Indonesia is unlikely to reconsider plans to include Russian President Vladimir Putin in November's G20 summit in Bali, despite Moscow's escalation of its conflict with Ukraine this week, analysts say.
In remarks at different forums on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has repeated the same mantra: As host nation, Indonesia is intent on advancing multilateralism and promoting post-pandemic economic growth.
It has sought the backing of key bilateral partners such as Australia, India and the Netherlands. The subtext of the messaging, observers say, is crystal clear: Indonesia wants maximum participation in the summit, including by Russia, and is not adhering to requests not to invite Putin.
"With the G20 summit quickly approaching, we must not be trapped by heated geopolitical dynamics. We must continue to ensure that the G20 produces results that benefit us all," said Retno on Wednesday (Sept 21), in remarks to the Global Governance Group Forum. "Therefore, I hope for the support of all parties."
During the non-bloc countries (Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) nations, not formally aligned with any major power bloc) foreign ministers' meeting, Retno on Wednesday called for her counterparts to prevent wars by "promoting strategic trust, respect towards each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as peaceful solutions to any conflicts".
Like the foreign ministry's statements issued shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, none of Retno's statements in New York this week have pinpointed Moscow as an aggressor in the conflict.
Asked about the ministry's comments in relation to Putin's decision this week to order a "partial mobilisation" of reservists to Ukraine, spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah only said on Thursday that Indonesia "is closely following the development in Ukraine and Russia".
Radityo Dharmaputra, a Russia-focused political analyst and a researcher at Estonia's University of Tartu said that before Putin's summit invitation is withdrawn, Indonesia should take "a drastic step" and "firmly condemn" the invasion of Ukraine as well as "criticise Putin's latest address". But, he added, "I don't think Indonesia will do that".
He thought the Russian president would likely skip the Bali event anyway, "with so many Western leaders scheduled to attend. He wouldn't risk being humiliated… particularly if he can't guarantee that leaders of neutral countries like China, India, and Brazil will support him [at the summit]."
Last month Indonesia's President Joko Widodo said Putin would attend the summit, alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping. Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has also been invited as an observer, and it has been reported he will take up the invitation although it is unclear whether he will attend in person or via a video link.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said this month that Moscow had yet to decide Putin's attendance format at the summit, saying all factors, "including the security factor" will be taken into account.
"We are grateful to the host country of the upcoming summit," Peskov said, as cited by Russian news agency Tass.
As current G20 president, Indonesia has been walking a tightrope for months in defending its neutral stance amid the rivalry between the West and the Kremlin over the war. It faces a threat of boycotts from G7 members if Russia attends the summit.
In July, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov left the G20's first foreign ministers' meeting under Indonesia's presidency earlier than scheduled due to what he called "frenzied criticism" from the Western delegation at the meeting.
But so far Indonesia has "successfully handled pressure" from certain sides, according to Ina Hagniningtyas Krisnamurthi, Indonesia's Ambassador to India.
"Hopefully, we will have a joint communique… and hopefully, we will be a good host to everyone coming to Bali," she said on Tuesday, as cited by The Economic Times, an Indian news outlet.
Academic Radityo doubts the West will boycott the summit, which US President Joe Biden is also due to attend, as leaders still respect Indonesia as G20 president. But he said it was "regrettable" that Widodo skipped this week's UN General Assembly session.
If Widodo was there, he could talk to other nations about the war and Russia's plan to mobilise its troops. "Indonesia is losing the momentum to show the world that we can play a role [to achieve peace in Ukraine]."
For Jakarta, G20 is still mainly seen as an economic forum that can boost co-operation among developing and emerging economies, according to Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations expert from the University of Padjadjaran in West Java.
However, it is likely the summit will end without a joint communique due to heated tension between members, which would be the same result as July's foreign ministers' meeting, he said.
To get everyone involved to agree, Rezasyah said the statements "must be written now, without a surprising element" that could defeat the consensus.
"If there is no joint communique, there should be a chairman statement that would lay out what issues are being contested by G20 members, so we can see which members violate the G20's principles and which members uphold them," he added.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.