What does G20 stand for and could Russia be expelled?


US president Joe Biden has said that Russia should be expelled from the Group of 20 (G20) alliance of major economies as punishment for Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The US, EU and UK have responded to the long-feared invasion by imposing tough economic sanctions against Russian banks, businesses and oligarchs over the last month, an attempt to force Moscow to abandon its conquest without resorting to military intervention on behalf of a non-Nato state.

The Russian ruble has plummeted in value against the US dollar, its central bank has been forced to double its main rate of interest and impose capital controls while western corporations have severed ties with the country in a pointed show of opposition to a conflict much of the world is united in condemning as unjustified and inhumane.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday where the question of Russia’s exclusion was discussed between Nato leaders, Mr Biden suggested that allowing Ukraine to attend the next G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November might also be an option.

“The single most important thing is for us to stay unified and the world to continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people’s lives that will be lost and ruined and what’s going on,” he told reporters.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the latest move to isolate Russia on the world stage by insisting that nothing terrible will happen if his country were to be cast out of the collective.

“The G20 format is important, but in the current circumstances, when most of the participants are in a state of economic war with us, nothing terrible will happen,” Mr Peskov told reporters.

He said that the world is much more diverse than merely the US and Europe and predicted that American efforts to sideline Russia would fail.

Mr Peskov added that other countries – perhaps alluding to China, which has remained cagey on the subject of Ukraine so far – were taking a more sober approach towards the situation and were not burning bridges with Moscow with at least one eye on future foreign policy relations.

So what precisely is the G20 and how feasible is Russia’s exclusion?

The group was first formed on 26 September 1999 in response to the Asian financial crises of the period as a forum for the leaders of the world’s largest economies to come together to discuss solutions to shared monetary problems but quickly expanded its remit to take in a broader range of topics like the climate emergency and world vaccine access.

The G20 comprises the seven members of the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US – as well as the following superpowers and rapidly-developing economies: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey.

Its 20th member is the EU, which is already a bloc of 27 member states, so the G20 actually takes into consideration the concerns of 43 different countries in all.

In terms of population and economic weight, the group accounts for 60 per cent of the planet’s people, 80 per cent of its gross domestic product and 75 per cent of foreign trade.

A regular criticism of the G20, however, is that South Africa remains its only African representative and the absence of Nigeria, the continent’s biggest economy, from its roster increasingly looks like a glaring oversight.

The G7, incidentally, was the G8 until 2014, when Russia was expelled from that grouping as punishment for its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine that year, an act of aggression in response to the popular Maidan protests in Kyiv that drove pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych from power and set in motion the fighting in the east of the country, which in turn inspired Mr Putin’s savage and cynical intervention last month.

Given that precedent, excluding Russia from the G20 would at least be diplomatically consistent – and avoid some deeply awkward conversations at the next gathering of the collective in Bali.

However, doing so could trigger a boycott from other member states and, at present, Mr Putin is understood to be still planning to attend and would have the backing of China in doing so.

“The G20 is the main forum for international economic cooperation,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said this week.

“Russia is an important member, and no member has the right to expel another country. The G20 should implement real multilateralism, strengthen unity and cooperation.”

A huge amount of preparation goes into G20 summits, with months of ministerial-level meetings held in advance to thrash out topics for the heads of state to address, ranging from foreign affairs to commerce, finance, education, health and the environment.

While the host nation aims to show off the best of their country in grip-and-grin photo opportunities, the meetings also inevitably become focal points for protesters seeking to draw attention to matters of domestic and global significance, with the fate of Ukraine and the planet likely to loom large in Indonesia this autumn.

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