Senior U.S. intelligence officials later indicated the missile had been fired by Ukraine as it defended itself against a Russian aerial assault, which hit three major cities and targeted civilian infrastructure. But the development provided the Group of 20 leaders summit, this year hosted by Indonesia, with the opportunity to reassert its relevance as the war cast a shadow over former President Donald Trump‘s highly anticipated 2024 campaign announcement.
The Russia-produced missile explosion in the rural Polish town of Przewodow upended the last day of the G-20 summit, with Biden convening an emergency meeting of the Group of Seven and NATO countries with him in Bali, and speculation ran rampant about its ramifications under Article 5 of the NATO treaty.
In a demonstration of unity, the G-7 and NATO nations in Asia drafted a joint statement condemning Russia’s “barbaric” first offensive since its Kherson retreat, decimating three residential buildings in the capital Kyiv during the attack.
But the G-7 and NATO blocs also endorsed an investigation into the Przewodow incident. Polish President Andrzej Duda eventually confirmed the deaths were an “unfortunate accident.”
“It’s merciless. It’s way over the top what they’re doing,” Biden said Wednesday before his G-20 sideline meeting with new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Russia’s barrage. Biden had earlier described the wider missile strikes as “totally unconscionable” during remarks delivered after the G-7 and NATO talks.
The situation in Poland coincided with concerns about the future of the G-20, an intergovernmental organization that grew during the great recession thanks to a unifying economic rationale but has become an uneasy alliance with China and Russia’s membership amid the latter’s war in Ukraine. Indonesian President Joko Widodo arguably punctuated the organization’s weakness, referring to it as “an economic forum, a financial forum, and diplomat forum, not a political forum” when he was asked about Poland.
Critics had been skeptical that the G-20 would denounce Russia’s war in Ukraine in its concluding declaration. But after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov traded rhetorical barbs, Zelensky virtually, the organization agreed to include that “most members” disapproved of the conflict. The declaration additionally castigated the Russian invasion on economic grounds, the fighting contributing to energy and food shortages worldwide and exacerbating the risk of a global recession.
As Biden makes his way back to Washington, D.C., the Polish issue overseas simultaneously created a striking split-screen with the political news of the day at home. Biden had been originally scheduled to participate in a mangrove planting ceremony at the same time Trump launched his third presidential bid. Instead, Biden, who had been mocked online for skipping the G-20 gala dinner the previous night, appeared in command and measured, despite a couple of his characteristic verbal missteps.
Although Biden’s campaign social media accounts pounced on Trump’s decision, underscoring how he had “failed” America, the current president adopted a more understated approach in person.
“Not really,” Biden said during the delayed mangrove event when asked if he had a reaction to Trump.
Independent political analyst Dan Schnur had predicted Biden would be “overshadowed” by Trump’s announcement, contending there was “nothing to be gained” by the incumbent engaging with his predecessor.
“Better for his message to be that of an international leader than a partisan politician,” the communications director of John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2000 presidential campaign and the University of Southern California-Los Angeles Times state poll founder said.
Former Democratic strategist Sandy Maisel advised Biden to act as he did in Indonesia upon his return to the White House, acknowledging Trump’s bid but “largely” ignoring it.
“He should say something like, ‘The Republicans can decide who their nominee will be. I don’t want to influence their free exercise of their democratic rights,'” the Colby College visiting politics instructor and one-time candidate said.
“From a strategic point of view, I think the Republicans are making enough of a mess of internal politics — look at congressional conference elections — because of Trump that the Democrats should just leave them to it,” he added.