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White House Defends Watered-Down G20 Statement About Ukraine’s Sovereignty

The White House came to the defense of the G20 summit’s final declaration, which has been under fire for not explicitly condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Representatives from the world’s wealthiest nations gathered for the summit in New Delhi, where over the weekend they concluded many hours of negotiations and drafts to eventually release a statement that contained watered-down language about Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“All states must refrain from the threat or use of force to seek territorial acquisition against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state,” the declaration read, citing the United Nations charter. “The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

The statement also mentioned the “human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine,” but did not specifically call out the Russian invasion.

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Members of the summit found it difficult to agree on how strong the wording should be, particularly given Russia and China’s involvement in the summit. As the gathering began coming to a close, representatives faced the possibility that the group’s fractures could result in having no final declaration at all — a move that would have hit the summit’s credibility and embarrassed host Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the end, nations opted for the softened statement.

By contrast, the G20 declaration last year in Bali was more explicit about the war, condemning “the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine” and stressing that “most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine.”

But despite the drastic change in condemnation from the group, the White House has praised the declaration for highlighting the importance of a country’s sovereignty.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the G20 leaders, minus Russia, are “intent on making sure that there is a just and durable end to this Russian aggression.” The show’s host, Jon Karl, responded by highlighting that the statement did not explicitly condemn said Russian aggression, which was done in last year’s G20 declaration.

“I think it’s very important that the G20 spoke as one,” Blinken, who had just visited Ukraine, told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I mean, to some extent, maybe it’s the G19, because obviously Russia’s also here. It’s part of the G20. But the fact that we have a statement coming out collectively, again, affirming the importance of Ukraine, its territorial integrity, its sovereignty, that speaks loudly.”

“But what really speaks loudly, again, are the leaders in the room itself,” he continued. “And 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.”

At a press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the summit was an “unconditional success,” not just for India but “for all of us.”

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko criticized the summit’s declaration, saying the country is “grateful to its partners who tried to include strong wording in the text.”

“However, in terms of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, G20 has nothing to be proud of,” Nikolenko tweeted, attaching the declaration edited with more direct language in red to reflect “how the main elements of the text could look to be closer to reality.”