White House says Zelenskiy should Join G-20 if Putin attends

The White House said Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy should take part in a Group of 20 summit in Bali if Vladimir Putin attends, after Indonesia’s leader said the Russian president would probably join.

“As President Biden has said publicly himself, he does not think President Putin should attend the G-20 as he wages his war against Ukraine,” the White House National Security Council said in a statement. But if Putin does attend, the US believes that Zelenskiy should participate too.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday he expects both Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the summit, which will take place in November, in keeping with his desire not to pick sides over the war in Ukraine and what the US says is China’s more aggressive behavior in the region. The US and its allies have insisted that Putin be treated as a pariah following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but nations such as Indonesia and India have rejected that idea.

“Xi Jinping will come. President Putin has also told me he will come,” Jokowi, as the president is known, told Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait in an interview. It was the first time the leader of the world’s fourth-most populous nation confirmed both of them were planning to show up at the November summit.

The NSC insistence that Zelenskiy “participate” in the summit leaves open the possibility that Zelenskiy could join virtually rather than attending in person. That’s what happened in July, when Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, addressed a G-20 foreign ministers meeting remotely.

Biden has not said yet if he will travel to Bali to attend the conference, though US officials have participated in meetings ahead of the leaders’ summit. Biden and Xi have also told aides to plan an in-person meeting, in what would be their first face-to-face exchange since Biden became president.

In March, Biden said he believed Russia should be removed from the G-20 due to the Ukraine invasion, but acknowledged that other members of the group - including Indonesia - might not agree. White House officials have said that they privately conveyed to Indonesia their desire that Russia not attend.