World Economy
G20: Does Multilateralism Have a Chance?

Regardless of the outcome of the G20 summit itself, it will be possible to mark the Indonesian presidency as a success. After all, the current crisis has allowed Indonesia to prove itself as a global power. It is precisely the crisis and the hegemonic aspirations of the West that allow the rest of the G20 members to look for and eventually find those bold and non-standard solutions that will lead to a new, more just and equal world, writes Viktoria Panova, Vice-Rector of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, Sherpa of Russia in the Women's Twenty.

Instability Instead of Compromise: The Open Face of the West's Anti-Human Toolkit

The turbulence in international affairs has been discussed for more than a year, but the situation has not balanced out. The number of destabilising factors only continues to increase, and the stakes of both direct active and indirect participants, including passive conditional observers of the current multifaceted conflict, continue to grow. Established during the Cold War in the 20th century and at the turn of the century, multilateral institutions and mechanisms seemed, according to the logic of ​​their creators, to solve emerging problems with the least losses for all interested parties. Now they look absolutely incapable of coping with the avalanche-like destabilisation and degradation of the international system.

The United Nations is sinking into positional verbal battles, but the main instigators do not even try to pretend that they are ready to listen, hear or talk. Indeed, as a result, among other things and given the competent work of the Russia’s permanent UN representative and its other UN diplomats, it is possible to publicly admit facts about the real state of affairs and resist the disinformation campaign launched by Western countries. This has resulted, in particular, in a radical change in the number of countries that supported anti-Russian resolutions six months ago and now (141 votes in March against 54 votes in August this year). However, the UN in any case no longer performs the basic function of facilitating compromise in the diplomatic field. Moreover, the beginning of this state of affairs happened much earlier, when the West freely interpreted the resolutions on Yugoslavia. This pushed that country to form separate, much weaker associations, and NATO ensured its further disaggregation by force. The reflections of that fire are still visible, as we know. The American masters only pointed out the need for Pristina to postpone the adoption of restrictive anti-Serb measures, but there is no doubt that Belgrade will be under the heaviest pressure at the most convenient moment. Similarly, the West’s role discrediting the UN can be seen in the cases of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, etc.
Another example is the WTO, where the lack of a functioning Appellate Body is only part of the problem.

There is extreme fragmentation, with various interest groups covering for themselves without taking into account the interests of all participants. The organisation worked exactly as long as its decisions brought benefits primarily to the developed countries like the USA and Europe. Similar stories can be told about almost any of the multilateral institutions, where the membership of the “older” states of the “golden billion” is combined with the rest of the world. Suffice it to recall that already in 2018, for the first time since its foundation, the APEC summit held in Papua New Guinea did not end with the adoption of a final document. The ministerial meeting of APEC-2022 also failed to agree on the final document.

At the same time, the growing problems within the states of the Western bloc, combined with international crises (often resulting from the irresponsible policies of these same countries), are pushing Western-centric organisations to declare enemies and provoke additional crises. These allow them to further destabilise the international order, enabling them to try to weaken competitors as much as possible in order to maintain their own dominance amid the ensuing chaos. This is not only about the expansion of NATO or instability being provoked throughout the post-Soviet space, but also about multiple crises with respect to healthcare, food and energy.

Without going into details about the origin of the pandemic, it suffices to recall the lack of progress on the part of Western states  in discussions about the possibility of universal access to vaccines. We can also recall that food problems began in mid-2020, with rising product prices. The complex nature of the food crisis is determined by the consequences of the pandemic, extreme weather conditions stemming from climate change, disruptions in global supply chains, and higher prices for fertilizers and energy carriers. When it comes to energy, we see a similar picture. Energy prices reached their last peak back in 2021, and electricity prices peaked in April 2021. This was a direct result of over-reliance on the use of renewables and lack of investment in traditional energy sources. All this happeend against the background of trade wars and the rise of protectionist tendencies. Of course, an additional impetus to the development of each of the crises was given by the unilateral, illegitimate sanctions imposed by Western countries against Russia. However, the West is inclined to shift all these problems from a sick head to a healthy one ...

Civitas civitati lupus est

The assertion that global problems cannot be solved by any one state alone, even the most powerful state, seems to have become axiomatic. We have repeatedly heard this statement from the lips of representatives of those same Western countries. It is precisely these goals that the numerous multilateral institutions and mechanisms, should have served, both old ones and new ones. In theory, at least. But what do we see in practice? If you look at the facts, at least the Western co-founders saw in these institutions just tools for exercising control and maintaining their own dominance on the world stage in all areas - from military-political and technological to economic and ideological superiority. For all appearances, the G20 was given an identical role by the "older" countries of the G7.

Let us turn to the history of the G20. As we remember, the meetings of this mechanism were initiated at the initiative of the G7+1 finance ministers in 1999 from the position that the world continued to recover from the Asian crisis of 1997 and the subsequent default in Russia in 1998. It was necessary to involve in the dialogue all the systemically important economies of the world. It was necessary to hear the voice of dynamically developing countries - but why? After all, judging by the tradition of appointing representatives of the United States and Europe to the posts of heads of the IMF and the World Bank, these countries knew and understood better than anyone else how to deal with such crises and instruct less intelligent brothers from the “non-gold” list. Indeed, at first it was enough to speak with representatives of the monetary and financial bloc of these countries, to move their policies in the right direction in accordance with the needs and vision of the G7. For a while, this did not raise any questions.

However, already in 2008 another crisis erupted; this time it was clearly the fault of the United States, and it spread to affect all the countries of the world. Immediately, the G20 was "promoted" to the level of the countries’ leaders. Were yesterday's hegemons ready to hear other opinions different from theirs? Or has the G20 become a new, 21st century round of the very concept of trilateralism, where the too-rapid growth of the developing states of Asia, Latin America and Africa can be substituted for  the too-rapid growth of Western Europe and Japan in the 1960-70s? As in its first incarnation, this scenario has called into question the ability of Washington to govern without regard to these new centres of power amid a transition from de facto unipolarity to multilateralism.  In the 20th century, this provided for a pluralistic unipolarity by co-opting the other two centres of power of the "Golden Billion" - the European and Pacific theatres.
Can we talk about the focus of Washington and its satellites on compromise, if many of the decisions of the "Group" were subsequently violated by the same richest countries, and the approaches and vision developed within the framework of the "Group of Seven" were often introduced into the G20 discussions, and not vice versa?

Following the results of the 2009 summit in London, the main decisions on spending 5 trillion dollars to support national economies and more than a trillion dollars to distribute funds through the IMF and the World Bank, as well as on offshore and banking secrecy, corresponded to all the proposals of the Library Group. 

Let us also recall how, at the very beginning of the existence of the G20, its participants from developing countries were proud of the fact that it was on its platform that decisions on the redistribution of IMF quotas were finalised. The decision turned out to be one-time, and after the Seoul Consensus, the process stalled. In April of this year, however, following the results of negotiations between the heads of the central banks and the G20 finance ministers, the Indonesian chairman promised a common understanding that the 16th revision and replenishment of quotas in favour of large developing economies (the 15th failed in 2019) should be completed according to plan (before December of next year). There are no real prerequisites for Western economies to be ready to lose their controlling stake in the Fund, even today.

What does the upcoming summit have to show us?

Despite the fact that the G20, since its foundation, has primarily served the interests of the "older" states, its foundation could serve the good cause of achieving common compromise goals, reforming the global monetary and economic system, and calming the markets amid crisis trends. An important aspect of the Group's activities has been the sharing of powers and responsibilities with other global institutions. The informal G20 Club united the old imperialist and new developing powers on one platform with the opportunity to leave contradictions in the military-political sphere for other structures, primarily for discussion via the UN Security Council, and focus on economics and finance, excluding their politicisation as much as possible. This is what has allowed the G20 to maintain the framework of a single international economic interaction despite growing disagreements on a number of issues, preventing the world from sliding into the abyss of crisis, even against the backdrop of the US trade war with China.

This year, the G20 chair, as mentioned above, is Indonesia. Probably, first of all, only thanks to the will and firmness of Jakarta, the G20 still manages to avoid being written off. It's not that the Indonesian presidency has prioritised key topics in terms of enhancing the well-being of peoples - the global healthcare architecture, digital transformation and the transition to sustainable energy. The adoption of specific measures in each of these areas can improve the quality of life not only in the G20 countries, but throughout the world. However, today these decisions are practically impossible to reach, given the position of the Western powers and their readiness to sacrifice both their own citizens and those of developing countries for the sake of "cancelling" Russia. Again, it's not even about these exceptionally important priorities.

Indonesia, as chairman, has demonstrated exceptional maturity, vision, and scale as a true global power by resisting unprecedented pressure from the West to impose a rule-based order that benefits only them. The main event of any presidency is yet to come – the G20 leaders' summit. Predicting its outcome today is like attempting to read tea leaves. So far, what we can observe is that the West completely lacks any desire to hear anyone outside its circle, and the absence of deterrent factors and the willingness to sacrifice the lives of others in order to maintain their dominant position on the world stage do not allow us to look at the final G20 agreements with excessive optimism. Even against the background of the responsible and constructive position of both the country of the chair and other "non-imperialist" members of the club, the chances for significant breakthrough decisions, where the joint actions of absolutely all players are really required, are small. The West has chosen the path of threats, blackmail, unilateral sanctions and hybrid aggression against those countries that, like Russia or China, and subsequently any other state, choose the path of sovereign development.

Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome of the G20 summit itself, it will be possible to mark the Indonesian presidency as a success. After all, the current crisis has allowed Indonesia to prove itself as a global power. It is precisely the crisis and the hegemonic aspirations of the West that allow the rest of the G20 members to look for and eventually find those bold and non-standard solutions that will lead to a new, more just and equal world. Perhaps these decisions will be made within the framework of the G20 minus or BRICS plus, but necessarily by countries interested in real cooperation, and not in obtaining unilateral benefits. It is this difficult year when the foundation can be laid for a stable world order without unilateral mandates, and with mutual respect allowing for the versatile development of each region and state.

Morality and Law
G20 or the World Without Institutions?
Oleg Barabanov
The G20 and many other international organizations have often been accused of issuing public communiqués that are too emasculated and polished, that their only message that can be distinguished there is the sacramental phrase We are for all good and against all bad. And now, when mankind has received the terrible shock of the pandemic, it is high time to ask: Maybe you shouldnt have done that?, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.