Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who holds this year’s Group of 20 (G-20) presidency, announced Friday that he has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the economic forum’s November summit in Bali.

“We understand the G-20 has a catalyst role in global economic recovery, and when we speak of global economic recovery there are two important factors right now; COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine,” Widodo said in a video outlining the rationale of his invitation to Zelenskyy.

Widodo said he extended the invitation during a call with Zelenskyy Wednesday when he turned down a request for weapons but offered humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. He said he spoke to Vladimir Putin on Thursday and the Russian president informed him that he will be attending the summit.  

“Indonesia wants to unite G-20,” Widodo said. “Peace and stability are the keys to global economic recovery and growth.”

That may be a tall order amid Western leaders’ demands to kick Russia out of the group of the 20 largest economies. U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, among others, have raised concerns about Putin’s participation in the summit and signaled they will not attend if Putin is there.

Not enough for Biden

“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,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said to VOA Thursday when asked if Biden would consider attending with Zelenskyy invited.

It was Biden who suggested that Kyiv be able to attend G-20 meetings should other members disagree to kick out Russia. He made the point following a meeting with NATO members and European allies in Brussels last month, where he said they discussed expelling Putin from the G-20.

With China supporting Moscow to remain in the group, analysts point out that Widodo is in a tough position. Ultimately his government may have to decide whether it is willing to trade Putin’s attendance for several Western leaders’ absence.

“I think the perfect solution for Indonesia would be, they invite Zelenskyy and then the Russians say that Putin decided not to come and then Jokowi doesn’t have to make this decision,” said Gregory Poling to VOA, using Widodo’s nickname. Poling researches U.S. foreign policy in the Asia Pacific at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Earlier this month the Biden administration signaled it wants the G-20 to discuss the international economic repercussions of the Russian invasion and potentially Ukraine’s reconstruction.  

That idea is likely to create further rifts in the economic forum. Middle-power G-20 members, including India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and others, have their own agenda centered around post-pandemic recovery that do not align with the West’s focus of isolating Putin and helping Ukraine.

Jakarta has set three pillars for its G-20 presidency: global health architecture, sustainable energy transition and digital transformation. It has chosen “Recover Together, Recover Stronger” as the theme of this year’s summit – a proposal that could unravel amid new geopolitical rivalries triggered by Putin’s war.

Eva Mazrieva and Virginia Gunawan contributed to this report.

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