Russia’s President Vladimir Putin did not attend the recent G20 Summit in Bali Indonesia. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov explained Putin’s absence. “It was a decision by the head of state, related to his schedule, and with the need for his presence in the Russian Federation. Putin online presence at the G20 and APEC summits or his video message to the participants is not planned.” When German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other leaders expressed regret that the Russian President did not attend the summit, Peskov responded. “The President of the Russian Federation does not regret this. Russia is represented at a worthy level by our Foreign Minister (Sergey Lavrov). The voice of Russia is heard. Russia is present at the proper level.
Given the presence at the summit of Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jing Ping, Putin’s decision aroused comment in Russia’s main commercial newspaper Kommersant. Three of the paper’s regular columnists Sergei Strokan, Mikhail Gurevich and Maxim Yusin weighed in on Putin’s no-show at Bali. Strokan and Gurevich essentially agreed with Putin’s decision to absent himself and entrust Foreign Minister Lavrov with heading the delegation but for opposite reasons. Strokan believed that the G-20 had abdicated responsibility on the important issues that should have been discussed at the summit. It was futile to discuss things with the Western part of the G20, whereas Russia had already secured its interests with the non-Western wing. Therefore, Putin’s presence was superfluous. Gurevich believed that Putin would have subjected himself to embarrassment at the summit given the present mood where Russia is no longer an active player, but a topic for discussion. Since Russia had no fresh ideas to offer, it could not expect to be taken seriously by the other world leaders. Maxim Yusin believes that Putin’s decision not to attend the summit was a mistake. The summit offered Russia the opportunity to showcase its emerging ideology of multipolarism on an appropriate international stage, and the person to enunciate Russia’s position was Putin and not Lavrov.