Western nations are preparing to stage co-ordinated walkouts and other diplomatic snubs to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at Wednesday’s meeting of G20 finance ministers in Washington, their officials said.
While some in Western capitals argue that Russia’s actions should mean it is excluded from global meetings altogether, that is not a view shared by others in the Group of 20 big economies, including notably China.
Moscow confirmed on Tuesday Finance Minister Anton Siluanov would lead Russia’s delegation at the talks despite repeated protestations by Western diplomats that it could not go ahead as usual during a war in which thousands of civilians have died.
“During and after the meeting we will be certain to send a strong message and we will not be alone in doing so,” a German government source said, accusing Russia of starting a conflict that has also sent world food and energy prices spiralling.
Separately, the International Monetary Fund slashed its forecast for global economic growth by nearly a full percentage point, citing Russia’s war in Ukraine, and warning inflation was a “clear and present danger” for many countries.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen plans to avoid G20 sessions joined by Russian officials, two U.S. Treasury officials said. A French finance ministry official meanwhile expected some ministers from Group of Seven nations to leave their seats when their Russian peer was due to speak.
Both the French and the German official said there would be no agreed communiqué at the end of a meeting which had been originally due to discuss the state of the global economy and co-ordinating vaccine and other pandemic efforts.
Conceived as a platform for big economies in both the developed and developing world to co-operate on recovery efforts after the global financial crisis, the G20 has since broached everything from global tax reform to the fight against climate change with a patchy track record of success.
Apart from the G7 nations – the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany and Italy – it also incorporates emerging economies including China, India and Brazil that have starkly different views on how the global economy should work.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that some G20 nations have chosen not to follow Western sanctions on Russia is only the latest challenge to efforts to construct a global set of rules for trade and finance.
The United States and China have long traded accusations of protectionism, while the fact that world trade is growing more slowly than the global economy as a whole has prompted questions about the future of globalization.
Ahead of the G20 meeting, which takes place alongside regular gatherings of members of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, a top IMF official warned of the risk of a fragmenting global economy.
“One scenario is one where we have divided blocs that are not trading much with each other, that are on different standards, and that would be a disaster for the global economy,” IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas told reporters.
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