The meeting of the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov should be considered a diplomatic breakthrough for the G20 under India’s presidency. This was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since the onset of the war in Ukraine. Earlier, they had only telephonic conversations.
It must have required serious behind-the-scenes diplomatic endeavour to bring the two leaders together. As expected, the two sides stuck to their original stance, and no serious discussion happened on the Russia-Ukraine war. Both leaders only conveyed their respective concerns and priorities. “Yet, such meetings are important because they bring the temperature down and create a ground for talks in future,” opines Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU.
Apparently, Blinken delivered three important messages to Lavrov: first, the US commitment to Ukraine was long-term, and the support will continue; second, Russia should rejoin the New Start treaty; and third, Russia should release Paul Whelan, an American citizen imprisoned in Russia. “These are too complicated issues to be discussed in a ten-minute meeting. And it is not clear how Sergey Lavrov responded to such concerns and what message he gave to his counterpart. However, one can safely speculate that he reiterated Russia’s position on these issues. He must have asked Blinken to stop supplying weapons to Ukraine and blamed the US for Russia’s decision to withdraw from the New Start Treaty,” Prof Rajan opines.
How does one interpret the meaning of such a meeting?
Sharing his expert opinion Prof Rajan says: “Placed in a larger context, where Russia and Ukraine are engaged in a pitched battle even when the G20 meeting is underway, this meeting essentially means that the two leaders are not serious about negotiations but they want to keep the channels of communication open. Second, the two leaders might have agreed because they do not want to displease New Delhi, which might have worked hard to bring the two together. Third, these two leaders want to convey to their respective audiences that they are willing to talk without sacrificing their core concerns. And finally, these leaders are also concerned that a disruption of the G20 meeting would have larger implications for other issues such as food and energy supply, nuclear agreements and climate change.”
In his opinion “It must be so difficult for New Delhi diplomats who wanted to focus on substantive issues of the Global South, but were caught spending time on pleasing the two sides and making the meeting look successful. New Delhi diplomats must be praised for making stupendous efforts in articulating India’s nuanced position, preparing a common ground and maintaining a good working relation with each side. “They must have understood that keeping everyone in good humour is impossible. And thus, it is better to stick to our own position. New Delhi deserves the credit for not allowing the G20 to appear bipolar— a fact that won’t be acknowledged by any side,” Prof Rajan added.
What did US Secretary told media?
Responding to a media question in New Delhi related to his meeting with Russian FM he said
“We want to make sure that, even as we and dozens of countries around the world are standing up for the basic principles at the heart of the UN Charter that are being trampled on by Russia and its aggression against Ukraine, we’re at the same time also working every single day to address the concerns of people around the world on the issues that are really affecting their lives – whether it is food insecurity, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s creating economic opportunity, building global health