summit in Indonesia taking place in a fortnight should his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin, attend.

From the outset, methinks Zelenskyy is losing the plot, and the opportunity, too.

The G20 summit presents the first-ever chance since the outbreak of the war in February to meet with Putin face-to-face, and hopefully, on the sidelines of the meeting, exchange views that could lead to a possible armistice.

The Indonesian G20 Presidency has elected the theme of the summit to be as follows: “Recover Together, Recover Stronger.” Initially, Indonesia chose this theme in an effort to appeal to the world to cooperate in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The fight against the pandemic requires, according to the G20 host nation, “joint and inclusive efforts in finding a way out or solutions for recovery”.

International cooperation is the fundamental ethos upon which global fora are founded. In other words, the wise counsel offered by the tradition and practice of dialogue even among the worst adversaries has proven to be a key to a more stable, shared future devoid of anarchy and mayhem.

Peace, by its very nature, is never brokered among friends. Indeed, allies never turn on each other. History teaches us that a peace deal is invariably negotiated between fierce enemies. Without enemies, there can be no wars.

Ukraine and Russia both continue to suffer great losses in the ongoing conflict. Too many men and women are losing their lives daily, and the Ukraine infrastructure is being decimated by Russian missiles.

I’ve argued in the past, and hereby reiterate my standpoint that in any war there can be no winners.

And for Zelenskyy’s two-penny worth of my advice, all wars inevitably end in a negotiated peace deal. The “sooner” the peace deal – is always the better than “later”, although “late” is always credited with the idiom “better late than never”.

If Zelenskyy’s strategy is to isolate Russia further from the hostile Western powers by demanding that Putin not be invited to a meeting of the world’s top 20 economies, he has it all wrong, unfortunately.

In a rapidly globalizing world order, multilateralism is a more preferable policy and philosophical practice than the self-serving hypocritical geopolitical stance of the Western powers who are bank-rolling Kyiv to fight Russia instead of investing their resources in a peace initiative.

Indonesia, in her capacity as host of the G20 Bali summit, has a moral and political obligation to operationalize the objectives of the organisation.

The G20, or Group of Twenty, is described as “an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development.” It was founded in September 1999.

Other geopolitical literature refers to the G20 as “a strategic multilateral platform connecting the world’s most developed and emerging economies”.

Together, the G20 members represent more than 80% of world GDP, 75% of international trade and 60% of the world population.

Such is the G20’s strength in sheer political and economic power that Zelensky is ill-advisedly opting to boycott its summit if Putin, whose country is a member, attends.

Ukraine is not a member of the G20 and has been invited after Ukraine became a European Union candidate country following the outbreak of the war on February 24th that continues to this day.

The Ukraine war has followed in the wake of the pandemic, and its effect and impact overshadows the post-pandemic global economic recovery and international peace and stability.

This is the framework upon which, I believe, Zelenskyy has to weigh his options. To sulk and walk away will not assist his strategy of amassing EU and US weapons and other resources in a war the West claims Zelensky is “winning” – with their help.

In recent pronouncements and indications from the Kremlin, Russia is not entire averse to sitting around the table and negotiate a possible truce.

Moscow’s military firepower can obliterate Ukraine within days if Putin so wishes. Examples of coordinated missiles fired by the Russians in dozens of Ukrainian cities and towns over a single night is an example of Moscow’s ability to up the ante at any given time.

Ukraine should no longer take queue from the West about its determination of which way the war should go, or end. Kyiv need to look primarily at their national interest. Western promises of reconstruction and development post-war should not blind Zelensky into the trap of continuing to fight a nuclear power such as Russia. The consequences could be too dire and aghast to contemplate. The stakes are already too high. It is Ukrainians who are returning to their loved ones in body bags, not their Western backers.

Zelenskyy should not be misled by colourful Western descriptions of him as a “war hero”. Soon, if he does not wise up quicker, his entire country could lie in smithereens. Russia is and will always be Ukraine’s next-door neighbour. It is with the neighbour that closer ties are wiser to build and nurture than with friends and relatives who reside far away.

The G20 Bali summit provides a rare platform where world leaders would be presented with a chance to help strike a deal to end the Ukraine conflict. But then, it depends entirely on Zelenskyy, isn’t it? Or, perhaps, his Western backers?