Asia

Worried about food crisis, Indonesian president to visit Russia, Ukraine

Updated at 8:00 a.m. ET on 2022-06-23

Concern about the global food crisis caused by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is driving Indonesia’s president and G20 chair Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to make a trip this month to "encourage" peace between them, his foreign minister said Wednesday.

Retno Marsudi didn’t give dates for the trip, but said the president would visit Ukraine and Russia after attending the G7 summit in Germany, which is scheduled for June 26-27. Jokowi would be the first Asian leader to visit the two countries since the conflict erupted in February, she added.

“Naturally, the president will meet with [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy and [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin,” she told a virtual press conference.

“President Jokowi has elected … not to stay idle,” she said, adding that he would "encourage the spirit of peace."

Jokowi also wants to contribute to dealing with the food crisis caused by the war, “the impact of which is being felt by all countries,” she said.

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One analyst called the trip “a big moment for Indonesian diplomacy,” while another said the visit wouldn’t accomplish much, because Indonesia lacked leverage and “sufficient understanding” of the conflict.

Russia’s TASS news agency reported last week that Jokowi was scheduled to meet with Putin on June 30.

“This is going to be a very important visit. We are preparing for it now,” an anonymous source said, according to TASS.

In its April report, the Global Crisis Response Group, set up by the United Nations secretary general, said Ukraine and Russia were among the world’s breadbaskets, providing 30 percent of its wheat and barley, a fifth of its maize, and over half of its sunflower oil. Russia is also the world’s largest natural gas exporter and second largest oil exporter.

‘Indonesia is neutral’

Jokowi’s trip to the two conflicting countries is a testament to Indonesia’s non-aligned foreign policy, said Agus Haryanto, an international relations lecturer at Universitas Jenderal Soedirman in Purwokerto, Central Java.

“The visit to both countries is intended to show that Indonesia is neutral,” Agus told BenarNews.

“And this will be a big moment for Indonesian diplomacy where we can play a major role in solving an international conflict,” he said.

Indonesia voted for a United Nations General Assembly resolution in March that condemned Moscow’s military strike on Ukraine but has not directly criticized Russia.

The United States has urged Indonesia not to invite member-state Russia to the G20 summit, scheduled for November in Bali, but Jakarta so far has refused to disinvite Russia from the summit.

Instead, Indonesia has invited Zelenskyy as a guest to the summit. In March, U.S. President Joe Biden said Ukraine should be able to participate in the G20 summit, if the grouping did not expel Russia.

The Russian and Ukrainian ambassadors in Jakarta have tried to woo the support of Indonesians by holding regular press briefings, visiting local newsrooms and giving interviews to present their versions of events.

Radityo Dharmaputra, an international relations lecturer at Airlangga University in Surabaya, expressed doubts that Jokowi’s visit would help bring peace between Russia and Ukraine.

“I do not believe that there is a possibility that Indonesia can reconcile [Russia and Ukraine], because Indonesia does not have sufficient capital leverage, due to a lack of proximity to the countries and sufficient understanding of the situation,” Radityo told BenarNews.

He said Jokowi’s trip was intended to burnish his image as the leader of the G20.

Contrary to Radityo, University of Indonesia international law professor Hikmahanto Juwana said Jokowi’s planned visit to the two countries should be welcomed.

“Indonesia as the head of the G20 needs to take the initiative to help create peace and prevent a global food crisis,” said Hikmahanto.

Alvin Presetyo in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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