US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to avoid appearing in any official group photos with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Bali this week, and will aim to rebut his Russian counterparts false narratives about the Ukraine war, according to a US official familiar with the matter.
For weeks, the US and its G7 allies — all of whom are in the G20 — have been discussing how to approach Lavrov’s presence at the meetings of the world’s 20 largest economies in Bali, according to US and European diplomats familiar with the conversations.
Many different ideas were discussed, including UK officials testing the waters on completely boycotting the meetings, but that strategy was ultimately not pursued, a UK official said.
Blinken is not — as of now — planning to partake in any staged walk-out with allies, US officials said. Part of the calculation is that the Biden administration wants to challenge Russia, not cede the floor to them, the official said.
Another part of the calculation is the fact that the US does not want to embarrass the Indonesians who are hosting the event, the official said, describing it as a “delicate balancing act.”
The US wants to be seen as acting in unison with G7 allies, diplomats said. Things could change however, as the US is still “fine tuning” its approach and will have to react based on what happens during the meetings, the official said.
This will be the first time Blinken and Lavrov have been in the same place since Russia invaded Ukraine, and Blinken’s approach to his Russian counterpart could foreshadow how President Joe Biden might approach President Vladimir Putin later this year if the two leaders attend the G20 leaders summit.