Commentary: With Xi and Putin expected, will the Bali G20 summit change anything?

While G20 meetings are supposed to be about global economic issues, there is no doubt that the war in Ukraine and China’s increasing military activity around Taiwan will be a focus.

Why then have Putin and Xi chosen to participate?

WHAT WILL VLADIMIR PUTIN’S NARRATIVE BE?

Despite so many world leaders being given the chance to confront him, Putin will still see this as an opportunity.

First, Putin can demonstrate (yet again) to the Russian people that he is a strong leader – that he is unafraid to face his nation’s enemies and will not back down.

He can say he offered to meet with United States President Joe Biden without preconditions, and Biden will turn him down. This is because Biden cannot afford the US domestic political cost of a meeting that will not result in progress.

Second, just meeting Zelenskyy, with whom Moscow has rejected calls to meet for months, can be spun as an effort to achieve peace.

Even better would be the opportunity to use this to create a split among Ukraine’s Western supporters. Might he combine this meeting with an increase in gas flows to Europe, timely as the mercury starts to fall in the coming winter months? This could divide opinions on the US call for a weakened Russia.

Could Putin offer a ceasefire? Would Zelenskyy agree to any territorial concessions? Much depends on where the opposing forces are come November.

Perhaps this is why many analysts expect a near-term push by Russia to take Ukraine-controlled parts of the Donbas region and why Ukraine seems poised to try retaking Kherson in southern Ukraine.