WASHINGTON − President Joe Biden failed at a weekend summit in India to unite world leaders around a condemnation of Russia’s war in Ukraine, drawing a rebuke from Kyiv and putting him on the defensive as he wrapped up a trip abroad.
Neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the New Delhi gathering for leaders of the world’s most powerful economies, but even in their absence, Russia and China notched a win against the U.S. when it came to rallying the international community against the war that began more than a year and a half ago.
Group of 20 nations declined to explicitly chide Russia for the invasion, saying instead that countries “must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition” and lamented “the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war.”
After attending the New Delhi summit, Biden traveled to Hanoi in a visit aimed at strengthening ties with Vietnam. He is scheduled to depart Vietnam on Monday to head to Alaska, where he plans to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Here are some takeaways from his overseas trip:
Ukraine says G20 has ‘nothing to be proud of‘
Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended last year’s G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, he was not present at the New Delhi gathering.
India, which is not aligned in the war, did not invite Ukraine, despite a request from U.S. officials who argued that Ukrainian officials should have the ability at the forum to rebut Russia’s narrative about the war.
Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry voiced disappointment on social media with the G20 statement, sharing a mockup of changes it would have liked to have seen that would have pinpointed Russia as the aggressor nation.
“We are grateful to the partners who tried to include strong wording in the text. However, in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, G20 has nothing to be proud of,” ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Biden defends G20 statement; GOP’s McCaul calls it ‘slap in the face‘
Biden pressed Ukraine’s case in Zelenskyy’s absence to little avail.
At a news conference in Vietnam after the summit, Biden said the war is not a “wedge” issue with most G20 nations − it was a problem with Russia and China, which had high-ranking representatives at the summit.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was “very important that the G20 spoke as one.” That presented a complication, Blinken said, because Russia is part of the group.
“I think, if you are on the receiving end of what so many of them said, if you were in the Russian seat, it’s pretty clear where the rest of the world stands,” Blinken said.
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said on same program that the statement was “a major departure from last year and a real slap in the face to Zelenskyy as they’re conducting the counteroffensive.”
GOP presidential candidate and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called it a victory for Russia and China and criticized Biden for not pushing the G20 to stick to the tougher language.
“China is gloating, because they’re looking at Taiwan as this is happening, and it’s a shame,” Haley said.
Biden undeterred on Ukraine aid
U.S. officials underscored their support for Ukraine over the weekend, promising to stand by the country for as long as necessary.
Biden is pushing Congress to allocate $20.6 billion for military assistance and humanitarian relief for Ukraine before the end of the year. The financial package has the support of the Senate but will face difficulty passing the House, which will begin spending talks when its members return this week from summer break.
“There has been bipartisan support for this funding to date, and it’s critical that we continue to provide timely economic assistance,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told reporters in India.
Biden says he doesn’t ‘want to contain China,’ he wants it to play by the rules
In Vietnam, Biden spent the better part of a news conference outlining his vision for the U.S. relationship with China. Biden said he does not want to harm the economic competitor. Instead, he wants China to play by established international norms.
“I don’t want to contain China. I just want to make sure we have a relationship with China that is on the up and up, squared away, everybody knows what it’s all about,” Biden said.
Biden and Xi have not spoken since last year’s G20 summit, and Biden downplayed his counterpart’s absence. China has a chilly relationship with India, though Biden suggested that Xi’s decision to skip the G20 may have been in part due to economic turmoil at home.
“I just think there’s other things on leaders’ minds and they respond to what is needed at the time,” Biden said.
G20 still effective, US says
U.S. officials defended the G20’s effectiveness at tackling global challenges, despite Russia and China’s lack of participation at the leader level and their efforts to build out a competing organization with several G20 members. India and the next two host nations , Brazil and South Africa, are a part of the informal group of emerging economies referred to as BRICS, an acronym for their country names.
Those nations are committed to the G20, Biden’s deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told reporters. “So is the United States.”
“And if China is not, that’s unfortunate for everyone, but much more unfortunate, we believe, for China,” he said.