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White House braces for potential showdown between Biden and Putin at G20

White House braces for potential showdown between Biden and Putin at G20

President Joe Biden and his advisers are still in conversations about how to approach November’s Group of 20 summit, whose hosts received confirmation Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to attend.

Biden has said Russia should be ejected from the G20. Senior members of his administration have walked out of G20 events where Russian delegates are present. And there were discussions with Indonesia, which is hosting the summit, about stepping up its condemnation of Russia.

But no decision on boycotting the leaders’ summit, still six months away, has been made. Officials said there wouldn’t likely be a decision in the near-term as they weigh the downsides of skipping the event and ceding the table to Russia and China.



“The President has been clear about his view: This shouldn’t be business as usual, and that Russia should not be a part of this,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “But, again, it’s six months away.”

The White House is realistic the G20 will not collectively remove Russia from its ranks, since the decision requires consensus and China has been clear it doesn’t support such a move. That makes this a different scenario than when Russia was expelled from the G8 after its annexation of Crimea.

“Indonesia wants to unite the G20. Don’t let there be a split. Peace and stability are the keys to the recovery and development of the world economy,” President Joko Widodo said in a statement from Indonesia’s Cabinet on Friday, confirming Putin had accepted his invitation to attend.

Widodo also extended an invitation earlier this week to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who tweeted he was “grateful” for the invite, but did not specify whether he would attend the summit.

Widodo spoke with Putin and Zelensky in separate phone calls this week, during which he conveyed to the Russian president the importance of ending the war in Ukraine “immediately” and Indonesia’s desire to contribute to a peaceful resolution to the conflict, according to the statement.

Widodo said he conveyed to Zelensky Indonesia’s readiness to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine but not military assistance, which he said is prohibited by Indonesia’s constitution and its foreign policy principles.

Confirmation of Putin’s attendance sets up a potentially complicated summit on the Indonesian island Bali, which is scheduled to begin in the beginning of November. White House officials have mulled a number of different scenarios, including potentially sending a lower-level delegation or participating remotely. But Biden attending in person is still considered the likeliest outcome, even if Putin is also there, according to officials.

Earlier this month, finance ministers from multiple nations, including US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, walked out of a closed-door G20 session in Washington when the Russian delegate began his prepared remarks, a show of protest against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

Ahead of the meeting, US officials had said Yellen would not participate in certain sessions of the gathering that included Russia. And Biden said during a snap NATO summit in March he would support Russia’s ejection from the G20.

Short of that, Biden said Ukraine should be invited to participate. He said he’d discussed the matter with other leaders during his meetings.



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