Russia isolation

G20 summit indicates Russia’s growing isolation globally

On November 15th-16th G20 heads of state held a summit in Bali, Indonesia, focusing on confronting shared challenges for developed and developing economies, such as the climate crisis, and global food and energy insecurity. However, geopolitics dominated, owing to spillover risks from the war in Ukraine and heightened tensions between China and the West.

Why does it matter?

The summit highlighted improved relations between the US and its traditional European and NATO allies. Ties had deteriorated in recent years, but have strengthened in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the joint communiqué, “most” G20 members “strongly condemned” the war and repeated earlier demands that Russia withdraw from Ukraine, fully and unconditionally. This was a huge blow to Russia, which was the obvious exception to this statement. Even China and India, which have so far refrained from publicly criticising Russia, an energy and defence partner, did not support Russia.

The statement condemning Russia was more symbolic than anything else—members conceded that the G20 was not a forum for addressing security issues, and no financial or military commitments were made. Nonetheless, the summit reinforced Russia’s isolation on the international stage. The Indonesian hosts emphasised the negative ripple effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in emerging states, notably with regard to rising food insecurity and inflation. This signals that Russia’s false narrative that sanctions are fuelling food insecurity globally may be losing traction.

Beyond Russia, China and many Western countries appeared more willing to de-escalate tensions with each other. This is a notable shift in rhetoric, particularly after US-China tensions intensified further in 2022. The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, fresh from having secured a third term in power, returned to the world stage and held bilateral meetings with at least ten G20 leaders. His face-to-face meeting with the US president, Joe Biden, was the first between the two in Mr Biden’s term.

Increased engagement between Western economies and China will help to manage conflict risk in the near term, amid US-China tensions over Taiwan. Most countries will welcome this, given the persistent spillover effects stemming from the war in Ukraine. However, leaders also used their bilateral meetings with Mr Xi to emphasise their concerns regarding Taiwan, China’s anti-competitive practices and its human-rights violations. Meanwhile, China will continue to exploit frictions within Western countries to avoid the formation of an “anti-China” coalition. We do not expect any meaningful improvement in relations owing to these fundamental differences.

What next?

Geopolitical tensions will remain a central factor shaping our forecasts. We expect Western sanctions on Russia to remain in place, forcing a reshuffle. We do not expect an easing of tensions between Western countries and China.

The analysis and forecasts featured in this piece can be found in EIU Viewpoint, our new country analysis solution. EIU Viewpoint provides unmatched global insights covering the political and economic outlook for nearly 200 countries, helping organisations identify prospective opportunities and potential risks.