Biden defends Delhi's G20 declaration amid criticism for not condemning Russian invasion

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Washington, September 11 (IANS) US President Joe Biden went on the defend the G20 joint declaration in Delhi as most Republicans called it a "slap" in the face of Ukraine's leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy thus putting his (Biden) proposal to fund the war torn country with $20.6 billion in military and humanitarian relief aid as Congress resumes its session on September 12 after the summer recess.

Biden defended the G20 statement strongly when he told a news conference in Vietnam after the summit the Russia-Ukraine war is not a "wedge" issue with most G20 nations -- it was a problem with Russia and China, which had high-ranking representatives at the summit.

China was represented by its Premier Li Qiang and Russia by its premier Sergei Lavrov.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a CNN programme on state of the union that it was "very important that the G20 spoke as one".

That presented a complication because Russia is part of the group.

"I think, if you are on the receiving end of what so many of them said, if you were in the Russian seat, it's pretty clear where the rest of the world stands," Blinken said.

Republican critics held Biden responsible as having failed at the weekend summit in India to unite world leaders around a condemnation of Russia's war in Ukraine, which drew a rebuke from Kiev, thus putting him on the defensive as he wrapped up his trip abroad to India and Vietnam and flies to Alaska to commemorate the 9/11 WTC attack ceremony, USA today reported.

Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told a TV programme that the G20 New Delhi declaration was "a major departure from last year and a real slap in the face to Zelenskyy as they're conducting the counter-offensive".

GOP presidential hopeful and former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Russia and China had a scored a major victory despite their leaders being absent at the summit and held Biden for his failure not to push the G20 to stick to a tougher language.

"China is gloating, because they're looking at Taiwan as this is happening, and it's a shame," Haley said. Biden pressed Ukraine's case in Zelenskyy's absence to little avail.

Neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the New Delhi summit even as leaders of the world's most powerful economies did.  

But even in their absence, Russia and China notched a win against the US when it came to huddling the international community against Russia in the War on Ukraine that began more than a year and a half ago, US media reports said.

Group of 20 nations declined to explicitly chide Russia for the invasion, saying instead that countries must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition" and lamented "the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war". 
While Ukraine rebuked the declaration, Russia lauded the G20 declaration as a permanent member though its President Putin absented himself from the summit.

But the declaration did say that countries must refrain from using nuclear threats against nations in an indirect reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin's threat to resort to his powerful nuclear arsenal as a deterrent against US and NATO allies, should they choose to intervene militarily in the war in Ukraine.

India did not invite Ukraine to the G20 summit even though US officials argued that Ukrainian officials should have their say at the forum to rebut Russia's narrative about the war. India had abstained from voting on the UN resolution sponsored by the US to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine's foreign affairs ministry said G20 has "nothing to be proud of" in avoiding any mention of Russia as the aggressor.

The ministry voiced disappointment on social media with the G20 statement, sharing a mock-up of changes it would have liked to have seen that would have blamed Russia as the aggressor nation, USA today said.

Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended last year's G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, he was not present at the Delhi gathering.

In Vietnam, Biden spent quite some time outlining his vision for the US relationship with China. Biden said he did not want to harm China, viewed as its economic competitor.

Instead, he wanted China to play by established international norms.