G20 leaders reconsider Russia's status

It is unlikely Moscow will face an outright ban, sources say

Delegates convene during the second day of the G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, on February 18. AP

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The US and its western allies are assessing whether Russia should remain in the Group of 20 major economies after its invasion of Ukraine, sources involved in the discussions told Reuters on Tuesday.

The likelihood that any bid to exclude Russia would be vetoed by others in the G20 — which includes China and India — raised the prospect of some countries skipping meetings this year, the sources said.

The G20 and the Group of Seven — consisting of the US, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Britain — are key international platforms for co-ordinating on matters ranging from climate change action to cross-border debt.

Russia is facing many international sanctions led by western nations aiming to isolate it from the global economy, including shutting it out of the Swift global bank payment system and restricting dealings by its central bank.

"There have been discussions about whether it’s appropriate for Russia to be part of the G20," said a senior G7 source. "If Russia remains a member, it will become a less useful organisation."

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said President Joe Biden would consult with allies in Brussels this week before any move to push Russia out of the G20.

"We believe that it cannot be business as usual for Russia in international institutions and in the international community," Mr Sullivan said.

A EU source confirmed the discussions about Russia's status at future meetings of the G20, the rotating chair of which is held by Indonesia.

"It has been made very clear to Indonesia that Russia’s presence at forthcoming ministerial meetings would be highly problematic for European countries," said the source.

But they said there was no clear process for excluding a country.

The G7 was expanded to a new "G8" format including Russia during a period of warmer ties in the early 2000s. But Moscow was indefinitely suspended from that club after its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Earlier on Tuesday, Poland said it had suggested to US commerce officials that it replace Russia within the G20 group and that the suggestion had received a "positive response".

A US Commerce Department representative said a "good meeting" was held last week between Polish Economic Development and Technology Minister Piotr Nowak and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

"She welcomed hearing Poland’s views on a number of topics, including the operation of the G20, but did not express a position on behalf of the US government with respect to the Polish G20 proposal,” the representative said.

The G7 source said it was considered unlikely that Indonesia or members such as India, Brazil, South Africa and China would agree to remove Russia from the group.

If G7 countries were to skip this year’s G20 meetings, that could be a powerful signal to India, the source said.

It has drawn the ire of some western nations over its failure to condemn the Russian invasion and support measures against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia's status at other multilateral agencies is also being questioned.

In Geneva, World Trade Organisation officials said delegations there were refusing to meet Russian groups in various formats.

"Many governments have raised objections to what is happening there and these objections have manifested themselves in a lack of engagement with the member concerned," WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said.

One source from a western country said those not engaging with Russia at the WTO included the EU, the US, Canada and Britain. No confirmation from those delegations was immediately available.

Updated: March 22, 2022, 10:36 PM