G-20 – The decline of “Western multilateralism”

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By ANDRES FERRARI & JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI*

Sergueï Lavrov, put his “finger in the wound” that emptied the New Delhi meeting, when he spoke of the Euro-Americans’ desire to “Ukrainize” the G-20 meeting

At the recent G20 summit in India, the top leaders of China and Russia were not present. And there is no doubt that this absence has called into question the limits of a group that is being emptied by the increasing intensity of the conflicts that are currently dividing its members. And the most palpable proof of this loss of legitimacy and effectiveness was its final declaration, anodyne and without real commitments among its participants.

It was the first time that a Chinese president had not attended the leaders' summit since it began in 2008. Some explained Xi Jinping's absence by certain tensions between China and India, due to border disputes that resulted in a brief conflict between their troops in 2020, and the recent publication, in China, of a map that claims all of its disputed territory. However, China participated in the recent virtual summit, organized by India, of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in which its member states “agreed on the contours of the emerging world order”.

The same stance and relationship that maintained India and China - a vision that continued days ago during the BRICS+ meeting in South Africa, where Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, met separately to discuss and agree the final declaration of that event. Thus, despite bilateral conflicts, both countries seem to share the vision of collaborating in the formation of a new global order different from the Western one.

Therefore, despite the numerous attempts to create fissures and friction between members of the “new global majority”, all the movements of the two countries suggest that, ultimately, India and China share the same critical vision regarding the “order based on norms” created and protected by the Euro-American powers.

It is this critical position that explains why, despite pressure, the two Asian countries remained firm in not granting an invitation to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky for the G20 Summit. India argued that the G20 was created for countries to deliberate on global economic and financial issues, and is not a forum for geopolitical issues, contrary to the position defended by the United States and the G7.

At this meeting, and for the first time, India refers to itself in the official documents of the meeting as Bharat – an expression included in the first article of its Constitution, from 1950, and which is the designation for India in some of the country's languages, like Sanskrit. Although there have been no official explanations about it, there is not the slightest doubt that this was a way – perhaps the most radical and “Ghandian” – of breaking its last ties with Great Britain, its former colonial power.

Sources close to the government explicitly stated that this was a move in favor of a non-colonial designation, in contrast to the name “India”, linked to the British Empire. In addition to internal disputes, through the new nomenclature, India wants to suggest that it has overcome the colonial mentality and is now positioning itself as one of the great leaders of the new international order that is being proposed and progressively designed by the “new global majority”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasized inclusive growth as one of the priorities of the country's G20 presidency. He presented the model “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas”, which means “development for all”, stating that “regardless of the size of the GDP, every voice matters”. Therefore, he claims to have placed the concerns of the “Global South” – food and fertilizer shortages – as the main objectives for the G20.

India already took this position in January, when it called on almost 125 developing countries to the Voice of the Global South Summit, to discuss the issue of food shortages. It also agreed with the other BRICS+ members in the Johannesburg II declaration, in expressing concern about trade restrictive measures that are incompatible with WTO standards, including illegal unilateral measures, such as sanctions that affect agricultural trade – this last sentence directly aimed at sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.

India, together with Brazil, is one of the most critical voices of the old order protected by the countries of the so-called “restricted West”, which prioritize the energy transition for climate reasons to the detriment of the issue of “inequality” and the most urgent needs of the countries poor. Both countries also warn of the fact that the former Western powers have not fulfilled their commitments.

Not only has China spoken out similarly repeatedly, but Russia, whose president Vladimir Putin was the other big absentee at the G20. Russian Foreign Minister Sergueï Lavrov declared at the BRICS meeting that “Western promises to help African countries – worth 10 billion dollars a year – have simply been forgotten, in the context of generous Western aid to Kiev”.

One must remember here the historical and economic importance of Russia for India: the two countries have very solid military and strategic ties, which India has been preserving despite all the pressure and advantages that have been insistently offered by the United States. Furthermore, India significantly increased its Russian imports, especially oil, following the sanctions imposed on Russia by a group of 40 countries led by the United States, almost all belonging to the old Euro-American axis. For all these reasons, it is very difficult to imagine that India will break with Russia, despite the fact that its strategic movement is not restricted to its Asian alliances and agreements.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergueï Lavrov put his “finger on the wound” that emptied the New Delhi meeting, when he spoke of the Euro-Americans' desire to “Ukrainize” the New Delhi meeting, seeking to insert the topic of Ukraine on every issue – including the Final Declaration – something that Russia would not accept.

Western leaders believed in the possibility of isolating the Russians and putting pressure on them to accept including the issue of Ukraine, but this did not happen: Russia was not only not isolated but managed to prevail in its opposition in the final declaration of the meeting. The result of this complex diplomatic clash was a mild declaration, to say the least, that neither condemned Moscow's conduct nor surrendered to Euro-American pressure, but reiterated the principle of the territorial integrity of nations.

This “minimum consensus” reached at the G20 summit is the faithful portrait of a world divided and fragmented by a real economic war between the United States against China, and by a direct military confrontation between NATO and Russia.

Western multilateralism is coming to an end, confirmed by President Lula's statement, in an interview parallel to the G20 meeting, that he would receive President Putin in Brazil, ignoring the order of the International Court created by Euro-Americans.

*Andres Ferrari is a professor at the Department of Economics and International Relations at the Faculty of Economic Sciences at UFRGS.

* Jose Luis Fiori Professor Emeritus at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of The Myth of Babel and the Struggle for Global Power (Vozes).
https://amzn.to/3sOZ7Bn

Originally published on Current situation bulletin of the International Observatory of the XNUMXst Century, from Nubea/UFRJ.


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