APEC, G20 & East Asia Summit Members In Differing Attitudes To The Russia-Ukraine Conflict & The Qatar World Cup Finals

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By Chris Devonshire-Ellis

Russia’s moves East – as well as its historical trade ties with the region have resulted in differing attitudes towards Moscow as is evidenced by references to their Ukraine wording in their respective declarations last week.

On first glance, the APEC declaration in Bangkok, released on Saturday, is almost identical to the G20 declaration in Bali on Wednesday. The only substantive difference is that the G20 leaders reiterated their “national positions” whereas APEC leaders reiterated their “positions” – as APEC members are “economies” not “nations” as Hong Kong and Taiwan are among the 21 members. Both declarations, which ran to about 170 words, recognized that G20 and APEC were not forums to resolve security issues and that “most” members condemned the war but that there were “other” views and assessments.

However, wording in the Chairman’s Statement of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh last Sunday was more balanced — and more specific. This statement, longer at around 250 words, said “most” condemned the aggression against Ukraine (without mentioning Russia as the G20 and APEC did). But “some” countries noted that “the root cause of the situation in Ukraine should also be addressed and the legitimate concerns on all countries must be taken into consideration.” This was not mentioned in the G20 and APEC declarations.

The upshot of this is that the statement by EAS chairman (Hun Sen) is more balanced. This is not surprising as there were fewer countries considered by Russia as “unfriendly” at East Asia Summit and more countries who abstained from UN vote — China, India, Laos and Vietnam. Cambodia as host was in the driver’s seat — and a chairman’s statement is not a joint declaration.

It also shows a divide in the East and West in terms of dealing with the Ukraine issue. The East Asia Forum has taken a more pragmatic, considered view and considers the issue – correctly – that there are differing reasons and opinions as concerns the differences between Ukraine and Russia and the causes behind the conflict. Neither APEC or the G20 were able to bring themselves to apply a balanced perspective.

This is important because it illustrates that the Western nations part of the G20 and APEC are less prepared to analyse the root causes – which can be difficult when some members of these blocs – and this certainly applies to the United States – has been involved in creating part of the reasons for the conflict in the first place. That is not an issue that applies to the EAS.

In a curious twist, a similar issue is playing out in Western media coverage – and outrage – over the FIFA World Cup Finals which have just begun in Qatar. The country is being demonised for a number of issues, not least the temerity of having won the bid process (awarded actually by FIFA, an organisation dominated largely by Western sports politicians) in addition to culture. In awarding the FIFA World Cup to Qatar – the first to be held in a Muslim, Arabic nation, much of the criticism has surrounded Qatar’s cultural differences: and principally towards alcohol, drunkenness, swearing, the gay and queer communities, public displays of affection, modesty and pornography. It is as if the West is saying to that have differing opinions and standards to them is unacceptable. It is not unlike the opinions being levied upon Russia.

I have always abided by the notion that when travelling, it is best to follow the maxim to remind oneself that you are always a guest in someone else’s country and to respect that. After all, if I don’t like it I don’t have to travel there. It strikes me as hypocritical to travel to a country such as Russia, or Qatar, or engage with them, and not have some respect for their opinions and views. In the case of Russia, the G20, APEC and the EAS, it is interestingly only the latter who have given due reflection on this and considered the possibility that there are different reasons for the Ukraine situation, when the West apparently seems not to want to listen. It is the same for Qatar – if the local cultural situation is so dreadful then why award them the hosting of the largest global sports event the world? Accusations of corruption exist of course – but who took the money? It wasn’t Qatar.

The FIFA Executive Committee who awarded the finals to Qatar was made up as follows:

  • European Nationals: 9
  • Latin & Central American Nationals: 4
  • African Nationals: 4
  • Asian Nationals: 3
  • US Nationals: 1

Of these 21 citizens, 17 were from G20 countries. It is interesting to note the balance of attitudes from the G20, their involvement in awarding Qatar the finals, and the subsequent criticisms from them as regards the situations in both Russia and Qatar. It is exactly the reason why the word ‘hypocritical’ exists – and it diminishes the stature of the G20 in terms of culpability, fairness and responsibility in being so.

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