President Biden wants to kick Russia out of the G20. Here’s why that’s unlikely to happen

March 25, 2022, 7:54 AM UTC

Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely keeping his invitation to join the G20 Summit in Bali later this year, despite calls from the U.S. and others to bar him from the November meeting due to his invasion of Ukraine.

At a Thursday press conference, U.S. President Joe Biden said that he supports ejecting Russia from the G20, an informal grouping of some of the world’s largest developed and developing economies, though noted that Russia’s exclusion “depends on the [other] G20” members agreeing to excommunicate Putin—which is unlikely.

In 2014—after Putin annexed Crimea—members of what was then the G8 agreed to exclude Russia from their meetings, going back to being the G7. At the time, Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov downplayed the significance of Russia’s eviction, saying the G8 “does not give out any membership cards and, by its definition, cannot remove anyone.”

Australia, which hosted the G20 in 2014, threatened to push for Russia’s removal from the larger economic summit that year, too. Ultimately Russia was allowed to join because the other G20 members had no consensus on excluding the country.

Now, once again, the G20 members are divided over the issue of whether Putin should be allowed to attend, or whether Ukraine should be invited too, as Biden has suggested. Putin’s presence would be “highly problematic” for European members, one EU source told Reuters. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison called sitting with Putin in Bali “a step too far”, and said he had talked directly with Indonesian president Joko Widodo on the subject.

On Tuesday, Poland said that it asked the U.S. to consider ejecting Russia from the G20—and allow Warsaw to claim Moscow’s seat. But it’s unlikely the G20 will eject Russia from the organization, given that any decision on membership would likely need to be reached by all the members.

On Wednesday, Russia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Lyudmila Vorobieva, said that Putin would attend the summit, and that Russia wanted the G20 to focus on “economic problems.” China has backed Russia’s continued presence in the G20, calling it an “important member”.

“No member has the right to remove another country as a member,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin at a news briefing on Wednesday. China had earlier asked Indonesia to keep Ukraine off the G20’s agenda.

The issue also puts pressure on Indonesia, the current president of the G20 and host of this year’s summit, to be held in Bali this October. On Thursday, Indonesia said it would “remain impartial” and affirmed that it would invite Russia to the G20 summit.

The G20 is an informal organization of twenty advanced and developing countries that largely corresponds to the world’s largest economies, with a few concessions made to ensure geographical diversity.

The first summit of G20 heads of state was held in November 2008 in Washington D.C. as a way to coordinate a global policy response to the Global Financial Crisis. Since then, the yearly. summit has become a platform for discussing cooperation on global issues like macroeconomic stability and climate change. 

At the last G20 Summit, held in Rome, leaders agreed to set a minimum corporate tax rate of 15%, and stop funding overseas coal projects. Putin did not attend the Rome summit in-person, joining via video.

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