Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

G-20 as the first geopolitical defeat of the West in the global confrontation with the Global South

In September, the Group of Twenty summit was held in India. The host country decided not to invite the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy to this year's summit, as Indonesia did last year. The Indian leadership emphasized that the G20 focuses on economic issues and advocates growth and development, not conflict resolution. While conflict resolution should be discussed in the UN Security Council. Ukraine tried to get an invitation, but its efforts turned out to be unsuccessful, while India invited Spain, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mauritius, Egypt, the Netherlands, Oman, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

In this way, India demonstrated its independence from the West, as Ukraine's main partners, the Group of Seven countries, insisted on Volodymyr Zelenskyy's participation. In addition, this decision demonstrates the resentment that seems to persist among Indian political elites. A drawback of Ukraine's soft power is its inability to convey the message to the countries of the Southern Hemisphere that Ukraine is a victim of imperialist aggression and that Russia is waging a neocolonial war. However, it would be naïve to believe that all the leaders of the Southern Hemisphere do not realize this. Many of them are guided by their own selfish national interests.

India's decision was justified by the alleged economic focus of the G20. However, by 2023, the G20's focus was expanding beyond purely economic issues. Economics and politics are closely intertwined, and Russia's aggression against Ukraine has proved this to be true. A large number of countries on all continents have suffered as a result of Russia's invasion, which demonstrates the fallacy of India's arguments. Although in the case of India, the Russian invasion played into the country's hands, as the role of the South Asian state was once again emphasized in the context of the need to consolidate international efforts to stop Russian aggression. In addition, India has only increased its purchases of Russian energy, which has benefited its economy.

Leaders of the Southern Hemisphere have repeatedly emphasized the growing importance of the G20 in recent years, as greater representation of countries allows for the interests of a much larger number of the world's population to be taken into account in decision-making than when decisions are made by the G7. The main argument in favor of this is that when the G7 was created, the economies of the member countries had a much greater overall weight than they do now.

It is true that the share of the G7 countries in the global economy has indeed decreased since the 1970s. However, the reality is somewhat different from the rhetoric about the much greater prospects of the G20. Although a large number of leaders praised the summit in India, it revealed significant differences in views between the Global South and the Global North. Moreover, the Global South, whose representatives are often united by common anti-American sentiments, is also far from consolidated position. At the same time, the Group of Seven is a union of states that share common values and principles. The values component in international relations is often criticized, yet democratic states demonstrate a better ability to cooperate effectively in the long run.

The G20 is undergoing restructuring. Some countries remain on the side of democratic forces led by the United States. At the same time, a number of countries are gravitating toward China. First of all, these are the BRICS countries. While Russia is definitely on this list, a number of countries have not yet made up their minds. This applies to Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and South Africa. In Brazil, the course may change with the coming to power of a new leader, as the personal factor plays a significant role in the Latin American country's foreign policy. India, for its part, is also still hesitating. The state would probably seek to nominally represent the interests of the countries of the southern hemisphere. However, in this dimension, the state is competing with its principal rival, China.

In the context of geopolitical confrontation, the African continent has become an important object of attention. This is due to the geography, significant natural resources and population of Africa (the total GDP of African countries is 3 trillion dollars, and the population is 1.4 billion). At the G20 Summit in New Delhi, a historic decision was made to approve the African Union (AU) membership. Geopolitical players supported this idea, as everyone hopes to gain a better position in Africa. At the same time, the AU is taking advantage of the opportunities that the bloc gets in the face of confrontation between the great powers.

In this regard, Ukrainian diplomacy can take advantage of the favorable opportunities that arise with Africa's accession to the G20. African countries are interested in global food security. They want the Black Sea Grain Agreement to function and for Ukraine to be able to export grain. Therefore, in the future, the issue of Ukraine and food security in the context of Russia's unprovoked aggression may be considered by the G20 with more attention. This time, Ukraine was mentioned once in the final Declaration in the context of food security. However, the wording was extremely weak and focused not on stopping Russia's aggression against Ukraine, but on the importance of ensuring the export of food and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the aggressor country, Russia.

This year's declaration is extremely weak compared to last year's. The number of references to Ukraine in the final documents is approximately the same: The Bali Declaration contains 5 references, compared to 4 in New Delhi. However, the current document did not condemn Russian aggression, instead condemning the "war in Ukraine" as if it were an internal conflict rather than an unprovoked Russian invasion. The impact of Russia's war on the global economy is also not mentioned. The spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine reacted to the final Declaration and pointed out how the Declaration should have looked like, he cited a fragment of the text of the Declaration with corrections to the wording "war in Ukraine" to "war against Ukraine", "Ukrainian crisis" to "Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine", "all states must act in a manner consistent with the purpuses and principles of the UN Charter" to "Russia must act in a manner consistent with the purpuses and principles of the UN Charter", etc. "This is what the main elements of the text could look like to be closer to reality", Nikolenko noted.

The issue of war was left out of the forum. Behind the rhetoric of fair representation for inclusive decision-making are the pragmatic interests of international actors. The G20 participants discussed issues of global importance: climate, environment, sustainable development goals, etc. At the same time, the issues of concern to the Euro-Atlantic area were actually moved down in priority. This is a loss for the democratic camp, as the G7 countries easily deviate from their own priorities, and security in Europe directly affects the European economy, so the priority of this issue is obvious.

The G7 should not allow countries to unite on the basis of anti-Western sentiment. The United States and Europe have so far avoided confrontation with states that are hostile to them to the last. Countries also spend billions to fund programs of international organizations that disparage Europe, the United States, and international law and order. The most striking example is UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who is negotiating the lifting of important sanctions against Russia, in particular its banking sector. All these processes are leading to a change in the world order, in which the United States is still the main power. However, authoritarian countries are becoming stronger and more determined to oppose the US, and international organizations are playing along with dictators.

Ukraine's secondary position at the G20 Summit demonstrated the worsening crisis of multilateralism. The anti-Western sentiments within the G20 played an obvious role in this. This suggests that the US and the EU should change their approaches to interacting with international partners. The unipolar world made it possible for states to benefit from the common good. However, these times are passing, and the welfare of democratic countries, as well as the global order, needs to be protected and consolidated by the efforts of the Global North. This need is not driven by geopolitical ambitions, but by objective processes currently taking place in the world.