NUSA DUA, Indonesia -- The European Council president urged global powers Tuesday to intensify pressure on Russia over its war against Ukraine, including Moscow's biggest supporter, China, saying that this week's meeting of the world's largest economies was crucial to stopping Moscow's push "to use food and energy as weapons.”
Charles Michel, speaking to reporters on the first day of the Group of 20 meeting in Bali, said the nine-month war waged by Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has disrupted lives across the world, as food and energy prices surge and economies stagnate.
“Russia’s war impacts us all, no matter where we live, from Europe to Africa or the Middle East, and the single best way to end the acute crisis in food and energy is for Russia to end this senseless war and to respect the U.N. charter,” Michel said. “The Kremlin has decided to weaponize food, driving up hunger, poverty and instability.”
Europe, Michel said, is working to help Ukraine, a big food exporter before the war, increase its shipments, and is also trying to address disruptions in fertilizer supplies and rising prices. EU sanctions against Russia, he said, don’t target agricultural products, even though Russia has imposed restrictions on its own food and fertilizer products.
“This is not a battle (of) Russia against the Western part of the world. It’s a battle for the U.N. charter. It’s a battle for the international law. It's a battle for the idea that this is not acceptable to try to change by force internationally recognized borders.”
Michel said he had no plans to meet with the most senior Russian present in Bali, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
China, the world's second biggest economy, has largely refrained from public criticism of Russia’s war, although Beijing has avoided direct support of the Russians, such as supplying arms. Michel avoided direct criticism of China when asked if Beijing has shown any signs of changing its steadfast support of Russia in recent days.
Instead, he said that the G-20 meeting Tuesday and Wednesday was important to convince all nations present “to put more pressure on Russia."
After a meeting Monday between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden said the two leaders discussed Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and “reaffirmed our shared belief” that the use or even the threat of nuclear weapons is “totally unacceptable” — a reference to Moscow’s thinly veiled threats to use atomic weapons as its invasion of Ukraine has faltered.
Michel said that Europe must make sure that it creates a different economic and political relationship with China than the one it did with Russia.
“We don't want to make the same mistakes maybe we make with Russia on fossil fuels,” which Europe was very dependent on, “with China, (where) we don't want to be too dependent for the innovative technology that we need today and that we need more in the future. That's why it's important to rebalance the relationship,” Michel said.