Instead of calling it the ‘war against Ukraine,’ they now refer to it as the ‘war in Ukraine.’ This shift in language is seen by many as a concession to Russian President Putin, even though he wasn’t present at the summit.
Russian propaganda has gone as far as to deny Ukraine’s status as a legitimate country.
During the G20 summit, officials expressed their desire for a “just and durable peace” in Ukraine. However, Russia’s request led to a diluted statement on the war. The Kremlin is no longer depicted as waging a war “against” Ukraine.
Some argue that the government in Kyiv is illegitimate, claiming it resulted from a 2014 coup, despite subsequent free and fair elections. They portray Ukraine’s population as essentially Russians who have been misled into believing they possess a unique history and culture.
President Vladimir Putin himself asserted that modern Ukraine was entirely shaped by Russia, just as he launched the full-scale invasion. He argued that Ukraine was essentially invented by the communists and severed from Russia without consulting the local population.
While the Russian government has openly described its actions as a “special military operation” imposed by force, it prefers that others avoid such terminology.
At this year’s G20 summit in India, Russia succeeded in altering the group’s statement about the war it initiated. The new wording avoids any mention of Russia’s military actions “against Ukraine.” Instead, it refers to the presence of Russian tanks, drones, and troops as being “in” a country that Putin claims should not exist.
Diplomatic language, by nature, often lacks complete honesty. It tends to focus on positive aspects, much like saying a meal was filling without mentioning issues like cold mashed potatoes or personal dislikes. Therefore, one shouldn’t expect G20 statements, drafted by a committee of powerful nations, to provide clarity or moral guidance.
Nonetheless, the leading economies unanimously recognize that what Russia is doing “in” Ukraine qualifies as a “war.” This consensus is noteworthy because it shows that even China doesn’t endorse Russia’s preferred euphemisms. They also share the goal of achieving a “just and durable peace” and upholding the principles of international law, even if there’s disagreement on how to achieve these objectives.
Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor to President Joe Biden, portrayed the statement as a victory, emphasizing its support for the principle that states should not use force for territorial acquisition. He also highlighted the declaration that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable and that a just peace should be based on UN Charter principles.
However, despite international statements and strong rhetoric, the fate of Moscow’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine largely depends on one man in Russia, who has proven resistant to such diplomatic efforts as the conflict approaches its 600th day.